Claudio Bravo, 1936—2011

It is with great sadness that Marlborough Gallery announces the passing of the Chilean artist, Claudio Bravo. Bravo died at 74 on June 4th at his home in Taroudant, Morocco. He died from complications of epilepsy.

Bravo was recognized internationally as one of the world’s great artists for his mastery of a realist style. Although often referred to as “hyperrealist” Bravo’s style was, in truth, a modern, classical extension of the late Renaissance masters whom he studied and revered. He had a particular love for the 17th century Spanish painter, Zurbaran. Bravo once said, “If I had to choose an age into which I’d fit, it would have to be the 17th century. During that time artists copied nature in a conceptual way. They transformed the reality of their time as I try to transform the reality of ours.” While Bravo’s technical mastery allowed him to capture a wide range of subject matter including portraiture, landscape, animals, and flowers, he was perhaps best known for his work in still life which extended to working with subjects of the utmost simplicity such as his paintings of packages, drapery, and papers. Bravo once said that if one removed all the drapery from the paintings in the Louvre there would be very little left. He had the uncanny ability of transforming these simple subjects into a powerful visual presence that conveyed a mystic aura. In his review of Bravo’s show of draped cloth at Marlborough in 2000, Ken Johnson of The New York Times wrote, “One feels a tantalizing mix of the spiritual and the sensual…The pictures have a vivid Modernist formal presence. The edge-to-edge fabric and the allover flickering of light and shadow create an almost abstract frontality, while color becomes an end it itself…. Indeed, you could think of this work not as realism but as a kind of soulfully enriched Color Field painting.” Aside from his paintings Bravo was a master draughtsman and continued to draw throughout his career. In the medium of pastel he was without peer, and, in fact, in realist art one would have to go back to the 18th century to find his equal. One could say that in all Bravo’s work regardless of medium or subject the underlying focus of the work was on light and through it the expression of elegance and simplicity. Bravo said, “I am a realist but my pictures transcend reality.”

Bravo was born in Valparaiso, Chile in 1936. He was the second of seven children. He attended a Jesuit school in Santiago and briefly studied art. Bravo was largely self- taught. He had his first solo show in Santiago at the age of eighteen and became a sought-after portrait painter.  He left for Europe in 1961 and settled in Madrid where his portraiture met with great success. In 1972 he decided to move to Tangier where he freed himself from earning his living as a portrait artist and was able develop his art. He remained in Morocco for the rest of his life.  He had his first show in New York in 1970 at the Staempfli Gallery. In 1981 he joined Marlborough Gallery where he had seventeen solo exhibitions. His last show with Marlborough was at its Chelsea space in 2010.

Highlights of Bravo’s career include the following: he represented Chile in the 2007 Venice Biennale. Exhibitions at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Monterey, Mexico (2007), Chateau Chenonceau (2005), Musee du Monde Arabe, Paris (2004). Two retropectives: at the Elvehjem Museum of Art, Madison Wisconsin (1987-88) which travelled to the Meadows Museum, Dallas, TX and Duke University Museum of Art, Durham, NC; and at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile (1994).