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Rafael Alberti

b. 1902 - 1999

Rafael Alberti, the well-known poet of the Generation of 1927, began his artistic life as a painter identified with the main Avant-garde tendencies of the first quarter of the twentieth century, abstract painting, cubism, and surrealism.

Alberti commenced his painting studies in 1917 when his family moved to Madrid from Puerto de Santa María, Spain. In 1922 his early works were exhibited at the Atheneum (Ateneo) in Madrid. His paintings from this period filled space entirely with an anomalous mixture of anxiety and order in an unstable equilibrium.

Forced to leave Madrid for the Sierra de Guadarrama to recuperate from tuberculosis, Alberti put painting aside and began writing poetry. In 1925 he published Marinero en Tierra (Landlocked Sailor). His best known poem collections followed soon after, Cal y Canto (Passion and Form, 1927) and Sobre los ángeles (Concerning the Angels, 1928). At this time he was closely associated with Federico García Lorca, Juan Gris, Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel, Vicente Aleixandre and other artists and writers who had the unique opportunity to bring to the political arena many of their artistic ideas.

In the 1930's Alberti, devoted his talents entirely to the Republic, even after the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936. Remembering this period, Alberti´s play Noche de guerra en el Museo del Prado (Night of War in the Prado Museum,1956) stresses the inseparability of culture and politics in the life of twentieth-century man. In this play the museum is a symbol of youthful innocence, of culture before the barbarity of war, and of the endangered patrimony of the people.

In 1939 Alberti fled to Argentina. Painting and design became a source of refuge during many years of exile, as documented in his autobiography La arboleda perdida (The Lost Grove, 1976) 'En ese momento volví a pintar, pero de una manera muy especial: empecé a enlazar la poesía con la grafía e hice lo que llamé 'liricografía', con las que realicé muchas exposiciones'. [In that moment I returned to painting, but in a special way: I began to link poetry to graphic representation, and I created what I called 'lyricgraphs' with which I created many expositions.] Alberti´s art had an important influence on Argentinian painters, among them Raul Soldi, Lino Spilimbergo and Attilo Rossi. In 1965 Alberti left Argentina and lived in Rome until 1977.

In A la pintura (To painting, 1947-1967) Alberti reconciled the two facets of his aesthetic creation: 'pintar la poesía con el pincel de la pintura'. [Painting poetry with the painter´s brush]. Three poems in this collection are dedicated to painting materials, six to colors, nineteen to painting techniques, and twenty-nine to artists from Giotto to Picasso. Maravillas con variaciones acrósticas en el jardín de Miró (Marvels with acrostic variations in the Garden of Miró), is a second poem collection of emblematic poems.

Alberti maintained a close friendship with Pablo Picasso until the latter´s death. His four year sojourn in Antibes is remembered in The Eight Names of Picasso (Los ocho nombres de Picasso, 1970). These poems, like Alberti´s later lithographs, are defined by play on words, onomatopoeia, audacious syntactical distortions, continuous experimentation with language, and incessant chromatic play, in a combination where poetry completes painting and painting completes poetry.

In 1975 Franco died and Spain reinitiated its path to democracy. When he returned to Spain in 1977, Alberti co-authored the catalog and made the poster for Picasso's first retrospective exhibit in Spain since the 1920´s.

Rafael Alberti, Watercolors, Lithographs and Drawings (1919-1977) is a private collection belonging to his daughter Aitana Alberti (b. 1940 in Argentina), who resides in Cuba. This exhibit includes examples of early drawings, lyricgraphs, lithographs from his bullfighting series, and the poster for the Picasso exhibit by Rafael Alberti who resides today in Cádiz, Spain.

Adapted from Dictionary of Iberian Literature.