Rafael Alberti was a Spanish painter and poet, particularly influential in the last century also by virtue of his political and civil commitment.
Rafael Alberti was born on December 16, 1902 in Puerto de Santa Maria (an Andalusian town in the province of Cadiz) to a wealthy family of winemakers of Italian origin.
At the age of 10, he entered the Jesuit college of San Luis Gonzales. However, he soon developed a feeling of rebellion against the rigid Jesuit educational system, and his insubordination led to his final expulsion in 1917.
In the same year, he moved with his family to Madrid, where he began his artistic career.
In fact, Rafael, who had always shown a natural predisposition for painting, neglects his studies, preferring to take refuge in Madrid museums (such as theCason del Buen Retiro and thePrado) to admire and try to replicate paintings and sculptures.
It is precisely as a painter that he makes his first entry into the artistic scene of the capital, being invited in 1920 to exhibit his first creations in theSalón de Otoño in Madrid.
In this early phase of his youth, Rafael Alberti's works are mainly devoted to abstraction, with evident Kandiskian reminiscences.
Also in 1920, the death of his father and other figures particularly dear to him (such as the matador Joselito and the writer Benito Pérez Galdós) led him to devote himself above all to poetry. However, he does not abandon painting, but rather tries to combine these two passions.
In fact, in addition to proposing poetic anthologies accompanied by his illustrations, he will later literally merge the two arts into his " liricografías ".
In this innovative type of artistic creation, Alberti combines and crosses written verses with forms and figures of various kinds. Everything is aimed at allowing the user to immerse himself completely in the work and to become an active and integral part of it, as prophesied by Kandinskij.
In his early lyricographies (such as, for example,El ángel bueno of 1947) are the words to be in the foreground, while the graphic sign acts as a background, as a comment or as an integration. In others (such asDiez liricografías of 1955), on the other hand, the lines are arranged at the edges of the sheet while the drawing has a more central role.
These two twin passions influence each other: his poems have a strongly pictorial vocation, being full of color and bright, while his paintings are lyrical and rhythmic like a poem.
In 1921 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, as a result of which he was forced to spend a few months of convalescence in a sanatorium in the Serra de Guadarrama, where he was able to deepen and study the compositions of Antonio Machado and Juan Ramon Jimenez.
In 1924 his collectionMarinero en Tierra he was awarded the Prize Nacional de Literatura for poetry.
In the following years, he began to frequent the poets and artists of the Residencia de Estudiantes, including Dàmaso Alonso, Vicente Aleixandre and Federico Garcia Lorca, who will be the protagonists of what will later be called the Generation of '27 . Always in this environment he will also know Pablo Picasso personally.
The establishment of the Second Spanish Republic pushes Alberti towards the Marxist ideology.
Thus, in 1931, entering the Partido Comunista de España (PCE), he started his path of political and social activism that would characterize the rest of his life.
In 1933, his invectives against the Spanish right published in the Octubre magazine, which he had founded with his partner Maria Teresa León, cost him a long period of exile. He then spent the first phase of the Spanish Civil War in Ibizia, where he remained until August 1936.
Back in Madrid, he leads the occupation of the Palacio de Zabálburu, which is later converted into the headquarters of the Alianza de Intelectuales Anti-fascistas.
During the civil war, Rafael Alberti thus became one of the main voices of the anti-Francoist Spanish left.
In 1939, following the definitive defeat of the Republicans and the establishment of the military dictatorship of Francisco Franco, Alberti left the country together with Maria Teresa León.
Until the end of 1940 he lives in Paris where he shares an apartment with Pablo Neruda and works for a local radio.
Due to the Nazi occupation of France, he is forced to emigrate to Buenos Aires where he will live until 1963, resuming his career as a painter and poet with renewed enthusiasm.
In Argentina, Alberti composes the anthologyA la Pintura (1948) where he celebrates his boundless love for painting in verse and drawings.
Subsequently, he moved to Rome. Here, he attended numerous Italian intellectuals and artists, such as, for example, the poet Elena Clementelli and the critics Walter Mauro, Ignazio Delogu and Luigi Silori.
From a strictly artistic point of view, the Italian one is one of the most prosperous periods in Rafael Alberti's career. In fact, the Spaniard established contacts with many artists, sculptors, graphic designers and graphic plastics of the time (including Emilio Vedova, Corrado Cagli and Umberto Mastroianni) and regularly attended Renzo Romero's graphic laboratory. This leads him to experiment with numerous techniques (tempera, watercolor, dry point, collage and engraving on lead and zinc).
Rafael Alberti's works are exhibited in many Italian galleries and in 1965 the Spanish artist won the first prize at the Fifth Review of Figurative Arts in Rome and Lazio with the work X Sonetos Romanos (1964), a graphic-poetic union in which Alberti's engravings on zinc and lead complement ten sonnets by the Roman poet Gioacchino Belli.
In 1966 Alberti made the famous creation Los ojos de Picasso, a series of lead engravings and original drawings celebrating Picasso's 85th birthday..
In 1972 he was invited to the Venice Biennale of Art. In the same year, he exhibited the folder at the Rondanini Gallery in RomeEl lyricism of the alphabet, a verbographic masterpiece composed of 26 color and 26 black and white serigraphs dedicated to the letters of the Latin alphabet.
In April 1977, following the death of Franco, he returned permanently to Spain where he will hold some political roles and will receive theMiguel de Cervantes Award.
In December 1988, his historic life partner María Teresa León, who had been suffering from Alzheimer's for some time, passed away. Two years later the artist married María Asunción Mateo, more than 40 years younger than him.
Rafael Alberti died on October 28, 1999 (a few weeks after turning 97) in Puerto de Santa María (the same place where he was born), due to a lung disease.
His ashes were scattered in the Bay of Cadiz, a symbol of his youth and the final phase of his life.