EUGENIO GRANELL

(1912, Galicia – 2001, Madrid) USA citizen

Eugenio Granell was born in A Coruña, Spain, in 1912. He spent his childhood in Santiago de Compostela, where he began his music studies as a child. When he was sixteen he moved to Madrid to further pursue the study the violin at Madrid’s Conservatory of Music.

In Madrid he participated in political and literary gatherings at well known cafés. He also began writing about music in various magazine and contributed political essays in others. This interest in politics led to his joining the Left Opposition Party and, in 1935, the P.O.U.M. (Worker’s Party of Marxist Unification) party. (George Orwell fought in the Spanish Civil war with the members of this political group). He also met Pierre Naville, his first contact with surrealism, at a P.O.U.M. political meeting. At this time he became familiar with Minotauro, the well-known surrealist magazine. In Madrid he got to know Wifredo Lam who was studying art and Benjamín Péret who joined Granell’s party in the civil war.

With the outbreak of the civil war, Granell joined the Republican militias and edited the newspaper El Combatiente Rojo. During the three years of the war he contributed significant articles in the P.O.U.M.’s newspaper La Batalla.

Being on the losing side of the war, he was forced to go into exile in 1939. In 1940 he set sail for Chile from Bordeaux. In mid trip they learned that Chile was no longer accepting Spanish refugees, so Granell and his future wife, Amparo, went to the Dominican Republic with thousands of other Spanish and Jewish refugees.

Granell, along with many other of the refugees, became an important part of the cultural scene in this new country. He played first violin at the Symphonic created by another refugee, composer Casal Chapí, and began working for La Nación, a newspaper where he wrote about cultural events, art shows and commented on recently published books. With Dominican poets and intellectuals he created the well known La Poesía Sorprendida, one of the foremost literary magazines of the time.

He began painting in this tropical island. In 1941 a decisive event led to his absolute committment to surrealism. André Breton arrived at the island, also as an exile from the European war. Granell interviewed Breton for the newspaper and showed him his paintings. Breton encouraged and included him among those painters who were reinventing surrealism in the tropics. Granell held his first individual show in 1945 at the National Gallery of Fine Arts in Sant Domingo.

In 1947 Granell and his family moved to Guatemala where he began teaching at the School of Plastic Arts while at the same time being involved in many aristic activities. He spoke about art in the National Radio and collaborated in several magazines with articles and drawings. In 1947 André Breton and Marcel Duchamp invited him to participate in a collective exhibit at the Maeght Gallery in Paris, thus becoming an active participant in Paris’ surrealist movement.

After the outbreak of the Guatemalan revolution in 1949, and escaping once again from Stalinist persecution (which he had suffered in Spain during the war), Granell and his family moved to Puerto Rico in 1950 where he taught art at the University. Granell published his firt book, Isla cofre mítico, a poetical essay with his own illustrations. He participated in several shows, and, along with his students, organizad El Mirador Azul, a Studio where the group painted together and organized gatherings to talk and discuss art.

At this time he traveled to New York where he became friends with Marcel Duchamp. A friendship that like Breton’s and Péret’s was to last a lifetime. In 1954 Granell had a solo exhibit at the L’Etoile Scellée Gallery in Paris. Benjamín Péret wrote the text for the catalogue.

Granell and his family moved once again in 1965. This time to New York City where eventually they were to become American citizens. This way acquiring the first legal documents since going on exile in 1939. In 1957, New York’s William and Norma Copley Foundation awarded him a painting prize. Some of the members of the Foundation, besides Marcel Duchamp, were Jean Arp, Alfred Barr, Max Ernst, Julián Levy and Roberto Matta. Besides painting and teaching Spanish Literature at Brooklyn College, he continued writing and published La novela del Indio Tupinamba, a surrealist interpretation of the Spanish Civil war. In 1967 his doctoral thesis, Picasso’s Guernica. The End of a Spanish Era, was published by UMI Press. He continued to publish other books and was also busy with shows at the Bodley Gallery in New York City. In 1962 he joined Paris’ Phases surrealist group, led by Édouard Jaguer, who had inherited this post as organizer of surrealist events after Breton’s death.

When Granell retired in 1985, he and his wife returned to Spain. They settled in Madrid and, very quickly, he was recognized and received various prizes. Several major exhibits of his works were organized and eventually, in 1995, the Eugenio Granell Foundation was created in Santiago de Compostela, the city where he had spent his childhood and part of his youth. The Foundation, housed in a historic building in the historical part of the city, is dedicated to surrealism and contains Granell’s own paintings as well as his collection of surrealist art and a collection of ethnic works where the predominant objects are masks from different parts of the World and an interesting group of kachina dolls from the Hopi Indians. The museum now also holds Granell’s important library, archives, correspondence and photographs.

It is the only museum solely dedicated to surrealism.

The foundation publishes catalogues in Spanish, English and Galician,as well as books written by Granell, books of correspondence, etc.

www.fundacion-granell.org