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Manolo Ruiz Pipó was born in 1929 in Granada, Andalusia in the south of Spain. From the time he was a small child he had a strong interest in drawing. His family was well-to-do and he was sent to exclusive schools in Granada however, he was frequently expelled from the classroom because he neglected his schoolwork preferring to spend his time drawing caricatures of his teachers and classmates.
One night in 1936 during the turbulent prelude to the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) Ruiz Pipó’s father was taken from his home by force due to his political beliefs. No one would see him again. In 1940 Pipó’s mother moved her family to Barcelona where they found safety under the protection of her father. In 1942 with the support and encouragement of his grandfather Ruiz Pipó began his formal training in drawing at the Arts and Crafts school La Llotja in Barcelona, the same school where Picasso had been a student.
Two years later Ruiz Pipó received a scholarship to study at San Jordi, the Fine Arts Centre of Barcelona, where his studies included anatomy and dissection; painting in oil tempera, encaustic and fresco; wood and stone carving. At the end of his studies he found work in metallurgy where he would be able to use his skills in sculpture. Ruiz Pipó was employed in an electric lamp factory in Barcelona, where he quickly acquired skills in cutting, welding and working with metal. After four years he gained employment in a restoration and decoration workshop. This work included painting, copying and restoring old masters; sculpting and repairing gold frames; preparing canvases and so on. During this time he continued to draw and sketch prolifically.
Art was held in high regard in Barcelona, therefore it is not surprising that Ruiz Pipó´s works were appreciated there. He was only seventeen years old when he began exhibiting. In 1953, in his early twenties, the Macarron Gallery in Madrid organized a solo exhibition with great success, and the following year he exhibited in Barcelona in Galería Argos alongside Picasso, Juan Gris, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí and Emilio Grau Sala. At this time Ruiz Pipó felt he needed to leave Barcelona to extend his knowledge and experience of the art world. Following the steps of other artists who moved to Paris in the 1950s, he left Barcelona with a letter of recommendation to visit Picasso. Ruiz Pipó was already familiar with Picasso’s early work as he had seen the Blue and Rose period drawings in Barcelona at the home of art collector Sebastian Junyer.
In 1954 Ruiz Pipó arrived in Paris and enrolled in the Georg Printmaking Workshop where he learned the techniques of drypoint, mezzotint, aquatint and lithography, and became a master printmaker. Ruiz Pipó discovered Paris and its museums where he studied the works by Georges de la Tour, specifically his night scenes illuminated by candles. Ruiz Pipó was influenced by the contrast of dark and light, known as chiaroscuro, an element he would later use to express sorrow and solitude in his figures.
Like Diego Velazquez, Joaquin Sorolla, Francisco Goya and Picasso, Ruiz Pipó follows the Spanish tradition of figurative art with still life, nudes, beach scenes, characters drawn from drama as well as tauromaquia (bullfighting). It is not surprising that as a Spanish artist Ruiz Pipó included the bull in his iconography.
Women were a favorite subject for Ruiz Pipó, appreciated for their sensuality and for their fertility. He considered women to be pleasure givers and lovers, however he also expressed tenderness between women. In Ruiz Pipó’s paintings women manifest a symbolic connection with both water and the earth, as depicted in The Rocks and Eva Marina which were both painted in Newcastle. Voluptuous forms blend with the landscape without losing any of their sensuality.
He was a reluctant traveler who nevertheless embraced opportunity and his talents, in particular his skilled portraits, took him to London in 1958 where he was invited to paint the portraits of a high society Englishman and his daughters. This commission led to more work and he began to divide his time between Paris and London until 1962. In 1966 he was invited to exhibit in Florence at the Arno gallery. He fell in love with Italy and in 1969 moved to Bologna with his family, where his son Orlando was born. Orlando is depicted in Orlando y la Copa de Cristal (Orlando and the Crystal Glass) painted in 1973.
The theme of mother and child was a leitmotiv for Ruiz Pipó and Pierrot Lunaire is a recurrent subject in Ruiz Pipó’s paintings. Pierrot, the sad clown dressed in white, originates in the 15th century when groups of traveling performers known as Commedia dell'arte traveled and performed throughout Italy.
Manuel (Manolo) Ruiz Pipo died in September of 1998 at his home in Agen, France.
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