Angel Zarraga (Mexican 1886-1946)
Angel Zarraga (Mexican 1886-1946)

Retrato de un jugador de rugby

Angel Zarraga (Mexican 1886-1946)
Retrato de un jugador de rugby
signed 'Angel Zárraga' (lower left)
oil on canvas
36 x 25½ in. (91.5 x 64.7 cm.)
Painted circa 1925.
Casa de la Cultura Jaliciense, Guadalajara.
Benito Echeverría, Mexico City.
Andrés Blaisten, Mexico City.
Galería Ramis Barquet, New York.
Private collection, New York.
Exhibition catalogue, Ángel Zárraga, Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico, 1985, p. 35, no. 46.
E.G. Barragán, Ángel Zárraga entre la Alegoría y nacionalismo, Mexico, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, 1992, p. 38 (illustrated in color).
P. Patout, M.L. Novelo and L.M. Schneider, Zárraga, Américo Arte Editores Gruopo Financiero Bital, S.A. de C.V., Milan, 1997, p. 128 (illustrated in color).
M.A. Echegaray et. al., Ángel Zárraga: Primer realista Mexicano del siglo XX, Durango, Mexico, Gobierno del estado de Durango, Pinoteca, 2000, p. 210 (illustrated in color).
Guadalajara, Casa de la Cultura Jaliciense, Ángel Zárraga, 1975.
Mexico City, Museo Rufino Tamayo, Ángel Zárraga, January- February 1985, no. 46, p. 35.
Mexico City, Museo de Arte Moderno, Colección Blaisten, 2000.

Lot Essay

In 1903, Mexican artist Ángel Zárraga entered the renowned Academia de San Carlos where his teachers were José María Velasco and the Symbolist painter Julio Ruelas. At the age of seventeen, Zárraga set sail for France. By 1906 the artist had won a scholarship that allowed him to travel to Segovia to further his artistic studies. Zárraga also visited Brussels and Madrid where, he became acquainted with the modernist tendencies and the vibrant art scenes in the various cities he traveled to. While in Madrid he met the Spanish artist Ignacio Zuloaga y Zabaleta and became a pupil of Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida--both played an important influence on the young artist. At this time, he participated in an exhibition at El Museo del Prado with three of his paintings. More exhibitions followed in Florence and Venice by 1909. Zárraga's early trajectory led him to the center of the then art world, Paris--where along with Braque, Utrillo, Gris and Picasso, he was one of the founders of the School of Paris. During these years, the artist returned several times to Mexico but finally settled in Paris by 1915 where he became an important art figure and enjoyed commercial and critical success.

An inventive artist, Zárraga remained a rather unknown artist in his native Mexico--perhaps due to his exile in Europe. His earliest compositions such as Exvoto (San Sebastian), 1911 (sold in the Latin American Sale May 2006) reveal his predilections for a symbolist aesthetic that he would eventually relinquish in favor of synthetic cubism. The artist's earliest experiments with a cubist language reveal his understanding of color and space but more importantly place him within the modernist's vanguard. Zárraga abandoned Cubism by the start of the 1920s for an expressionist language that is uniquely his but shares its roots with the works of Cézanne.

Retrato de un jugador de rugby, circa 1925, dates to a period in the artist's life when he became increasingly interested in athletic depictions--especially of football (soccer and rugby) players. Some of his most notable paintings within this theme are of players in action done in a cubist manner. However, his most iconic works on the sport are frontal portraits of female and male players which are captivating and lyrical character studies. This portrait focuses on a handsome young man--almost too young to play such a rough sport. The bold red stripes of his shirt contrast dramatically against the soft colors of the playing field and anchors him firmly to the ground. He epitomizes the eloquence of the sport--the almond-shaped ball is tenderly held up like a sacred object and he remains forever the image of the game.
More than any of the other rugby images the artist rendered, Retrato de un jugador de rugby, is remarkably linked to both the game but to the haunting figure of this young man who looks straight at us.


More from Latin American Sale Day Session

View All
View All