Monday, July 18, 2011

In Memoriam: Claudio Bravo (1936-2011)

Chilean-born, hyper-realist painter, Claudio Nelson Bravo Camus, died this past June 4th at his home in Taroudant, Morocco.  He was 74.  Though initial claims indicated that the artist had passed away due to complications from an epileptic seizure, Mr. Bravo's assistant later reported that his employer had been seeing a cardiac specialist in Paris, and that Bravo's death was the result of two massive heart attacks.¹

Although the young Bravo had taken some private art classes with academic painter Miguel Venegas Cifuentes, he was mainly a self-taught artist.  By the age of seventeen, Bravo had his first exhibition at the prestigious Salón 13 in his hometown of Valparaíso, and after a sojourn dancing with Compañia de Ballet de Chile and acting at the Teatro Ensayo of the Catholic University of Chile, he moved to Concepción where he became a well sought-after portrait painter.

In 1961, he moved to Madrid and continued to work as a portraitist to high society.  During the following decade, he painted many famous and powerful people, including the daughter of General Francisco Franco while in Spain, and Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos during a trip to the Philippines.

"I don't want to betray myself. I have a very special talent to copy the reality, and I have tried many times to do another kinds of painting, but my friends - great painters - told me "don't be mad, you have a gift from Heaven which nobody else has."  I copy a different reality, I re-invent it, just follow my gifts. Why would I betray myself by doing another kind of painting and following the others? I like being myself, not being like anyone else, so the only way is following the gifts that God gave me.  I paint reality, and as it's full of mistakes that I don't like, I correct it."²

During this period, Bravo also began painting his images of highly-detailed, wrapped packages, tied up with twine.  It was these paintings which earned Bravo a favorable comparison to the Color-Field painters such as Mark Rothko, and a favorable review from the renowned New York Times art critic, John Canaday, who saw Bravo's paintings at an exhibition in New York City in 1970.  Though these paintings were hyper-real in execution, Bravo did not follow the example set forth by the Photorealists who worked from photographic reference;  Bravo worked solely from life.  "Always," said Bravo in a 2001 magazine interview, "I have relied on the actual subject matter, because the eye sees so much more than the camera:  half tones, shadows, minute changes in the color or light."³

On a visit to Tangier in 1972, Bravo fell in love with Morocco.  He said he was "fascinated by the composition of things in the country," and was "mesmerized by the use of color in every day life."⁴  He adopted Morocco as his new home, and inspired by his new surroundings, began expanding his subject matter, devoting more time to allegories, landscapes, and the usage of a brighter color palette.

Although Bravo worked during a period when the opinion of Realist Art was at its nadir, the popularity of his particular paintings made him extremely prosperous. "The success of my pictures exceeds all my dreams," said Bravo.  "I never thought that I was going to be so famous, so expensive. I never thought that I was going to have presidents, kings and ministers knocking at my door."⁵  This financial success freed the artist to choose his own subject matter, and only take the commissions which interested him.  It also enabled the artist to live like the royalty he painted, maintaining an apartment in New York City and three palaces in Morocco. 

Works by Claudio Bravo are included in the collections of El Museo del Barrio, New York, the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile; Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City, Mexico; Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany; The Palmer Museum of Art, State College, Pennsylvania; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.⁶

"My contribution to art is doing the best works that I can do. I think that nowadays artists don't work but improvise, they buy an object, turn it over and that turns out to be an sculpture! I think that the only example that I can set to the young artists is first-class working, I'm a hard-working man."⁷


¹, "A Master of Light and Shadows, Chilean Painter Claudio Bravo, Has Died at Age 74," retrieved July 18, 2011 from {}.
²Ana María De Aguirre, "Arte Al Limite:  Claudio Bravo - Confessions of a Bourgeois Painter," retrieved July 18, 2011 from {}.
³William Grimes, "Claudio Bravo, Chilean Artist, Dies at 74," retrieved July 18, 2011 from {}., "Hyperrealist, Painter Claudio Bravo Died in Morocco," retrieved July 18, 2011 from {}.
⁵De Aguirre, op. cit.., op. cit..
⁷De Aguirre, op. cit..


rahina q.h. said...

very interesting article, thank you for putting this together with Bravo's brilliant paintings!

Linda said...

I was always inspired by Claudio Bravo's work one of my favorite artists of this century. There is so much to be discovered by his work. I am truly saddened at his passing, he was too young and we could have learned so much more about his artistry.
I have a couple of his table top books and very much enjoy browsing through. Most recently I saw by chance one of his paintings at Boston Museum of Art in their restaurant.
Linda Dulaney-Founder
Bay Area Classical Artist Atelier

Sandy Donn said...


RUDHI - Chance said...

Very interesting painter indeed...

sundersartwork said...

Great post and blog, i happened to find Bravos work in an art magazine and subsequently found your blog. He seemed to have an issue with modern art though.

Arthur Wood said...

Great Blog...I am currently studying figure drawing at a school in Elk Grove, CA (Consumnes River College)...and a woman had a Claudio Bravo book...and I was astoundedly amazed at the clarity and color of Bravo's art...Thanks for your blog.

lasalle said...

He was my first teacher! even doe we never met..Claudio Bravo had a thing within his work that capture the essence of life..he work will always be around..