Esteban Vicente


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Painter, collage artist, printmaker, and sculptor. A participant in the first wave of abstract expressionism, he remained dedicated to abstract painting for half a century and outlived all important colleagues in the movement. Over the years, the vigorous gesturalism of his early mature abstraction gave way to more lyrical chromaticism related to color field painting. Born in Turégano, near Segovia, he grew up in Madrid and trained there for three years at the Royal Academy of Fine Art of San Fernando. Initially drawn to sculpture, by 1928 he had turned to painting, but his artistic personality emerged slowly. While painting from nature, often recapitulating aspects of postimpressionism, from 1929 he divided his time mostly between Paris and Barcelona, but also spent a year on the island of Ibiza. In 1936 he moved to New York, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1940. He worked first as a portrait painter. Not until the 1940s did he begin a serious engagement with modern tendencies, but by the end of the decade he had achieved an abstract style related to the work of such friends as Willem de Kooning and Hans Hofmann. Never an innovator, he nevertheless numbered among the earliest and most consistent abstract expressionists, synthesizing avant-garde notions of form, color, and composition with skill and eloquence. Continuing to evolve incrementally, his career displayed no major stylistic shifts, yet his approach never became formulaic. He achieved some of his most convincing results in luminous arrangements of flat shapes elegantly balanced on the surface of the canvas. From the 1960s on, some incorporate collage elements. During the same years, he also made a limited number of small, often whimsical, abstract sculptures assembled from disparate, usually painted elements. Vicente taught at several leading art schools, including Black Mountain College and Yale University. He helped to found the New York Studio School in 1964 and taught there for thirty-five years. He continued working productively nearly until the end of his life. For a number of years he divided his time between New York and an eastern Long Island home in Bridgehampton, where he died. Opened in 1998, the Esteban Vicente Museum of Contemporary Art in Segovia highlights his career within a context of Spanish modernism.

Subjects: Art.

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