Description & Technical information

In 1985 Claudio Bravo noted that ‘Drawing and color are the bases of my work. However, I seem to be doing fewer drawings these days – either preliminary drawings or studies for paintings. I draw directly onto the canvas and use that as the basis for my colors. I find that drawing is less and less important for me…I had a large exhibition of my pastels at the Marlborough Gallery in New York in 1985. I realized then the magic quality of the medium. Pastels seem to embody a special light effect, directly reflecting the sun of mid-day while oil evokes the qualities of afternoon sun with its more sober tones. I feel that there are relatively few great works in pastel. Someday I’d like to do a large-scale human figure in pastel of the importance of Quentin de la Tour’s portrait of Madame de Pompadour, the most important work ever done, I think, in that medium. I also have enormous regard for the pastels of Degas and Manet.’ In another, later interview, Bravo pointed out that ‘Sometimes I don’t know what to paint and I paint something right in front of me; other times I look for the subject. I buy an object I like, I mix it with another, I put it somewhere with a particular light I like and I gradually move it, I spend hours moving it back and forth.’

This very large still life, superbly executed in pastel, was drawn in Tangier in 1987. The folded cloth in the centre of the composition reappears as a tablecloth in a large still life painting of Boxes, dated 1986, while similar stone mortars are found in several of the artist’s still life compositions, such as a pastel of 1982 and an oil painting executed the following year. 

Works such as this are a testament to Bravo’s abiding interest in the classical tradition of European still life painting, and in particular the bodegón paintings produced in Spain in the late 16th and 17th century. As the artist’s friend, the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, has written of Bravo, ‘His true masters are the great classical masters, particularly Spanish 17th century, the Golden Age of Baroque, such as Fray Juan Sánchez Cotán, Antonio de Pereda or Francisco de Zurbarán, who revolutionized the treatment of the object, conferring on their still lifes – through a scrupulous study of details and the play of light – a dignity and intensity which appear to emancipate them from the inert and humanize them. Claudio Bravo has updated this old school with his oil paintings, pastels and drawings of flowers, fruit, vegetables, jugs, tablecloths, mortars, cruets, cooking pots, ostrich eggs, rugs, glasses, stones, and hampers which it would be unfair to call “still life”, since that label immediately suggests the inanimate, the decorative…these images shimmer like precious jewels, they become giant-like heroes whose outstanding presence has desolated their surroundings.’

Medium: Pastel on light grey paper
Signature: Signed and dated CLAUDIO BRAVO / MCMLXXXVII in red chalk at the lower right.

Dimensions: 75 x 109.7 cm (29¹/₂ x 43¹/₄ inches)
Provenance: Anonymous sale, New York, Christie’s, 16 November 1994, lot 43
Private collection.

Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints