Conversation with Francisco Hernández




Enrique Castaños: Tell me about your beginnings, about your childhood in Melilla, the city where you were born in 1932, and in Velez-Malaga.

Francisco Hernández: The first thing I can remember is the impression that the dominant verticals of the belfries of Velez-Malaga churches made me: San Juan and Santa Maria la Mayor; this last is the one that has had me impressed since I was a child, because of the Mudejar-Gothic that was in the high part of the city, adjacent with the completely Arab castle. I made many drawings when I was ten or eleven years old, with the proper materials of the initiation, like pencil and charcoal, although also in ink and pen. At school, instead of doing my exercises, I enjoyed drawing very much, and the schoolmates asked me to do the drawing exercises that the teacher had given, which I used to do in exchange for sweets. I was once discovered by the teacher and he reprehended me lifting me by the sideburns, a punishment that I will never forget. There was another teacher, an elderly man, who modeled in mud, and that was for me an impact that made me a deep impression. He modeled Bethlehem figures, and, although it is true that he beat with his cane, he never beat me, who knows if it was because I was absorbed seeing him modeling. Some time earlier, in Melilla, when I was three or four years old, I had an infant teacher who was deaf and used to draw the heads of children in profile, although he never chose me to pose, but when it was playtime, I, instead of going away to play with other children, became entranced contemplating the drawings. The pleasure and the feeling that the contemplation of those works made me feel, a species of enchantment, was undoubtedly for me higher than the playtime. At that time I admired the baseboards painted with chalk and the street graphics. I was born in O'Donnell street, then the most important of Melilla along with Avenida Principal, but after the civil war had broken out, my father, who enlisted in Franco's Army, left for the battlefront, whereas we moved to Real neighbourhood, which was constructed in 1921; at that time, that is to say, when I was about four years old, I could already say the names of Velázquez, Murillo and Goya; on the other hand,  I did not know who El Greco was.

E. C.: Can we speak about your inclination to drawing as an isolated case in your family?

F. H.: My maternal grandfather, who was in the war of the Philippines in 1898, living with the female and male natives who imprisoned him, managed to escape by swimming with a partner, having luck that a ship picked him up and took him back to Spain. And in Alhama de Almeria, which is wherefrom my mother family comes, my grandfather, as his daughter remembered, started painting in an ingenuous or naïf style. He shut himself away in his house spending the whole day painting this kind of pictures. My maternal grandmother, on the other hand, was a great lover of theatre. They were relatives of Nicolás Salmerón, who was one of the Presidents of the 1st Republic. From my father’s family, on the other hand, a Byzantine sprout comes, since they were from Murcia. My paternal grandfather used to write very much and he was one of the pioneers who created the modern city of Melilla, to which, after the war, about 1947, being mayor Rafael Álvarez Claros, the construction of the bullring was added. My paternal family moved from the area of Alcantarilla and Orihuela to Melilla, city in which my grandfather founded a business, a kind of tavern, where they say that Franco, with all the big chiefs of ‘21, used to go and play billiards[1].

E. C.: At what age did you come to Velez-Malaga?

F. H.: When I was five or six years old, towards 1937-38, in full civil war. I have already said that the first thing which surprised me there were the churches, with their vertical towers, as well as the popular architecture. I drew all that when I was approximately eleven years old. I have a drawing of that time, of the backs of the hill, which is somewhat mysterious, as those scenery backgrounds of the Florentine painting of the 15th century. Vicente, my brother, also feels the vocation of painter as I do, and although he worries about being organized, as we did not know the skill, we made mistakes, like mixing oil with water, something that is impossible, until a neighbour who was a hatter told us that what we had to do was to mix oil with turpentine. My brother started painting with oils before I did, however shortly after I painted a head of a Blessed Virgin and a small head of an angel. It was the time in which brothers Francisco and Juan Clavero, very keen on watercolour, formed group with us.

