Monday, February 1, 2010

Luis Quintanilla

Starting out as a Cubist under the influence of his friend, Juan Gris, Quintanilla eventually became a prominent Spanish draftsman and muralist. Though he would have far preferred to be left alone to paint in peace without engaging in politics he was eventually drawn into the tumultuous affairs of his times. In 1931 he and Juan Negrin, the Premier of the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War, put the flag of the Republic up on the Royal Palace in Madrid ensuring that the revolution which ousted the king would remain bloodless. In October of 1934 Quintanilla started a prison term lasting eight months, four days, and three hours for hosting, in his studio, the revolutionary committee of the October revolt. As has happened on other occasions when a prominent artist has found himself in jail, the world's intellectual community rallied to his aid. Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos circulated the petitions and organized the protests in the United States, Andre Malraux in France, and Lady Margo Asquith, wife of the former Prime Minister, performed the same service in Britain. And a show of his Madrid street scene etchings took place at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York with a catalog by Hemingway and Dos Passos. This show introduced him to the United States. When the Spanish Civil War started in July, 1936, Quintanilla helped lead the attack on the Montana Barracks which saved Madrid for the government. He was made the commander of the barracks at the start of the war and led men in action on the streets of Madrid, Toledo, and in the Guadarrama Mountains. In the spring of 1937 he was removed from these and other duties by Juan Negrin and commissioned to do a set of drawings of the war. These were shown first in 1938 at the Barcelona Ritz and then in the Museum of Modern Art in New York with a catalog by Hemingway. With the fall of the Spanish Republic in 1939 he was forced into an exile which lasted more than 37 years, living first in New York and then in Paris. A year following the death of Spain's dictator, General Francisco Franco, Quintanilla returned to Madrid where he spent the remaining two years of his life. He died at the age of 85.

Text by his son, Paul Quintanilla. Pictures, from top to bottom: Sidney Franklin by L.Q., Largo Caballero by L.Q. and a bust of L.Q. by Emiliano Barral

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