The painter and engraver Juan Alcalde, one of the greatest exponents of the Paris School, died last Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Madrid, surrounded by his family, when he was 102 years old.
The artist had received the Medal of Honor of the Spanish Association of Painters and Sculptors four years ago, an award that recognizes those artists who have distinguished themselves in an outstanding way in the world of artistic creation, and which turned out to be the last award and act attended.
Just 15 days ago, in his studio in a central Madrid street, he boasted before the AEPE Medal, which presides over the fireplace in the living room, acknowledging that he was very excited to receive it and meet again at that event with other artists, held in 2016 , with a multitude of friends who wanted to accompany him in such a special moment that he also had the assistance of Infanta Elena de Borbón, friend and admirer of the painter’s work.
Juan Alcalde felt unwell less than a week ago, entering the Clinical Hospital of San Carlos, where kidney failure ended his life. His sons Juan Luis and Sergio, who have been with him until the last moment, have respected his most intimate wishes for discretion. After his exhibition in the Madrid mortuary of San Isidro, this morning the crematorium of La Almudena was taken, after which he will be buried in an intimate and family ceremony.
We recall the speeches that the Secretary General, Mª Dolores Barreda Pérez, and the President of the Spanish Association of Painters and Sculptors, filled with references about his life and work, made at the AEPE Medal of Honor ceremony.
Mª Dolores Barreda Pérez, made a brief tour of the artistic and professional career of the renowned painter, with special emphasis on providing those present with a summary sketch of what Juan Alcalde is like, and not just his biography, with cold and distant data and dates, but introducing those present to life, thought and a little bit in the artist’s magical soul.
“A great person and an excellent painter is the reason that brings us together today to make a simple and emotional tribute, like the ones we do in this century-old institution.
I could sketch you a biography here and carefully read dates and events of his long life, and I would do no more than save you going to the art encyclopedias, where you can find everything related to his artistic life, countless number of exhibitions, he could also describe his Haphazard life and fruitful work.
But if I did all this, you would still not really know the man to whom we pay tribute today, so I am going to try to talk about the man, the artist and what his work is like.
Juan Alcalde Alonso is pure, here we would say that he is an authentic cat, born in the Rastro, near Cascorro, and with parents who, far from falling into typism, only reinforce that stamp: his father, shoemaker, and mother , cigarette factory of the tobacco factory on Calle Embajadores, next to the gate, (There it is nothing).
At this point, perhaps you could specify the street and the exact number where you were born, so that this Spanish Association of Painters and Sculptors may request the Madrid City Council to place a commemorative plaque on the Plan’s facade. Memory of Madrid, to remember the happy event.
He studied at the School of Arts and Crafts in Madrid, with Agustín L. González, at the Museum of Artistic Reproductions and at the Círculo de Bellas Artes, and later entered the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, having among other professors Aurelio Arteta, who was his supporter for the “Molina Higueras” Prize, awarded by the Academia de San Fernando, with a painting that Juan himself defined as “decadent realism”, although it is true that he was already given very good.
The Director of the Royal Academy, the Count of Romanones, promises him a scholarship to study in Paris, plans that will be cut short by the start of the civil war, where he will fight on the Madrid front.
He has to retire to France, being interned in a concentration camp where he is about to die of dysentery, until he is admitted to an old Perpignan hospital where he lives with mentally ill patients.
In 1944 he returned to Madrid where he married Conchita Moreda and continued his difficult life as a painter, having to paint film posters to cover his bare necessities.
In 1950 he emigrated to Caracas, where he managed to live well from his profession as a painter, carried out commissions and exhibitions, painted landscapes, made illustrations … his sons Juan Luis and Sergio were born there.
However, he does not feel at ease, the easy success bothers him and he decides to return to Paris, make his golden dream come true and paint the barges that cross the Seine, the taverns, the workers on the river bank.