We looked at books with artistic illustrations. I, since I was fourteen years old, have known the complementary colours of Delacroix. At that time it made me a great impact to know two or three reproductions of works by Dalí; for the four of us surrealism was like a dream. I, as you know, have a picture, my Autorretrato (Self-portrait) from 1947, where there is a small crucified Christ, which I can remember made me a great disappointment that is why my mother advised me to give up painting because it was very complicated and I had no experience. That caused an enormous pain to me. Then, with great anger, I decided to draw exclusively. It was at that time when we had the opportunity to know the opinion of someone from Velez who lived away from the town, and who made drawings and designs for some advertising agencies. We contacted him owing to a small joint exhibition that we, the four friends, held about copies of famous pictures. The Clavero brothers made it from Sebastián del Piombo, another one was from Rubens, from a Saint George of El Prado Museum and from a picture by Mateo Cerezo, from the school of Madrid, which my brother Vicente painted. That person advised us not to copy any more, to draw directly from life, for example painting still lifes. We changed then the norm that had guided us until that time; we stopped copying and started drawing kitchen pots, those that there were before in kitchens, frying pans, copper pots, porcelain pieces, cups. Unfortunately I do not keep anything from that.

E. C.: That is to say, that you have been a self-taught person.

F. H.: Indeed, I have been a self-taught person.

E. C.: Why did your father move to Velez-Malaga?

F. H.: When the war had finished, my father, who was a warrant officer, was transferred to the military court of Malaga, and, later, he was transferred to Velez, city where we finally remained. For us it was a very hard blow my father’s transfer to Valle de Arán, where they were fighting at the beginning of the forties against the underground resistance. Finally, he was discharged from the army and ended up becoming head of the municipal police in Velez, and thus he continued, stabilized already his situation, until his retirement.

In relation to what was mentioned before, I must point out that, being in that task of drawing still lifes, when I was about fifteen or sixteen years old, I knew about the Youth Falangist Organization and, especially, about the contests promoted by theEducación y Descanso’ Union Organization, of the Provincial Local Office of Unions[2]. These contests allowed me to know Malaga and to take part in the provincial exhibitions. In Malaga I contacted rapidly the most known local painters at that time, like Virgilio Galán[3], Alfonso de Ramón[4], Alfonso de la Torre[5], José Guevara[6], Luis Molledo[7] and Eugenio Chicano[8]. My mother was very jealous of us, but my brother and I organized ourselves in such a way that we went to Malaga very early, in the train of the seven in the morning, and at two o'clock we were already in the city, staying there for the whole day, until nine o'clock in the evening when we returned to Velez. We made the best use of our stay in Malaga, which took place every month and a half or two months. We went to the Museum of Fine Arts, which at that time was in Compañía Street, in the building where now the Ateneo Cultural Society is and where there was at the end of the 19th century the School of Fine Arts where Picasso’s father taught. Our passion was to contemplate the pictures left in deposit by El Prado Museum, works by Zurbarán, Murillo, Ribera and of Alonso Cano[9]. We also frequently visited the Cathedral, where two great canvases were hung: La decapitación de San Pablo (The beheading of Saint Paul), by Enrique Simonet, a picture from the time he was pensioned in Rome[10], and El convite del fariseo (The invitation of the Pharisee), by Miguel Manrique, a painter influenced by the school of Rubens[11].

The church of Sagrado Corazón, in Compañía Street, always looked like a pastiche to me. We also used to go to Sociedad Económica, a place that was a meeting point of painters. They rewarded me very soon, and it was a great surprise the exhibition that I held with approximately eighty works in the halls of Sociedad Económica, my second exhibition, after that of  Club de Prensa. One of the most astonished was the painter Manuel Barbadillo[12], who at that time was on his way to Morocco, from Seville, to do his military service.

E. C.: Tell me about this exhibition.

F. H.: That exhibition[13], from 1955, meant a rupture with regard to the outdated genre painting that was being carried out in Malaga, for example by the academic painter Luis Bono[14]. It was a very distinctive exhibition. That was the way that Barbadillo and Revello de Toro[15] defined it. Even the fishermen of the port went so far as to comment on the event.

