Permanent Collection

Rafael Canogar

Toledo, 1935
Toledo, 1960Toledo, 1960

By 1960, Canogar had managed to achieve a first synthesis. He was now an action painter and quite consciously so. The large formats, the manner of projecting color onto the canvas, the gestural emphasis and a certain heroic and sublime quality were all indicative of a sustained familiarity with the trends of the New York School. A MoMA touring exhibition, the importance of which was emphasized by the El Paso group, had introduced some of this school's more important artists to Spanish initiates. Despite this cosmopolitan dimension, Canogar —along with the other members of El Paso—did not forget his roots. Feeding on the Spanish tradition, he renounced his earlier colorist tendencies and concentrated on black and white, though he also applied some touches of ocher and red. The result was so dramatic and expressive that both critics and other painters drew parallels between Canogar's art and Spain's past.

Toledo, which belongs to this period, is a work of special intensity. The MoMA included it in the New Spanish Painting and Sculpture exhibition the same year that Canogar painted it, and it is without doubt one of his most celebrated works. Named after the Castilian city in which he was born, it belongs to that long chain of works that begins with El Greco's views of the city, the best of which is to be found at New York's Metropolitan Museum. However, nobody should expect to find here the towers, the narrow streets, the Alcázar, the synagogues, the bend in the Tagus River or the skies that so fascinated El Greco. Canogar's is not a figurative city, but a metaphorical one that he reconstructs from memory. It is the conflict of an action painter who, limited to pictorial media, resurrects Toledo in his dream and constructs an imaginary town on a hill.

Juan Manuel Bonet, en Catalog Museo de Arte Abstracto Español, Cuenca, Fundación Juan March, Madrid, 2016