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Oteiza Embid, Jorge

Jorge Oteiza, born in Orio (Gipuzkoa) in 1908, was one of the most important Spanish artists of the 20th century. He started his artistic career in San Sebastián in the 1920s alongside other young artists spearheading the artistic avant-garde in the city. He studied Secondary Education at San Sebastián’s Sagrado Corazón school and at the college run by the Capuchin friars in Lekaroz, Navarre, between 1914 and 1920. His early sculptural works were highly influenced by Cubism and Primitivism. In 1933, he travelled to South America to study Pre-Columbian sculpture (Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina and Chile) and remained there until 1949, thereby steering clear of the Spanish Civil War. On his return to Spain, he worked on the frieze of the apostles on the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de Aránzazu (1949-51), designed by the architect Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oiza. The Spanish Church, however, suspecting what was probably a political message in the frieze, prohibited the work, which was not finished until 1968. Personal experimentation led to what he called his “Propósito Experimental” (1955), the title he used to enter the São Paulo Art Biennial (1957), at which he was awarded the Grand Prix for sculpture. In 1959, believing that he had reached his conclusive phase, he decided to give up sculpture. Over these five years of work, Oteiza significantly managed to place his work on the path of the European geometric tradition, defending Neo-plasticism and Constructivism. This reinstatement of European aesthetics and its influence on Basque culture formed the bases for what is known as the “Basque School of Sculpture”.

In the 1960s and ’70s, Oteiza turned his attention to the Basque language and grass-roots manifestations of the Basque identity. In 1963, he published Quosque Tandem…!, his own interpretation of the Basque soul. His defence of popular Basque culture and identity meant that the avant-garde came to appreciate them as subjects of great value and expressive potential. In 1975, he moved to the Navarrese village of Alzuza with his wife Itziar Carreño. In 1985, he was awarded the Gold Medal for Fine Arts by the Spanish Ministry of Culture. In 1988, Fundació Caixa de Pensions held the retrospective “Oteiza: Propósito experimental” (Oteiza: Experimental intent), in Madrid, Bilbao and Barcelona, and Oteiza was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for the Arts. In 1996, he won the Pevsner Prize (Paris) in recognition of his life’s work. In 1998, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of the Basque Country and won both the Medal of the Madrid Fine Arts Circle and the Gold Medal of Gipuzkoa. He died in San Sebastián on the 9th of April 2003. Oteiza always shied away from official recognition and maintained a critical stance, remaining true to his own personal ideological and political position. In 1992, he donated his personal collection to the Government of Navarre. In spring 2003, following the artist’s death, the Jorge Oteiza Foundation Museum, housed in an exceptional building designed by his friend, the Navarrese sculptor Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oiza, opened its doors to the public.

JMMS

Sources:

«Oteiza, propósito experimental», Catálogo Exposición en Fundación Caja de Pensiones, Madrid, 1988. «Oteiza dejó ayer su Odiseo en el Museo de Navarra», Diario de Navarra, 2 de Julio 1991. ÁLVAREZ, S., Oteiza, pasión y razón. San Sebastián, Nerea, 1995. MARRODÁN, J., «Instalada una escultura de Jorge de Oteiza en el campus de la UPNA…», Diario de Navarra, 29 de Junio 1996. «La estatua de Oteiza», Diario de Noticias, 29 de Junio 1996. «La ciudad se ha convertido en el Museo Urbano de Jorge Oteiza», Diario de Navarra. 26 de Septiembre 1997. EZQUER, A., «Firmados los acuerdos para instalar nuevas obras de Oteiza en Pamplona…», Diario de Noticias, 26 de Septiembre 1997. «Oteiza al aire libre», Boletín de Información Municipal, nº 13. Pamplona, Ayuntamiento, 1997.«Pamplona, museo urbano de Jorge Oteiza», Diario de Navarra, 27 de Diciembre 1997. «Las obras de Oteiza y Muro en el campus de la UPNA, renovadas tras un proceso de limpieza», Diario de Noticias, 6 de Septiembre 2002. CENICEROS, I., «Una obra que salpica a Navarra», Diario de Navarra, 11 de Abril 2003. «Coreano, de Jorge Oteiza, en la plaza Conde Rodezno», Diario de Navarra, 22 de Febrero 2003. «Desaparece un artista universal», en Diario de Navarra, 10 de Abril de 2003. ESTÉVEZ, Mª A., «El Museo y lo que guarda dentro son lo mejor de dos hombres irrepetibles, Oteiza y Sáenz de Oiza», Diario de Navarra, 7 de Mayo de 2003.MENDIRY, R., «Visionario del espacio», Diario de Navarra, 10 de Abril 2003. «La plaza del Castillo recupera la pieza de Oteiza que estuvo en el inicio de Carlos III», Diario de Navarra, 22 de Junio 2004. Escultura pública de Jorge de Oteiza en Pamplona. Pamplona, Fundación Museo Jorge de Oteiza, 2006. MANTEROLA, P. La escultura de Jorge Oteiza. Una interpretación, Pamplona, Fundación Museo Jorge Oteiza, 2006. MUÑOA, P. Oteiza: la vida como experimento, Irún, Alberdania, 2006.