Before that exhibition of Sociedad Económica I had gone away to Madrid to do my military service[16]. There I was lucky because the colonel of the barracks where I was destined, Mr. Jesús Querejeta Pavón, treated me like a son, distinguishing and granting me entire freedom. This attitude has, of course, its explanation. One day, when I was doing guard duty next to his office, I address myself to him and tell him that if he takes from me everything I am wearing — uniform, rifle, cartridge holders—, I paint him the barracks from top to bottom, and, in addition, I propose to him that in a certain strategic place of the building, in the landing of the main stairs, there might be placed a Blessed Virgin painted by me, thing which immediately provoked his smile and exceedingly pleased the colonel, up to the point that that same day he called me to his office and told me to start working as soon as possible. I answered him that the first thing that I was going to do was to ask for the necessary materials to Macarrón firm in Madrid, specialized in that kind of products and well-known by my superior officer. I installed my study in a half-empty pavilion of the company, even with a bed. When, after approximately two weeks, the colonel in person saw how advanced the work was, to which it only remained the lower extremities to be painted, he verified that my proposal was serious and that I was also hard-working, and not someone lazy. From that moment I had the doors of the barracks open, I entered and left when I wanted, I did not wear the military uniform; I lived as a civilian and came often to my house in Velez. Since I was a voluntary soldier, as those that had to serve for three years, my absences were not evident as for the functioning of the barracks.

By that time a contest was summoned in Malaga in which there took part painters of all the Andalusian provinces. In the barracks they encouraged me to take part. In one single evening I painted a blotch, a kind of grisaille, with a few puddles and an umbrella, and sent it to the contest, after paying the shipment by agency of the picture. They wanted to give me the first award, but, when they found out that I was doing my military service, they awarded me the second prize. Immediately after that, I had a leave that allowed me to spend a period of time at home. It was then when a collector, Adolfo García Vicente, a very good friend of Revello de Toro, and whose wife was Fita Mata, from the Mata family, that of the wine business, bought me the picture. The amount of money that was a very important figure in that time, and which explains that, when the artistic world was informed about the purchase, they all interpreted it as an economic backing to my career.

Since I contacted that married couple of collectors, who had several works by the excellent painter from Granada Gabriel Morcillo[17], I received loads of orders. Shortly after I met Mr. Pascual Taillefer, who lent me, in a new building of his newly finished property, at the beginning of Alameda Principal, next to Caffarena pharmacy, an apartment in the third floor so that I could paint at ease. This already happened after my military service. The sculptor Adrián Risueño was doing at that time the functions of marchand and of public relations for me[18], and he put me in contact with many people. We met every morning in La Cosmopolita, the snack bar in Larios Street. I remember that Mr. Esteban Pérez-Bryan bought me a picture, titled Las sobras (The scraps), where a few beggars are seen eating in a pan. My work from those years, especially a drawing that I made of Leonardo da Vinci, attracted the attention of the critic Antonio Parra, who was in Venice for a long time, where he directed a gallery of art. The reason, then, that I ended up by settling in Malaga is because there is in it a social group of high economic level that demands my pictures. I portrayed, for example, Mary Luz Linares, daughter of Mr. Antonio Linares Maza, the eminent psychiatrist, as well as Marichi Carrillo and Mari Carmen García Morato.

I was living at that time in Malaga in a modest guesthouse, and one day my father comes by surprise and tells me that what I have to do as soon as possible is to leave for Madrid, since here everything is already done. That would be in 1955 or 1956. In Madrid, at that time, there were Carlos Pascual de Lara[19], José María de Labra[20] and Manuel López Villaseñor[21], they had an Italianizing style, influenced by Campigli[22], and they had been pensioned in Rome.

E. C.: But you have never belonged to any group or association.

F. H.: I have always been independent. When, for example, there was organized the trip to Cannes of several of Malaga painters to visit Picasso, in 1957, they invited me, but I declined the invitation, because if I wanted to see Picasso I would do it alone.

E. C.: How was the pictorial atmosphere in Malaga during the decade of the fifties?

F. H.: An anecdotal and genre painting prevailed, which I call Malaga painting, without any exterior projection. My work was no longer understood by many people, for example the figures characterized by an expressionist contortion. That lack of understanding affected me very much.

E. C.: Your painting of the fifties, in spite of what sometimes has been said, does not have much to do with historical impressionism.

F. H.: Indeed, it was a question of marks and very gestual strokes from which the figures are constructed, on some backgrounds made with spatula, where the red, the blue and the green colours were predominant, as if it was a question of a stained glass window. Curiously, this painting of mine from that time, although I did not know what they were doing in New York on the part of the members of the abstract expressionism, connected with the informalist language of the American painters, especially with De Kooning. I had, like so many others, the misfortune that there was not then in Malaga an acute mind who supported my painting, in the same way as the critique of the moment, although it did it with a contemptuous tone, called «impressionists»  or fauves to certain artists. The coincident gesturing expression between my painting and that of the American informalists, perhaps it had to do with the period, with the atmosphere that was breathed and that impregnated everything.

