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The Instituto Cervantes in New York opens the exhibition "Menchu Gal: A free spirit "
Menchu Gal, Rincon de Olmeda, 1980. Oil on canvas. 46 X 61 cm. Private Collection, Madrid.

NEW YORK, NY.- The IVAM and Menchu Gal Foundation will present the exhibition "Menchu Gal. A free spirit" curated by journalist and art critic, Rafael Sierra, at the Instituto Cervantes of New York. The exhibition will remain on display until August 27.

Menchu Gal. A Free Spirit exhibition, organised by IVAM in collaboration with Menchu Gal Foundation and the sponsorship of Social Kutxa, collects 30 representative oils from the different creative stages of the artist. Landscapes, still life or marine scenes, genres she has encouraged since her first works, which received the influence of the 30's in Paris, to her last creations in the 90's

The catalogue released for this exhibition, reproduces her works and publishes some texts about Menchu Gal, written by Consuelo Císcar, Xavier Iturbe, Barbara Rosa, Rafael Sierra and Emma Rodríguez.

Menchu Gal (Irún 1918-2008) belonged to an industrial basque family. She studied in Colegio del Pilar in Irún. Since she showed an early artistic vocation, her father took her to the painter Pintor Gaspar Montes Iturrioz's studio, in order to learn how to draw. Moved by her talent, he conviced her family to send her to study arts in Paris, where she became a student of Amédée Ozenfant in 1932. Ozenfant not only was a cubist , but also a rather strict purist, who only allowed his pupils to work with three colors, all of them were thick and dark. Although Menchu was a colorist by nature, she learnt discipline and estructure from Ozenfant. She attended natural drawing lessons in the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. She visited the Louvre Museum to observe Corof work's and studied carefully Fauvists' work, closer to her sensibility.

On her return from Paris she enrolled in Fine Arts Academy in San Fernando, where she studied with Aurelio Arteta. After the break caused by Civil War during which she stayed in the South of France with her family, she returned to Madrid in 1943, where the famous painter José Gutiérrez Solana discovered her and put her in contact with other well-known contemporary artists of the time, members of Madrid or Vallecas School, among them were Daniel Vázquez Díaz, Benjamín Palencia, Pancho Cossío, Rafael Zabaleta and Juan Manuel Díaz-Caneja. In 1945 she get permanently settled in the capital and became the first woman considered on equal terms by the artist of the Clan Gallery.

During this stage of her pictorial career, a change took place in her artistic language, leaving her interpretation of the cubism and making landscape his principal theme in composition on plain surfaces with vivid colors (never cracked). Her painting, also frequented some other genres as still life and portrait. She said about Benjamín Palencia : "He teach me how to look that landscape. He was a men who discovered a way for painting that difficult and arid Castilla. He made a merry and alive Castilla, even a colorist one. It's not the sad Castilla we used to know anymore. He gives a great importance to vegetals, he paints flowers, big trees. It's a new vision. He was the first to paint the Castilla that enthralled me"

At the end of the 40's, Menchu Gal exhibited her work in Buenos Aires, Río de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Her career improved till the point of being invited to take part of the Spanish Pavilion in the Biennial of Venice in 1950. A year later, she was chosen for the prestigiou exhibition in Biosca Gallery of the School of Madrid, the most influentialavant-garde gallery of the time

According to Calvo Serraller, Menchu Gal, drank from the fauvism waters as a logic prolongation of her basque origins, just as she took some elements from the expressionism and cubism in order to integrate them in her own particular view and her way of feeling the world. In addition, we can find the trace of the influence of some artists like Van Gogh or Matisse, Renoir or Cezanne.

During the 50's and 60's she carried out a great number of exhibitions of still life, portraits and landscapes, being this last theme the one who took up the major part of her creation. Her first works in 1935-1955 –Tardets (1938) ), Río de Amute (1943), Retrato de mi hermana (1939)– displayed cubists brushstrookes on the structured simplifications. The second period, between 1955-1961 integrates works as Bodegón en negros (1958) y Bodegón de los cerezos (1961). This second-stage works are closer to Braque. In Bodegón con laúd (1949) she tries to get more intellectual and, to be precise, cubist.

In La casa de campo of 1960, the landscape is completely grey and pink. Other landscapes, marines and still lifes form the end of the 50's are sober in color with ochre and earthy tones standing out. From 1959 she got into a color intensity period. In the 60's she painted some portraits filled with color, among them were some of her mother. Between 1959 and 1965, her third stage, she resorted to pure color applied straight Between 1980 and 1986 she returned to that spontaneous gestures and pastel colors of Matisse, which inspired her once, in bright landscapes on short format with touch of naivety. Among her last works are Nocturno en Bidasoa and Puerto de Zumaya.

During the seven decades of her artistic career, she carried out about 70 individual exhibitions and took part in more than 200 collective exhibitions. She was the first woman who received the National Painting Award in 1959, represented Spain in the Biennial of Venice three times, and took part in other international exhibitions. Toghether with Mari Paz Jiménez, she is one of the few representative women in Basque Art HIstory of the XX century.

She spent her last years in Irún, her native city, where she kept on painting portraits and landscapes, well-known as a distinguished painter. After her death, her work reached a higher recognition. She claimed in an interview how painting was the meaning of her life. Painting was her raison d`être, her reason to live.

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