Painters, Artists

Uruguay’s Joaquin Torres Garcia – Artist “South Pole At Top Of Earth”

Joaquin Torres Garcia (28 July 1874 – 8 August 1949), was a Uruguayan plastic artist and art theorist, also known as the founder of Constructive Universalism. He proposed a return to figuration, rescuing the use of constructivism and using the cultural symbology of the native Indians.


Uruguay (1998) 5 Pesos (front) – Portrait of Joaquin Torres Garcia

In 1943 he founded the Taller Torres Garcia or Taller del Sur (“Workshop of the South”), composed of young artists. The following year, Torres Garcia and his students undertook a commission to paint constructivist murals in the Martirene pavilion of the Hospital de Saint Bois on the outskirts of the capital. They executed a total of 35 murals, of which Torres García painted the six largest while supervising the remainder. In 1944, he was given the Premio Nacional de Pintura (“National Prized for Painting”) in a great tribute ceremony with the participation of Pablo Picasso, Gregorio Maranon, Pablo Neruda, Jacques Lipchitz, Georges Braque and Amedee Ozenfant, and published Universalismo Constructivo (constructive universalism), a work about his own theory of the same name.


The Upside-down Map – South Pole At Top Of Earth

This is a famous illustration of South America by Joaquin Torres Garcia, often called the Upside-down Map (1943). This illustration became a centerpiece in the history of Latin American efforts at reclaiming themselves in a world vision. He placed the South Pole at the top of the earth, thereby suggesting a visual affirmation of the importance of the continent, and in an effort to present a pure revision of the world.

Torres Garcia was born in Montevideo. His parents were Joaquim Torras Fradera (son of Joan Torras and Rosa Fradera, Mataronian rope makers) and Maria Garcia Perez (daughter of Jose Maria Garcia, Canarian master carpenter, and Misia Rufina Perez, descendant of Urugayan aristocrats of Creole origin).

In 1890, after a childhood made difficult by the ups and downs of his family’s economic and domestic circumstances, the mostly self-taught Torres Garcia fixed himself on the objective of emigrating so as to become a painter, an objective he decided could not be fully achieved in the capital of Uruguay. Consequently, he decided to travel with his family to Europe in June 1891 at the age of 17. His father’s family brought them directly to Mataro, Spain. There, Torres Garcia began attending a local academy during the day where he learned the basics of the craft, and by night took drawing classes at a night school of Arts and Crafts. In 1892, the family decided to take up residence in Barcelona, so Torres Garcia was able to enroll in the Escuela de Bellas Artes (School of Fine Arts) of Barcelona.

Studying there at the same time were many other painters who were later to gain recognition: Joaquim Mir, Joaquim Sunyer, Ricard Canals and Nonell, all of whom were influenced by French Impressionism preponderant at that moment, and by the writings of Emile Zola. With them, he headed out to paint in the suburbs of the city, imitating the avant garde painters of the time: Monet, Alfred Sisley and Renoir. Because all his classes were in the evening, he decided to make full use of the daylight hours by entering the Academia Baixas, the most reputed of that time because it was considered more academic than the official school of Fine Arts.

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