E. C.: But tell me about the painters from Malaga.

F. H.: In Malaga Alfonso de Ramón had then very good skills. Enrique Godino[23], on the other hand, was very theoretical, and was fanaticized with Cézanne. Manolo Barbadillo was highly-trained, and his wife, Jane, was charming. Francisco Peinado[24]  has a special elementality, an enormous purity. He is a serious and grave painter, who does not know the geometry of pictures; he is like a snail which everything that it expels and segregates is valid. His risk is to start walking. Nevertheless, he does not know the hidden geometry.

E. C.: Peinado, on the other hand, seems to have a strong self-critical sense.

F. H.: It can be. I also have my critical sense, I censure myself very much, I annul myself very much, I punish myself,  I fall down; you have to dynamite yourself frequently, to extract the newest thing that you do not know about yourself; in short, a drama. It is necessary to apply what is not known. Living on the resource of what one knows is always living in the same starting point, without moving. It is necessary to meet surprise. It is difficult. There being a formation behind, like in the real architect, the risk does not matter because one always ends up by dominating the situation. That formation, that base that sustains the whole building, is provided by the discipline of drawing. I am an admirer of De Kooning, of Kandinsky, of Macke, or of those beautiful Picassian figures, the harlequins that are in the Museum of Basel, who seem members of the bullfighter Francisco Ordóñez’ support team.

E. C.: Let us return to the fifties and to the non-impressionist technique of your pictures from that time.

F. H.: In fact I did not know it, since I did not even have either references or sufficient formation. The only thing that existed by that time in Malaga there was the shop window of the establishment of frames Morganti, in Larios Street, which showed work reproductions by Matisse and by Gauguin, among others. Another reference was the collection Skira, with reproductions of great quality. I remember, for example, those of the frescoes of the chapel of San Antonio de la Florida, of Goya. After that exhibition of mine in Sociedad Economica that so much uproar caused, there was a passionate deployment of painters — Rodrigo Vivar[25], Gabriel Alberca[26], Enrique Godino, Alfonso de Ramón —with canvases under the arm heading for the port and for the most unusual places; there was a real passion, which could be felt in the same street. Nowadays it is quite much more closed, there is less comradeship, each one is, so to speak, entrenched, I do not know why. Each one is like in an island. Before, the true centre, the place of gathering and of debate was Sociedad Económica, with those enormous wooden coffers at the entry, with the pleasant presence of Pepito, the caretaker.

E. C.: That work of the fifties, did you make it in front of the motif?

F. H.: No, almost everything is mental. Sometimes I took notes from life, but I usually made everything in the study, except when I was making a portrait in pencil. I, of course, expressed myself, but from a theoretical point of view I had neither clear concepts nor a sufficient experience either.

E. C.: The social gathering of Sociedad Economica had to be very animated.

F. H.: Vicente Ricardo Serra was an extraordinary events organizer, but they did not understand him. They believed that due to his character and his graceful and humorous nature he could be an opportunist, but by no means; at least, he never asked me for anything. He was so graceful, so typical from Malaga and so amusing that that made the others distrust. He was obsessed with consuls, with the Spanish-American consular corps. He had a sister who was comfortably off, although he was broke, probably because at that time he did not do a blessed thing, being always with us to encourage us. One day, at one o'clock at night, he says goodbye to me to go to her sister’s house in the neighbourhood of Pedregalejo, and he did not ask me for anything: he walked from the centre of Malaga up to her sister’s house. He was not an opportunist at all.

       I want to tell another anecdote. There was a painter of the Olmedo family, who was called Alita, participant also of those painters' meetings. She was not a painter from childhood, but she started painting being already adult. (By the way, I must say that I think that the one who is not a painter from childhood, painting can go so far as to madden him). Being she short of money, nevertheless she obtained some savings and asked Vicente Ricardo Serra to do her the favour of selling one of her pictures, and to bring her the money of the sale. Vicente sold it to her, but he appeared before Alita with detergents, broom, soap and other products of cleanliness. He had spent on that the money of the picture sale. It is to die laughing.

