Realismo en Isabel Quintanilla

by Alain Chivilò


One of the most important exhibitions scheduled in Spain dedicated to the painter Isabel Quintanilla (1938-2017) at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza from 27/2 to 2/6/2024 entitled “El Realismo Íntimo de Isabel Quintanilla” focuses on an interesting artist who in the twentieth century was figurative rather than embracing avant-garde trends.

Ninety works, coming from private collections and museums in Spain and abroad, illustrate the entire artistic journey. Six sections – Quick declaration of intentions, Painting of proximity, Emotion in absence, Companions, Questions asked, Hortus conclusus, Domestic naturalness – with the sculpture Figura de Isabel (1978) by Francisco López and an audiovisual with unpublished material from the 1990s taken from the artist’s studio.

Within a group of artists dedicated to the figure operating in Madrid since the mid-1970s, such as Esperanza Parada (1928-2011), Francisco López (1932-2017), Antonio López (1936), Amalia Avia (1930-2011 ), María Moreno (1933-2020) and Julio López (1930-2018), pursued an interest in figuration, specifically Realism.

A painting of Reality, not involved in social themes, which far from the Avant-gardes represents living environments divided in silent natures, interiors of a house, gardens, flowers, trees, everyday objects within an ever-present light. Precisely in the brightness and care to detail, without going into the Hyperialist approach that arose from the Seventies. The brushstroke, attentive to details and formal construction, is precise but above all capable of transmitting emotional effects in colors expertly prepared and spread on the various supports.

Curated by Leticia de Cos Martín, the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza offers a large retrospective of Isabel Quintanilla, a twentieth-century Spanish painter appreciated in her own country and especially in Germany.


Isabel Quintanilla (Madrid 22/7/1938 – Brunete 24/10/2017). During the Civil War, her father fought in the republican army and died in 1941 in a concentration camp in Burgos, so that her mother wanted to sacrifice her two hijas with her work as she did milliner. For once years she attended classes in high schools of arts and with that she entered the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. There she meets Antonio López, Julio and Francisco López and María Moreno, who take care of her equally. In 1959 she obtained the role of teacher of Dibujo y Pintura and she began giving classes as an assistant in an institute. She also exhibited for the first time in a collective exhibition organized by the Fundación Rodríguez-Acosta de Granada. In 1960 she lived with Francisco López and they moved to Rome for four years, when the sculptor obtained the Grand Prix of Art from the Academy of Fine Arts to train in Italy. They met artists, musicians and creators and traveled around Europe. Quintanilla also continues training and presents her first individual exhibition in Caltanisseta (Sicily). After her return to Spain, she returned to her home but was unable to paint and in 1966 she starred in an exhibition at the Edurne gallery in Madrid with works made by her in Rome. In 1970 Isabel Quintanilla met Ernest Wuthenow, collector and founding partner of the Juana Mordó Gallery in Madrid, who also took over the promotion of her work abroad. Joined by the art dealers Hans Brockstedt and Herbert Meyer-Ellinger, subsequently expounding her work in Germany during the 1970s and 1980s.


©AC, NDSL, AM, Alain Chivilo

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