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 Federico Cristencia Castellon  (1914 - 1971)

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Lived/Active: New York / Spain      Known for: surreal views, illustrator, figure

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Ad Code: 3
Federico Cristencia Castellon
An example of work by Federico Cristencia Castellon
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Almeria, Spain, Federico Castellon was a painter in surrealist style, sculptor, illustrator, teacher and printmaker.  His full name was Federico Cristencia de Castellon y Martinez.  He came to the United States in 1921, and received his citizenship in 1943.  He was elected to membership in the National Academy of Design in New York and was a member of the Society of American Graphic Artists.

His surrealist style was influenced by Salvador Dali.

Castellon participated in the 1935 Paris Exhibition of Spanish Artists that included Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, and Joan Miro.  He taught successively in New York City at Teachers' College of Columbia University, Pratt Institute, and Queens College.  He won numerous awards including two Guggenheim Fellowships and First Prize from the Library of Congress.  A retrospective of his prints was held at the Allied Artists of America in 1978.

Illustration works included the Bullfinch's Mythology, The Story of Marco Polo, The Little Prince, and the 'Life' series The Epic of Man.
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Note from Ray Castellon:
This was my uncle, my father's youngest brother.  Uncle Federico led an interesting life.  During WW II he was assigned to the OSS, and was in the Burma theater.  The one who gave him his start was the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera.

Biography from Michael Rosenfeld Gallery (Artworks Wanted):
Federico Castellon was only seven years old when his family immigrated from Almería, Spain to Brooklyn, New York. He began sketching at an early age; imaginative drawings being one of the few outlets of expression available to Castellon, who’s English at the time was limited. Although his teachers recognized his talents as a draftsman, he remained largely self-taught. As a teenager he visited New York area museums to view the work of the Old Masters. After gaining a mastery of realism, Castellon became engaged in the study of modern artists, including Pablo Picasso, Georges Rouault, Diego Rivera, and Giorgio DeChirico.

Shortly after graduating from Erasmus High School, he completed a mural for the school based on the subject of arts and sciences. The mural, obviously informed by his interest in modern European movements, attracted critical attention and was exhibited in New York at Raymond and Raymond Galleries before being permanently installed in the school. Around this time, Castellon was introduced to Diego Rivera at a lecture given by the artist on his murals for Rockefeller Center. The older artist took an interest in the young man’s work and brought Castellon’s drawings to the attention of the Director of the Weyhe Gallery in New York, who subsequently gave the eighteen-year old Castellon his first solo exhibition.

In 1934, with Rivera’s help, Castellon was awarded a four-year fellowship sponsored by the Spanish Government to study art and travel throughout Europe. During this time, he studied painting and printmaking and exhibited his work alongside other Spanish and American artists in Paris and Madrid. In 1937, Castellon returned to New York and began experimenting with the medium of lithography. His work continued to attract attention and he was included in exhibitions at important American institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1940 he received the first of two Guggenheim fellowships.

Although his formal education ended with high school, Castellon remained an avid reader and maintained an interest in psychology and philosophy. He became a United States citizen in 1943 and throughout the 1940s and 1950s, his work was informed by his travels abroad: to China with the U.S. Army; Italy on his second Guggenheim fellowship; and Paris and Madrid, where he moved his family for a brief period during the late fifties. During this time, he also began his teaching career and took on commissions from American periodicals, most notably, LIFE magazine.

Even though he worked in virtually every media, Castellon remains best known for his early graphic work, particularly his etchings, a medium in which he became a master. His prints and drawings from the early thirties represent the first examples of Surrealism created by an American; an astounding feat considering Castellon produced these highly original works before his travels abroad and before the Museum of Modern Art’s seminal exhibition, Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism was exhibited in New York.

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