     Another day I could not return to Velez and I had to stay in Malaga. I went to a couple of guesthouses, but they had no vacancies. Then, Vicente, who was coming with me, offered me to go to his place. When we came, he took his wife out of the bedroom and said to me: «You go to bed with me». I, confused, answered him: «Well, Vicente, I ... ». To what he answered: «No, not at all, never mind, you go to bed with me, there is no problem, none of us is ... there is no doubt». But when we are in the room, he goes out and returns very quickly dressed wearing a bra. That was the way Vicente was. They never knew him. The one who hit the nail on the head was Eugenio Chicano with his article published in Sur newspaper when Vicente died[27]. Eugenio was wise on that point. It is a beautiful, wonderful, very wise article. Pepe Guevara, on the other hand, published something that was not wise. Vicente was a misunderstood person, Malaga did not understand him.

E. C.: How was your way of working by that time? Did you make a previous drawing in the canvas?

F. H.: I had learned well my occupation. With a hammer and some tacks I prepared the picture, I tightened the fabric in the frame and gave it a primer by means of soaked rabbit skin glue and white lead [basic carbonate of lead]. The brand of colours that I used at that time was Zuloaga. There was then in Vélez a shop that belonged to Imperio stationery in Malaga and which brought certain products for those who worked with painting. I have always been known for using pencil or pen or oil, nothing else, the most primitive thing. I have not complicated myself with anything else. I understand that everything is useful, everything exists, everything is experimentation, but where I am truly fulfilled is with those three primary elements. With regard to that issue about the previous drawing, I have always painted directly, drawing, if it was necessary, with the paintbrush. It is necessary to state here a portrait that I made to Francisco López Martín, who was at certain times a kind of critic, a fan, a little reckless, because he belonged to those people who launch themselves into it ... but, well, the case is that I made him that portrait in one evening, in three hours. There is another important portrait of the family Francis, who had a shop of photography in Dos Aceras Street, to whose father, an elderly gentleman who I think was a cousin of Fermín Durante, the academician, I made an oil painting head[28]. I had no method. Depending on what, I undertook the work directly from life, as in case of the portraits, whereas another type of subjects I carried them out in my study. There is a picture owned by the Taillefer family, a portrait of the elder daughter, Maria Teresa, and another one of his sister Adela, Gustavo García Herrera’s wife, that are both portraits very nice, painted from life, some of the best things that I made then. I can remember from both of them their quality, their elegance.

E. C.: As you mentioned earlier, your father, about 1956, exhorted you to go to Madrid.

F. H.: Indeed. First I went, recommended by the poet Alfonso Canales, to see José Antonio Muñoz Rojas, the Antequeran poet, who then worked in a bank. I enter his office, he continues looking at me, and says to me: «well, young man, what do you know about contemporary art?» And I answer him: «Ask me». Then, he says: «What is your opinion about Benjamín Palencia?» «Very interesting» — I answer—. «And Ortega Muñoz?» «Also very interesting». «And Pancho Cossío?» «I also know him». In short, he set me a kind of fast test. The first place where I exhibited was in the gallery Altamira, in Prado Street[29]. I was living then in a guesthouse in Huerta Street. The owner was a fan of classical music. I also liked classical music and I can remember that I listened to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony every day, until I thought that it could be a lack of respect.

     There appeared in my life the painter Pepe Díaz, whom I had met doing my military service, he was a house painter in Madrid. I took a collection of pencil drawings in the exhibition of Altamira. The drawings were all sold; an Englishman bought them. This Pepe Díaz started then painting with spatula; he was a lover of Benjamín Palencia, but he had neither the preparation nor the knowledge. He finished fed up with painting, because, since I have said earlier, those who come late to painting go mad. In the end he said goodbye to me and left for Paris.

