Pedro Coronel (1923-1985)
Pedro Coronel (1923-1985)
Pedro Coronel (1923-1985)
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PEDRO CORONEL (1923-1985)

Untitled (fruta, sandía y candelabro)

PEDRO CORONEL (1923-1985)
Untitled (fruta, sandía y candelabro)
oil on canvas
79 x 40 in. (200 x 101 cm.)
Painted in 1976.
Subasta Grupo de los 16, A. C., Mexico City.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Further details
1 Rosa Castro, “El premio otorgado por el INBA al pintor Coronel, ha dividido más a los artistas,” Novedades (September 14, 1959).
2 Pedro Coronel, quoted in Martín Coronel Ordiales, “Pedro Coronel: Hombre universal,” in Pedro Coronel: Retrospectiva (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, 2005), 43.
3 Ibid., 50.
4 Justino Fernández, Pedro Coronel: pintor y escultor (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1971), 38-9.
5 Rufino Tamayo, quoted in Coronel Ordiales, “Pedro Coronel,” 50.
6 Fernández, Pedro Coronel, 32, 34.

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Lot Essay

A certificate of authenticity from Martín Coronel is forthcoming.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, a rising generation of Mexican artists began to resist the institutionalization and increasingly dogmatic nationalism of their country’s once revolutionary Mural movement. Taking the constructive colorism of Rufino Tamayo as their model, the young artists of La Ruptura—among them José Luis Cuevas, Manuel Felguérez, Vicente Rojo, and Pedro Coronel—reacted against what Cuevas called the “Cactus Curtain,” embracing individual subjectivity and self-expression in their work. This postwar avant-garde opened Mexico to international trends, from Abstract Expressionism to Pop, and catalyzed new experiments in abstraction, informalism, and neofiguration. In awarding First Prize at the First National Salon of Painting to Coronel for La lucha in 1959, the jury acknowledged its desire “to channel Mexican painting toward new goals,” giving official sanction to the “non-objective painting” that he represented. The predominance of “brilliant color” that the jury admired in Coronel’s painting remained a hallmark of his work over the following decades, and the present Sin título (fruta, sandía y candelabro) and Sin título (Círculo rojo) (refer to lot 9), México exemplify his supreme and mature virtuosity as a colorist.[1]
Arriving in Mexico City as a teenager in 1939, Coronel studied at the Escuela de Pintura y Escultura “La Esmeralda” before traveling to Europe in 1946, where he based himself for six years. In Paris, awash in the existential humanism of the early postwar era, Coronel was guided by the primitivist impulse and powerful simplifications of Ossip Zadkine and Constantin Brancusi. Originally trained as a sculptor under Francisco Zúñiga, he discovered painting in a decisive encounter with the work of Paul Klee in 1948 at the Musée National d’Art Moderne. “To my surprise,” he later recalled, “I found for the first time in my life the great truth of art and the enormous similarity that exists between Klee’s painting and our magical world. The impact of the discovery, and the marvelousness of the sensation, was such that when I left the museum, all romantic and emotional, I asked myself, ‘Why not?’ If this man has opened the doors, the windows, a whole new universe to me, why not? That same day I began to paint.”[2]
Coronel found new pictorial stimulation in the work of Klee and the School of Paris, but for the Ruptura generation Tamayo remained an enduring touchpoint. “In Tamayo the young Mexican painters found an escape door and an entire infinite path,” Coronel acknowledged in 1959, and he gradually emerged as Tamayo’s heir apparent, justly celebrated for his own facility with color.[3] “In the panorama of current painting in Mexico, Pedro Coronel cannot be placed but beside Rufino Tamayo, the great painter and the great colorist,” remarked the critic Justino Fernández. He declared Coronel “the best colorist in Mexico” after Tamayo, concluding that “both have enough imagination to transfigure this world and to create a poetic art par excellence.”[4] Tamayo recognized Coronel in turn. “He is a great painter,” declared the maestro in 1975. “I consider that he is one of the best Mexican painters. He always renews himself. He has given me a big and beautiful surprise by dedicating a series of paintings to me in which he uses some of my classic motifs, such as the watermelon. I am very moved.”[5]
Three watermelon slices sit in a bowl in Sin título (fruta, sandía y candelabro), their bright pink color and splendid presence a clear homage to Tamayo, whose famous sandias became a beloved personal and national symbol. Coronel presents a classic still life with blue-green glass bottles, a glowing candle, and two round fruit bowls whose saturated pink hues and textured, flat-pattern decorations rhyme with the delectable flesh of the watermelons and the crescent shapes of their green rinds. The flame of the candle burns orange and pink; the circle of its light intersects a celestial orb—sun or moon—that gleams against a stylized blue sky. A red globe smolders against a similarly sumptuous azure sky in Sin título, México. Here in a dazzlingly abstracted landscape, rolling waves of clouds give shape to a low horizon that swirls into sculptural, amoeba-like shapes before ceding to a bright, jade-green ground. In both paintings, Coronel contrasts the coolness of blue and green tonalities with the solar warmth of “Tamayo pink” and red, distilling cosmic meditations on time and space into pure pictorial form.
“Coronel has turned the Sun and the sidereal world into a symbol,” Fernández reflected. “It expresses the nostalgia of another vital, dynamic, incandescent world, different from the usual and the everyday, a world in which he harbors the hope of a new life. In truth, he is the creator on a large scale of a new sidereal world, a symbol as a whole of the need to expand the spirit and its poetic possibilities.” These late-career paintings exemplify Coronel’s “songs to the Sun,” Fernández concluded, revealing existential reflections on survival and salvation, creation and imagination, and ultimately a romantic “nostalgia for another life or his concern from whence we came.”[6]
Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park

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