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Noe Canjura was born in 1922 in Apopa, a village in the Republic of El Salvador in Central America, to a family of landless peasants of humble origin. By the time of his death, he was recognized as one of the leading landscape, still life, and figure painters of France.
As a youth, Canjura was raised in intimate contact with the struggle of wrestling a livelihood from the infertile soil of his native village.
To pay part of his expenses and to lighten the weight of the sacrifices his father made to keep him in school, Canjura worked in a sawmill and often spent the night there, sleeping on bare boards.
His talent for drawing came to light when he was seventeen years old and, without knowing how or why, his adventure in the art world began. He first studied painting at the Academy of Painting of Valero Lecha in San Salvador (1942–1946).
Beginning in 1942, Canjura took part in all of the group exhibitions throughout El Salvador and several years later was exhibiting in Guatemala.
In 1948, he travelled to Mexico City to continue his studies. There, he was strongly influenced by Diego Rivera, who with Orozco and Siqueiros, was at the height of his fame. Gradually, Rivera’s influence lessened and Canjura turned to the art of Gauguin, gaining from him the idea of formal order in painting and the use of curves.
The same year, he had his first exhibition in the United States.
Life in Paris
Canjura’s career changed dramatically in 1949 when he went to France to study at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts for special studies in the technique of fresco painting, on grant issued by his government. While in Paris the work of Courbet and Le Nain had strong attraction for him, though he clung to subjects that depicted the somber life and harsh soil of his native country.
He had his first one-man show in Paris in 1953 and, since then, France became his adopted country. Life in Paris was difficult and, like many others, he had to undertake various forms of manual labor to make a living.
After he married Madeleine Bachelet, an artist like himself, life was made easier and he was enabled to be more dedicated to his art. Within himself, there still remained great controversy as to his ability as a painter, perfectionist that he was.
The strong influence of his years in Paris was very apparent when he returned briefly to El Salvador in 1957. He saw his country through different eyes and from then on color and light became more and more part of his work. Canjura’s painting is now a synthesis of the many influences which have deeply marked his character as well as his art. His canvases are both dramatic and wistful; powerfully composed yet detailed with great subtlety; always simplified planes of color which at first suggest abstractions.
The fact that in six years' time, between 1959 and 1965, the City of Paris purchased four of his paintings for its permanent collection is an indication of his standing in the Paris art world and the steady development of his work.
Canjura was a member of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts and the Salon de la Jeune Peinture. He exhibited regularly and with unquestioned popularity in the important salons of Paris; especially, he was invited every year in Maurice Boitel's group in the Salon "Comparaisons". His paintings have been purchased for the collections of the French State, the National Museum of El Salvador (later transferred to the Museum of Art of El Salvador MARTE), and the Hamishka Leomanouth Museum at Ein Harod in Israel. In 1965, he was awarded the coveted “Prune d’Argent” of the Salon Peintres de Provence.
Death and legacy
Noe Canjura died in Morienval, France on September 29, 1970 at the age of 48. He was buried at the church's cemetery in Notre Dame de Morienval, Direct survivors include his daughter, Leticia Canjura, and his granddaughter, Vilma Borden; both reside in Atlanta, Georgia, United States.
Together with Julia Díaz, Raúl Elas Reyes, and Rosa Mena Valenzuela, Canjura is an icon in El Salvador of the greatest art school movement of his generation. He also symbolizes the human capacity for reinventing himself from a humble barefoot young art student to a powerful creator of his own existence in an international environment.
Mr. Wally Findlay, president of the galleries, once, said: “The young artist in a very short time would achieve the stature of such contemporary artists as Bernard Buffet and Nicola Simbari”.
- Wally Findley Galleries pamphlet from Noe Canjura's exhibition / Wally F. Galleries, New York, N.Y., U.S.A. / Date: Not available / Material provided by Mrs. Leticia Canjura.
- “Noe Canjura Paintings to Preview at Findlay” Article / Magazine: Not available / New York, N.Y., U.S.A. / Date: March, year: Not Available / Material provided by Mrs. Leticia Canjura.
- “Art by Canjura Receives Praise” Article by: Sandra Rosseau / Magazine: Not available / New York, N.Y., U.S.A. / Date: March, year: Not Available / Material provided by Mrs. Leticia Canjura.
- Newspaper Article from “La Prensa Grafica”, El Salvador / Date: August 27, 1968 / Material provided by Mrs. Leticia Canjura.
- Newspaper Article from “El Diario de Hoy”, El Salvador / Date: August 27, 1968 / Material provided by Mrs. Leticia Canjura.
- Newspaper Article from “El Diario de Hoy”, El Salvador / Date: September 10, 1968 / Material provided by Mrs. Leticia Canjura.