     Between the works that I exhibited in Altamira there was a large drawing with a subject about beggars, where a woman was seen with a paralysis defect that was going along with two children next to her. On this work, which I made shortly before moving to Madrid, I am going to tell an anecdote that happened to me in the Taillefer building in Malaga. I went to the lobby with these three models, but the caretaker did not want to let them in, until I finally convinced him and they posed for me in the study that Mr. Pascual Taillefer had lent me. Before I went to his office, in the same building, and told him very sincerely that I had prepared him a show. He was a man with a special sensibility, exquisite, a marvel, apart from the considerable fortune that he had. He goes up, sees that and takes the small girl that I had taken and he puts her on his knees, gives her sweets and immediately calls a photographer so that he makes a collection of photographs of all that. He put his car and his chauffeur at the disposal of the mixed group, so that the models were collected and taken back to the poor houses of El Bulto[30] where they lived. Certainly, they believed that their futures were already settled, until we could convince them that it was only a question of posing as models. This pencil drawing which I am talking about was sold, as I say, in Madrid. It was something preciousness. The critic of art José Camón Aznar visited the exhibition and wrote about it in Abc newspaper.

E. C.: After this initial exhibition: how were your first steps in Madrid? Did you decide to register in any school or academy?

F. H.: I have already said that I met some painters in Madrid, as José María de Labra and Manuel López Villaseñor, who had an Italianizing style, because they had been pensioned in Italy to study in the Academy of Spain in Rome, and then they knew the work by Campigli, that influenced them exceedingly. But it did not influence me, I rebelled against all that and started making a religious painting of Castilian style having in mind Alonso Berruguete, about Gregorio Fernández and  Juan de Juni. I painted, for example, a Descendimiento (Descent), which is in Connecticut, tremendously dramatic and heartrending, as well as a San Juan Bautista (Saint John Baptist) clearly opposed to the official art which was dominant in Madrid.

     It was then when I decided to enter the School of Fine Arts of San Fernando. I make the mandatory drawing for the entrance, but because the paper was five centimeters short, although the drawing was right, they rejected me. Just due to that technicality. There was then in Malaga a tremendous refusal to that decision. I had been granted a pension of one thousand pesetas monthly by Caja de Ahorros de Málaga. I aimed to do things better for next year, to inform myself about the necessary size of the paper, so that I could manage to enter. The second time I succeeded. The important thing was to pass the drawing test. Later, the theoretical examination, for example of Geography, in that they asked you where the Nile or the Ganges is, had little importance. An anecdote happened to me with Mr. Ramón Stolz[31], an old gentleman who had been a muralist and was a teacher of the Academy, and who had to examine me on the knowledge that I had on pigments, the chemistry of pigments, the painting technique. With his black suit and his black cravat, chubby as he was, he says to me:  «Certainly, you will tell me that this is  vermilion and this white titanium, but this chemically has a different way to be called», and immediately afterwards:  «What is this?», and I answer him: «Yellow chromium», and, without saying any other word he told me straight out:  «Go away, because if you are afraid of me, I am more afraid of you». Certainly, he was afraid of having to fail me, because he was a very good person. With reference to this anecdote, I remember once, in a town where a museum was built with pictures given by a group of friend painters, I was spending several days invited by the mayor, and I was with a close friend of mine, the painter Fernando Somoza[32], who told me that he had met a disciple of Mr. Antonio Machado in Segovia[33], a teacher who did not fail anybody.

E. C.: Once you passed you exam: what did you do in Madrid? How was the educational system of the School?

F. H.: Well, I went to El Prado.  What I noticed was that in the Academy there was a dictation palette, which does not have anything to do with the Mediterranean, since it is also learned there to make the superficial, banal colours disappear and to make them become graver. This was the education that was given in Madrid. The Castilian is more austere, the palette is duller; the Mediterranean is lighter, more Sorollian. Then I also bore it in mind; what happened is that I got bored a lot, I hardly appeared in classes, since the truth is that I solved very rapidly the drawing and painting exercises that I was given. I, of course, did my duty, but I dedicated the remaining time in my guesthouse to do my personal work. It was at that time when I surprised all my classmates of the School with an individual exhibition in the gallery of the ancient bookstore of Genova Street, Alfil[34]. They were surprised, but I answered them that instead of wasting my time in classes I used it in my work.

     I can remember that the teacher of colour, Mr. Rafael Pellicer[35], said to me once, in front of a group of students: «How about you», and I, answered him outright: «How about what». Why was he going to reprimand me when I could be by the end of course with all my school work done? Besides, I passed everything.