There he meets other members of the Spanish School in Paris such as Baltasar Lobo, Joaquín Peinado or Hernando Viñes and he meets great friends, such as Marcel Marceau, Picasso, Neruda, …
The samples and exhibitions take place in Madrid, London, Paris, Caracas, …
In 1979 his wife died who had shared so many dreams and difficulties with him. For four years, Juan Alcalde did not exhibit again, until 1983, which he did in Madrid.
In 1984, he married Patrocinio Molero, with whom he began a new and important stage of his life.
So far, synthesized and summarized, a few biographical data that outline an intense life, but nothing yet that can show us his rich inner life, his thought and personality.
Of him it has been written, I will not be the one who says that little enough, but with really beautiful and admirable words, that describe his work like this:
“Stripped of all unnecessary artifice, beautiful in its absolute nakedness, it is an essential painting, in the most exact sense of the term. In his paintings we find loneliness, but not despair ”.
“The Work of Juan Alcalde, full of intelligence and sensitivity, has a poetic charge that transcends beneath its apparent coldness.”
“Painting of very personal invoice, without antecedents in the future of our artistic creation and without the mimetic influences of other great contemporary masters”.
“The painting of the Mayor is poetic. Lyric of the feelings made light; by the free verses of color. Without academic rhymes that tie it. With no other metric than yours. The one of the few things that are painted in his painting ”.
“Juan Alcalde is a classic above the academies and the conventional balances of writers because, alone with his heart, with his palette and with his solitude, Juan Alcalde knows how to paint the world first hand and with the gripping line –and overwhelming- of the wisest and most angelic of all innocences: that of the artist who has the magical grace – and even pain – of turning into speedy and mature art everything he touches ”.
“Mayor paints things that make a man, an artist, an essential and essentialist ascetic in painting, a lover of reality and life, a delicious and natural man.”
“The Mayor’s painting is one of those that go deep without the need for transcendentalism. He feels what he says and transmits it with the simplicity of what is important ”.
“Mayor addresses classical figurative themes: landscape, still life, still lifes immersed in a background of very original and distinctive cities, maternities, nudes and the human figure in general, treating them with great beauty in a style full of mysticism, harmony, delicacy and softness, qualities that affect both its shape and its background, and of course the color, abundant in whites. But also, the forms are simplified and synthesized ”.
I could go on to tell you pieces of writing that revolve around his work, but I think it is more interesting to know what he thinks of himself and how he defines himself.
“I work with oils because oil lives like a human being, it does not stay perpetual. Oil works by itself and I am sure that my paintings are not what they will be ”.
His inexhaustible vitalism is reflected in the phrase: “I would not like to die knowing, I would like to die learning.”
For Juan Alcalde, art is the search for itself.
His life is a continual uncertainty, but as he himself admits, “misfortunes can bring thanks.”
“The worst thing that can happen to human beings is not having grace or misfortune,” he adds.
“Problems are what generate thought; without them, the brain dies, ”he nods emphatically.
“Every day I think about rejuvenating myself, I would like to be somewhat less figurative, but I am not able to abstract myself completely, I am not able to reach pure abstraction. I carry a very heavy weight on my back, which I cannot unload, even if I try. I am interested in the abstraction of Velázquez, by Goya. The bad figuratives of the last century hurt, although there is also Rosales, who is fabulous. What matters is pure, what comes from the spirit of the soul, from the interior of man ”… Sensitivity above all.
To speak of Juan is to speak of his thumb. As he himself assures, his thumb is more important than brushes, he is the one that leads the colors to the canvas, and he also has a sensual component that the brush does not have, and in his own words, “it is that when you put your thumb on a cloth, there is your sensitivity, the projection of your spirit on the finger, almost like a self-portrait ”.
Juan has been his own patron, he has supported himself, he has believed in him, because the only thing he has tried to be all his life is Juan Alcalde.
