Fernando Zóbel de Ayala y Montojo

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For the president of Ayala Corporation, see Fernando Zobel de Ayala.
Fernando Zóbel Montojo de Torróntegui
Born Fernando Zóbel de Zangróniz Arrieta, Róxas de Ayala, y Montojo de Torróntegui
(1924-08-27)August 27, 1924
Ermita, Manila, Philippines
Died June 2, 1984(1984-06-02) (aged 59)
Rome, Italy
Nationality Filipino
Spanish
Education Rhode Island School of Design
Known for Painting
Movement Modernism
Abstract Expressionism

Fernando Zóbel de Ayala y Montojo (August 27, 1924 – June 2, 1984), also known as Fernando M. Zóbel, was a Spanish Filipino painter and businessman.

Early life[edit]

Zóbel was born in Ermita, Manila in the Philippines to Enrique Zóbel de Ayala (1877–1943) and Fermina Montojo y Torrontegui and was a member of the prominent Zóbel de Ayala family. He was a brother of Jacobo Zóbel (father of Enrique J. Zóbel), Alfonso (father of Jaime Zóbel de Ayala) and Mercedes Zóbel McMicking, all children of his father from his first wife, Consuelo Róxas de Ayala (who died in September 25, 1907 at the age of 30). He was a nephew and namesake of Fernando Antonio Zóbel de Ayala, the eldest brother of his father.

His father was a patron of Fernando Amorsolo. In gratitude, Amorsolo would teach the young Fernando on the rudiments of art.

Zóbel took up medical studies at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. In 1942, he had spinal deficiency that forced him to become bedridden that year. To pass the time, he took up sketching. He finished studying in Santo Tomas and left for Harvard University in 1946 to take up degrees in history and literature.

Boston-style works[edit]

Zóbel started painting without formal training while in Harvard. He graduated in 1949 as magna cum laude. He later stayed on as biographical researcher after finishing his bachelor's degree. It was at this time, he met American artists Hyman Bloom, Reed Champion and Jim Pfeufer who helped him launch his career as an artist. His paintings were in style of the Boston artists and are considered his Boston-style works.

Modernism and abstract expressionism[edit]

Zóbel returned to the Philippines and became friends with contemporary Filipino modernist artists. As such, he collected modernist works and set up exhibits for them to be shown and noticed since modernist art was largely unappreciated. In 1954, he left Manila and enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Design where he saw an exhibition by Mark Rothko. Rothko's paintings made an impression on Zobel later to be done in his later works. When he returned to Manila, Zobel started in having interest in Chinese and Japanese art and took up calligraphy classes until 1960. During this time, he joined the faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University and later was given an honorary doctorate and was made honorary director of the Ateneo Art Gallery for his contribution in education and as patron of the arts. To make a name for himself as a full-time painter, he later resigned from his position in the Ayala Corporation and moved to Spain.

Saeta and Serie Negra series[edit]

Zóbel is best known for his first artwork series called the Saetas. Named after the liturgical song sung in Holy Week in Spain, they were developed for the most part in the Philippines. Zóbel faced the technical problem of how to achieve the lines that his theme required, lines that were, in his own words, "long, fine, and controlled." The surgical syringe was the solution which was his trademark in painting. The Saetas were his first artworks incorporating colors he saw in Rothko's works. After the Saetas, Zóbel started painting his concept on black as a color in a series called Serie Negra or Series in Black influenced by East Asian calligraphy.[disambiguation needed] The Serie Negra was started in 1958 while he was in Madrid which were done after four years.

Later life and death[edit]

After his first two definitive art series, Zóbel began painting landscapes inspired by the river Júcar. In his later years, he created the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español at Casa Colgadas in the town of Cuenca, Spain in 1963.

Zóbel was a tutor and helped in the careers of Spanish painters some of which were Antonio Lorenzo, Eusebio Sempere, Martín Chirino López, Antonio Saura and many others. Until his death, Zóbel was working on a series called Dialogos which was reactions to art masters which he saw in the museums around Europe. In 1983, King Juan Carlos of Spain bestowed upon Zóbel the Medalla de Oro al Mérito en las Bellas Artes.

Zóbel died of a heart attack in Rome, Italy on June 2, 1984.

In 2003, a retrospective traveling exhibit in honor of Zobel were held in Cuenca and Seville.[1] On May 21, 2006, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Merit by the Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for his contributions in the arts.[2] On May 24, 2008, Zobel's work titled Noche Clara was sold at Christie's in Hong Kong was sold for PHP 6,000,000, making it the most expensive Philippine artwork.[3]

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