From the Alfil exhibition, some pictures were for Connecticut, concretely three religious works. The Fierro also bought; a great piano soloist, who is already dead, bought three religious works. In short, I was very pleased; with part of the gained money I bought my flat in the neibouhood of La Concepcion in Madrid.

     It is in El Prado where I was always happy, absolutely happy. It was to contemplate Goya, Goya’s black paintings, which are also very suggestive; Velázquez’s Las Meninas, the infantas, Don Margarita de Austria, and Las Hilanderas (The Spinners), that have always been very suggestive to me. Las Hilanderas (The Spinners) is a geometric equation for me, just as Guernica. That so beautiful skill that it has of the distaff, the stick, the other sticks, the stairs, that was a magical world for me, and later the spots, almost, almost, almost cavern, it is as if you were contemplating the origin in Altamira, that blot, which I can also see in Goya, from whom  Klee and Miró paintings have learned so much, from Goya’s graphic images, because if we see the dome of San Antonio de la Florida, they are graphic images, but putting hands, nose and ears to the petty criminals, to the gypsies. I see Goya as an over-patriotically Spanish man, violent, although he does not know it, and instinctive, as if he was a man from the Quaternary period, just like that. What happens is that the personages of his pictures are disguised by the clothing of their time —jacket, chasuble—, but the form is the same; as I say, the pregnant filly of Altamira is the horse of Palafox — the same: small head, wide belly, fat neck, a Paleolithic one—. I have been in Altamira and have seen it. And I have said to myself: «This is Goya ». And the sculpture-painting, that one that was made so much a few decades ago, is already in Altamira, when the painter makes use of the recesses and projections of the wall of the cavern. And, later, that micrographic images of Velázquez, to whom I see very related with the Alhambra Nazari decoration, that urgent nervousness that it has, that urgency that Nazari art has, which Rembrandt does not have, which is greasier, heavier, that's why I say «fleshy», that does not have the mobility of breeze and of air that Velázquez has, that we have here, in the south, in the summer, that mysterious breeze that Velázquez as nobody has. In Velázquez, for example, we have the spots with which he makes the eyes; he does not draw the complete eye, as Rubens or Dyck do, but what he makes are evocative spots. In Durero and in Rubens, when we approach them, what we see is weariness for the sight, the drawing of the eye. However, what we do is to create an urgent sensation, which is like dancing, like flamenco singing in its performances, and, why not to say so, like the way the Legion parades, without feeling the weight of what they are wearing, dancing, without people know the reason why they are parading that way, but that it is something that influences them, that bewitches them, with that completely southern martial air. On the other hand, the Europeans are like tanks parading; people from the south are not, they have an air... And in History it is the same thing, from Despeñaperros downward everything is an exquisite thing, as it happens to Velázquez, who has so much of masculine as of feminine joined, and that's why he makes masterpieces. The same happens in bullfighting. The bullfighter of the south, in spite of his nature and his instinct, has, let us say, there arise in him some feminoid movements, because the hip becomes effeminate; the public, without knowing why, inflame him when receiving the beast. And the Christ paintings by El Greco are also somewhat mixed, with the narrow shoulders, and we do not know whether he is a man or a woman; a preciousness. But, apart from that, the fact is that art has not got anything to do with sociology or with anything.

E. C.: That urgency from Velázquez, for example, does not exist in Ribera.

F. H.: No, of course not, because he is from Valencia. He is rice paella, Blasco Ibáñez, that is to say,  he is another thing. Zurbarán is a divine peasant; what happens is that he has a sublime gift of divinity and everything that he touches is... But he has not anything in common with what we have said about Velázquez. There is here a mysterious breeze, a small tremor, it is a special thing. Zurbarán, is not; Zurbarán is El Escorial, he is still, firm; that's the cubists, like Picasso and Juan Gris, make him fashionable. In the Louvre they see the picture of that lying mystic[36] and they say: «What is this?» His painting has a lot in common with cubism, with serenity and weight. Robustness, weight and geometry. Velázquez, on the other hand, is tremor, something mysterious. Murillo is a big painter very perfect of drawing. He is never wrong. What happens is that quince jellies and all that made him a mass painter. Having dinner in Madrid with my Extremaduran friend Eduardo Naranjo, the hyperreal painter, and with a critic of Abc newspaper, Naranjo suddenly says to me: «Paco, what do you think about Murillo?» And I answer:  «An extraordinary painter, a whopping great painter». «Well, I have the same opinion» — Naranjo answers—. And the critic who was accompanying us agrees before the nobility of this painter, tremendous, dominating. Velázquez, Ribera and Murillo are not wrong. However, Valdés Leal and Zurbarán make mistakes.

