Raquel Forner

19021988 | Buenos Aires, Argentina
Raquel Forner — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Portrait of Raquel Forner

Argentine avant-garde artist.

Raquel Forner first came into contact with art at the age of 13 during a family trip to Spain. She graduated from the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1922 with a degree as an art teacher. A year after her first solo show in Buenos Aires, at Galería Müller in 1928, she left to continue her studies in Europe. In France, she met the Argentine artists Antonio Berni (1905-1981), Horacio Butler (1897-1983), Juan Del Prete (1897-1987), Lino Enea Spilimbergo (1896-1964) and the sculptor Alfredo Bigatti (1898-1964), her future husband. Together with Butler and Del Prete she took part in the 1930 exhibition Première Exposition du Groupe Latino-américain de Paris at Galerie Zak and presented her work in various art shows. During those years, she was a member of the Grupo de París among other Argentine artists who came to Europe to hone their skills, and she frequented the studios of André Lhote (1885-1962) and Othon Friesz (1879-1949), with whom she studied.

After returning to Buenos Aires in 1932, she joined with Alfredo Guttero (1882-1932), Pedro Domínguez Neira (1894-1970) and Bigatti, to launch the Cursos Libres de Arte Plástico para la Enseñanza de las Artes, whit followed the lines of the French model. In the 1930s and after, her work bore witness to the global upheavals brought about by the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the Second World War (1939-1945). These historic events imbued her painting with a sense of extreme desolation. This can be seen in her two series España [Spain, 1937-1939] and El drama [The Drama, 1939-1946], powerful expressions of the disasters and consequences of war. Her painting, intensely shaped by those years, is mainly figurative, featuring women and their wartime suffering (women alone, women trying to block out the horrors of war). The theme of “see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing” appears frequently in these paintings.
In 1942, she won the first prize for painting at the Salón Nacional de Bellas Artes for El drama, and the following year, the Primer Premio Adquisición for Retablo del dolor [Alterpiece of pain]. During R. Forner’s prolific career, her work was included in many exhibitions, salons, and art competitions, and she was inducted into the British Royal Society of Arts in 1951. After the war she continued producing sequences of paintings such as Las Rocas [The Rocks], begun in 1947; Los Estandartes [The Banners], Las Banderías [The Factions] and La Farsa [The Farce] in 1948; El Lago [The Lake] in 1953; and Apocalipsis [Apocalypse] in 1955. Nevertheless, it was her transitional painting El Envío [The shipment] that brought her the Gran Premio de Honor del Salón Nacional in 1956, making her one of the first and few Argentine women artists to win this major award.

In the late 1950s, R. Forner began to make the series Del Espacio [Space] about the cosmos and celestial bodies, a metaphor for the Cold War and the Space Race, which she was to continue working on until the end of her productive years. In 1957 MoMA in New York acquired her Lunas [Moons], and in 1958 paintings from this series were shown at the Venice Biennale.
Her visual vocabulary in the early 1970s was characterised by an alloy of abstraction and figuration, and a palette of intense colours not seen in her earlier work. This final stage was linked to the Nueva Figuración movement in Argentina. During that decade she showed at the Bienal de São Paulo in 1961, and in 1962 won the Gran Premio de Honor at the Bienal Americana de Arte, a continental-wide show in the Argentine city of Córdoba. She left her mark on a whole century of Argentine art.

Paula Bauer

Translated from Spanish by Leo Stephen Torgoff.

A notice produced as part of the TEAM international academic network: Teaching, E-learning, Agency and Mentoring

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