José Lucas, painter and protagonist of Spanish culture since the 70s, dies

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Jose Lucas, painter of minotaurs and poets, of bullfighting and lust, witness and protagonist of Spanish art of the last six decades, died this Monday in Madrid at the age of 78, after an accident on the job site: Lucas worked in care of his murals at the Chamartín Station in Madrid when last Thursday he had a fall that precipitated his death. The outcome seems to align with some lines that Raúl del Pozo wrote in 2002: “Lucas, who looked like a bullfighter and had a Jewish last name, now works as a blacksmith obsessed with the material, to invoke that the human body expresses everything“, wrote the journalist in EL MUNDO at the time when the Murcian painter (Cieza, 1945) exhibited his work for the first time. Altarpiece of lust.

Del Pozo has written a lot about José Lucas, about his position at the center of Spanish culture in the last third of the 20th century. “Grumete del Café Gijón” is the way in which the journalist has often referred to the painter, who was one of the youngest participants in the literary gatherings at the Paseo del Prado café. The critic Marcos Ricardo Barnatán also remembered that at that time, in that same landscape, in Gijón, at the Óliver or at the Café de Oriente, Lucas received the beautiful nickname of El Peruginoas if he were a painter from the Cinquecento.

That is one way to explain the importance of Lucas, through his personality and his place on the map of his time. It was Lucas who illustrated the literature and the life journey of his generation: the shared discovery of Greek mythology, orientalisms, the libertine life of the counterculture, of Luis Buñuel and Valle-Inclán, in addition to the exhausting but admired dialogue with Picasso, with bulls and with European avant-garde art… “I arrived in Madrid in the 60s. I was very young and it seemed immense to me. My father, who came quite frequently, spoke to me about this city as if it were unattainable and I had mythologized it. I had that provincial idea that all the well-known artists took refuge in the Café Gijón and, since I wanted to be famous, I went there. I was a bit ramshackle, cynical, I talked about what I didn’t know… I amused them. I didn’t want to be the best painter in Cieza, but a good painter in Madrid,” Lucas said in an interview in this newspaper in 2006. “And, when I had to choose, I was more interested in the world of good writers. “I get very bored with painters.”

Lucas’s character was like this: restless, curious, tireless, volcanic and impetuous, like his plastic work. In 1969 he moved to Madrid and enrolled as a student at the Círculo de Bellas Artes and the San Fernando School of Fine Arts.

Later, he went to live in Germany, where he made a living by drawing customers at a campsite in Cologne. At the age of 28 he returned to Madrid and settled on Ferraz Street, in a shared student apartment. There he taught drawing classes, painted and read poetry, for what else. Through the critic Enrique Azcoaga, he connected with the authors he admired: Umbral, Siles, Claudio Rodríguez, Bousoño, Brines, Caballero Bonald, his contemporaries Miguel Ángel Velasco and Blanca Andreu, the editor Ramón Akal, the newcomer Ángel Antonio Herrera… Such was his passion for poetry that Lucas painted a wide series of portraits (today unpublished) in large format of some of the main Spanish poets from the Generation of ’27 (Aleixandre, Jorge Guillén, Rafael Alberti), to the young people of that time. The last person portrayed was Felipe Benítez Reyes. Over the years, his son, the poet Antonio Lucas, received and expressed the painter’s knowledge and enthusiasm for literature.

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