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Esteban Vicente

 (1903 - 2001)
Esteban Vicente was active/lived in New York, Pennsylvania / Spain.  Esteban Vicente is known for abstract expressionist painting, assemblage.

Esteban Vicente

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Esteban Vicente
Of his painting Esteban Vicente said: ...If I have to say something about the subject of my painting, I might say that it is an interior landscape. This image becomes the subject. It is always the same idea, the same image---from an accumulation of experience. I don't know if one can actually identify this image. When I say 'landscape', I mean a structure. The structure of the painting is landscape---but not the color. That's why I say they are 'inter landscapes'. " (Herskovic 346)

Known for his Abstract Expressionism and Color-Field paintings in oil as well as collages, Esteban Vicente attended art school in Madrid at the Academy Belles Artes before moving to New York City in 1936. There he became affiliated with the Action Painters in the 1950s including Willem and Elaine De Kooning. In "Art News" magazine, 1952, Elaine De Kooning had an article published on Esteban Vicente titled "Vicente Paints a Collage"..

Vicente was also an art educator with positions at Black Mountain College, University of California at Berkeley, New York University, Yale University, Princeton University and the University of California at Los Angeles.

He had his first one-man show at the Ateneo de Madrid in 1928, and from that time entered many exhibitions in Spain including Barcelona as well as Madrid where his paintings are in the Reina Sofia Museum. In 1991 Vicente was honored by King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain with the Gold Medal for Fine Arts.

Sources include:
Marika Herskovic, Editor, American Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s
ARTnews, September 2002

Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries
Biography photo for Esteban Vicente
A member of the first generation of Abstract Expressionists, Esteban Vicente was part of the most influential circles of his generation. During the course of his long and lauded career, he closely studied shape, light, and the possibilities of pigment.

Born in 1903 in Turégano, Spain, to a family that appreciated the arts, Vicente was raised in Madrid. He recalled being "bored" during visits to the Prado as a child, but at age 18 he enrolled at Madrid's Real Academia de Bellas Artes, where Salvador Dalí was a fellow student. After three years studying sculpture at the academy, Vicente turned his attention to painting. "I always made the heads too small anyway," he recalled. (1)

During this period, the mid- and late 1920s, Vicente became fully immersed in Madrid's cultural milieu, including the "Generation of '27", a group of poets, artists, and other intellectuals interested in the avant-garde. His circle included Luis Buñuel, and he met Pablo Picasso and Michael Sonnabend. After exhibiting for several years in Paris, Barcelona, and Madrid, Vicente moved to New York in 1936.

During his first decade in New York, Vicente exhibited at the Kleeman Galleries, the Bonestell Gallery, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and developed friendships with critic Walter Pach and painter Joseph Stella. By the late 1940s, Vicente was committed to exploring abstraction, giving up his earlier representational style of painting.

With extensive personal and professional connections and a commitment to pursuing avant-garde art, Vicente was centrally located in New York's burgeoning postwar art scene. In the midst of the Abstract Expressionist movement, Vicente was a core member of the New York School, which included colleagues and friends Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman. Vicente was a voting member of The Club, and shared a studio with Willem de Kooning.

The influential galleries and critics of Abstract Expressionsim recognized Vicente's bold, gestural work as of central importance to the era. He showed with Charles Egan, Leo Castelli, and Andre Emmerich, among others; friends included Harold Rosenberg and Thomas Hess. Clement Greenberg and Meyer Schapiro included him in the Kootz Gallery's "Talent 1950" exhibition, and Vicente participated in the seminal "Ninth Street" exhibition the following year.

From the 1960s on, Vicente refined his gestural style of painting and collage to reflect a more reductive approach that employed vibrant color harmonies and contrasts. He sought control and order in his work, rejecting the idea of the unconscious as an artistic guide, a notion embraced by some of his contemporaries. Instead, his carefully constructed mature compositions were evocative, dramatic, and nuanced. Thinly applied pigments and spare collage elements created works defined by light and structure. Vicente approached each artwork not as a single, discrete piece, but as a facet of his oeuvre: "any one of my paintings is part of a sequence, part of a total . . . . Each painting is solved in its own way, yet the continuation, the process, envelops all of them." (2)

Poet and critic John Ashbery described Vicente as "known and admired as one of the best teachers of painting in America."(3) Among his many teaching positions were jobs at Black Mountain College, the University of California at Berkeley and Los Angeles, Yale University, Princeton University, and Columbia University. His students included Dorothea Rockburne, Chuck Close, and Brice Marden.