That is why, far from schools, far from influences, far from comparisons or friends who interfere in this semblance, far from similarities and analogies, today we pay tribute to who has tried to be his whole life, and I would say that he has succeeded, Juan Alcalde ”
For his part, the President of the Spanish Association of Painters and Sculptors, José Gabriel Astudillo, reminded everyone that his art is characterized by the personal style that has made this painter a benchmark for new creative generations in a dissertation in which He explained why Juan Alcalde has earned this award:
“This recognition to an artist like Juan Alcalde, is the unequivocal testimony of the constant commitment of the Spanish Association of Painters and Sculptors to culture, and is also our most determined support for its creators and diffusers.
This Medal recognizes a life, a personal journey that you thus come to transmit in your works, a visible reference in which you offer us, by reliving and contemplating them, the possibility of also being artists.
Your work, all your work, is also an unequivocal source of hope, because you have exerted as a painter and engraver, a profession in which you not only see the enthusiastic and optimistic charge that your targets give off, but also reaches the public and the viewer with a new look, as a gesture of encouragement and encouragement in which to demonstrate that in their lives and works the idea can come true that on many occasions, it is in difficulties and limitations where creativity is expressed with special intensity.
Juan Alcalde is a great artist, and he is because he dominates what is in his heart, and only the one who best understands and knows his affections and passions, becomes a great artist; an artist who dominates light and form through sensitivity.
That essential part of his artist soul is the one that manages to unite matter to the immaterial, giving shape to the spirit. My always admired Sorolla, who honored this institution when he was its President, used to say that painting is a “state of the soul”, a phrase that perfectly fits the art that Juan Alcalde gives us.
Juan is a great artist, a painter who has made his work a lifestyle, a painter who paints all day, every day of the year, who paints even when he does not. That when he sleeps he paints and when he sails he paints. Because the gift he has given to all of us who love art, the gift of being a painter, has hidden the poison and the sweet burden of the total dedication and dedication with which he has governed his life.
The world of culture, society in general, we can only thank him for his contribution and recognize the creative art that underlies the back of all his work, in which the most original illusion that fits for life beats, that of making life pure beauty.
That is what this Medal that we give you today intends, to be the shared vision of who you are and what we want to be through your work. Miguel de Unamuno, whose sensitivity is shared by each and every one of Juan Alcalde’s works, said that “the artist and especially man, will continue to speak through his work, for the benefit and enjoyment of many generations.”
That is the example that you leave and that in a simple way, we appreciate.
Today we pay tribute to who, as the Secretary General said before, has managed to be Juan Alcalde. May this shared moment always remain in your heart, as it will remain in our history and our memory.
Let it be engraved in gold. Forever, dear Juan. There is no medal that can be made of the alloy of affection, friendship and gratitude, with which this Medal is symbolically made, which we present to you today from the Spanish Association of Painters and Sculptors ”.
The President then presented the Medal of Honor to Juan Alcalde, who received it excitedly and addressed a few words to the attendees in which he could only thank the honor and declare himself happy and excited for being there, and knowing himself to be the object of such special attention.
He was later required to sign in the Book of Honor of the Spanish Association of Painters and Sculptors, and he did so with firm, clear and neat handwriting, before the expectation of those present for the comments that the honoree made at all times and in the that jokingly was about the 99 years he had already completed.
The Infanta Doña Elena, sitting up to that moment among the public, came to congratulate the friend and artist and affectionately posed with the members of the presidential table, as well as how many assistants and friends were in the act.
It is worth remembering the multiple occasions in which the royal family has attended events organized by the Spanish Association of Painters and Sculptors, taking into account that SS.MM. the kings don Juan Carlos and doña Sofía are the Honorary Presidents of the centennial entity, which is about to announce the 52 Queen Sofia Prize for Painting and Sculpture.
He then signed the Infanta in the entity’s Book of Honor, just below the signature that he dedicated in the year 90 on the occasion of his visit to the traditional Autumn Salon, and promised to attend, to the extent possible, other events of the entity.