Vicente continued to work and exhibited regularly well into his nineties. In 1991, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia awarded him the Gold Medal of Honor in the Fine Arts, Spain's most important honor in the arts. Vicente died in Bridgehampton, New York, in 2001.

In addition to the Museum de Arte Contemporaneo Esteban Vicente in Segovia, the artist's work is held in most major museums in the United States, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

1. Elaine de Kooning, "Vicente Paints a Collage," "Art News" (February 1953), reprinted in "Esteban Vicente: Collages 1950-1994" (Valencia: IVAM Centre Julio González, 1995), 149.
2. Esteban Vicente, "Painting Should Be Poor," "Location" (1964), reprinted in "Esteban Vicente, Pinturas y Collages 1925-1985" (Madrid: Fundacion Banco Exterior, 1987), 167.
3. John Ashbery quoted in Valeriano Bozal, "Donación Esteban Vicente" (Segovia: Museo de Arte Comtemporáneo Esteban Vicente, 1998), 273.

© Copyright 2008 Hollis Taggart Galleries

Biography from The Johnson Collection

In 1903 Esteban Vicente was born in Turégano, in the province of Segovia, Spain, but from the age of four he lived in Madrid. His father took him on regular visits to the Prado Museum, known for its collections of paintings by Diego Velasquez and Francisco Goya.

Young Vicente displayed a talent for drawing at sixteen, which led to his attendance at the Real Academia de Belles Artes for three years in the 1920s. His initial focus was sculpture, but he soon switched to painting. Apparently he found the education there to be too conventional, saying, “it doesn’t give you any ideas about anything. It gives you the tools, and teaches you about materials. Academic training is safe. It prepares you to be against.”
In the late 1920s he went to Paris for a short period, but returned to Spain in 1930. When the Spanish Civil War started in 1936 he sided with the loyalists and painted camouflage for a few months, but late in the year he moved to the United States. For three years he lived in Philadelphia and served the Spanish Republic as vice-consul.

He relocated to New York City in 1939 and during the next decade he began to frequent the Cedar Tavern, a bar in lower Manhattan where other abstract expressionists, including Willem de Kooning Franz Kline, and Jackson Pollock, hung out. In 1950 the dealer Samuel Kootz and the critic Clement Greenberg—both important figures for the promulgation of abstract expressionism—collaborated on an exhibition, Talent 1950. It included Vicente, Kline, and Larry Rivers.
During the late 1930s Vicente was approached about a teaching position at Black Mountain College, which not materialize for undocumented reasons. He returned, however, in 1953 and taught painting during a summer devoted to music and dance. He also taught in Berkeley in 1954 and 1958, at New York University, 1959–1969, Yale University, 1960–1961, and the University of California, Los Angeles, 1962. He was artist-in-residence at Princeton University, 1965–1966 and again 1969–1972.

 From about 1964 he maintained a residence and studio in Bridgehampton, on Long Island, which is where he died in 2001. Three years prior to his death, the Museum of Contemporary Art Esteban Vicente opened in Segovia, with a core collection of over one hundred and fifty works donated by the artist and his wife.
Affiliated with the abstract expressionists, like many of them Vicente preferred non-representational canvases painted thickly with visible gestures. Typically, large shapes suspended in space dominate his compositions. His ability to work with painterly surfaces may be the result of the early influence of Velasquez and Goya, considered by some to be proto-impressionists for their use of impasto. Vicente once declared: “The pigment is a very complicated thing. A painter has to deal with the physicality first.”

Submitted by Holly Watters, Registrar
The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina

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About  Esteban Vicente

Born:  1903 - Turegano, Spain
Died:   2001 - Bridgehampton, New York
Known for:  abstract expressionist painting, assemblage

Essays referring to
Esteban Vicente

Abstract Expressionism