E. C.: Mainly Valdés Leal.

F. H.: Oh yes, indeed. Ribera is always right, always; either in foreshortening or in front. The martyrs and everything else, they are a marvel. Looking at the whole history of contemporary art, we can sometimes see a lot of stupid things, which are more like caricatures than serious pictures. Certainly, if you are looking at Van der Weyden and suddenly someone comes and does it ridiculing him … Sight has suffered the invasion of the correct thing, of what has a high quality, and it cannot be yielded to a bad drawing. It is like Géricault in La balsa de la Medusa (The raft of the Jellyfish), which is another Caravaggio, but a romantic one. Goya has some small mistakes, but in his black paintings that does not matter. He dilates. That is what he wishes.

E. C.: He distorts.

F. H.: A marvel. In Goya we have the skill of matter, that informal way of his of carrying out the handling of plastic arts, the idea of what graphic art is. Goya is …

E. C.: And do you believe that there are any proper characteristics of the Spanish school that separate it from others?

F. H.: Certainly, it is the land the one that speaks. It is nothing else. The land, which gives you a voice and you paint.

E. C.: What is the difference with France?

F. H.: France, you know. As Dalí said when he joined the French Academy of Fine Arts: «I come from the most illiterate country of Europe which has taught France to paint». The fact is that this is like the popular song book; the Spanish culture is that po-pu-lar miscellany, aggressive with the learned and universal thing. No country has that. Not even Italy. Italy is the melody with everything, the sweet melody. Caravaggio is the only who is different, and he was very misunderstood, but … what this dramatic Spain has of rough, this completely telluric Spain and whose parenthood is in Altamira, that …; there is the father. We have luck. The Spanish painting is higher than all other schools of painting.

E. C.: And the Romanesque?

F. H.: Well, you can see the Catalan Romanesque. I have seen Romanesque in Europe, and it is soft, it is normal. Just one hand from a rectangular frieze, which slips out and beats one of those who are in the composition, for example, a Crucifixion, with the good and the evil ones together, but at the most one gives a punch to another, nothing else; that is the only thing that moves you, perhaps in order to shake the composition, the vertical ones. But the Spanish Romanesque is related to the lyrics of flamenco singing, drama, cinema, Buñuel, Goya. The Spanish Romanesque painter is not satisfied with cutting a martyr’s head, but he uses a handsaw … it is terrible, cruel. Everything that has been made here, in Spain, is universal. The Guernica is already in the 11th century or in the 12th, in Valle de Arán. The fact is that it has not anything in common with the Italian Romanesque style either, the little that existed in Italy, nor with the rest of the European Romanesque. These are developed along the formal dictate of their time, whereas here it is to make use of that dictate for the proper cruelty that underlies within the expressiveness of the Spanish art. Here they appropriate it; they take the Romanesque and make it their own.

E. C.: Picasso was fascinated by the Catalan Romanesque.

F. H.: What is, if not, Guernica? It is Romanesque. It is an urgent line, without chiaroscuro or anything in the line, which the Egyptians already did, something two-dimensional, drawn, nothing else. What happens is that Picasso takes colour from it, the sensuality that colour gives, and he expresses himself with graphics, the line. And that is made by the Romanesque as well. It is logical that Picasso exclaimed: «What a source of information I have here, in the Romanesque!».

E. C.: Besides, Picasso himself is inspired in Guernica by the Spanish medieval Beatos (Beatified people), by Beato de Liébana, by the codes.

F. H.: The fact is that he is very intelligent. He learns, sees, and becomes updated. He is old, wealthy and gambler. He wins in everything. He is awake; the others are asleep, or follow him. He is a researcher. We have to see the Portrait of Gertrude Stein, where he looks like a Flemish, he reminds me of Van Eyck, or of Memling. It is curious, in the 20th century, the intonation, and how he plans what the head is and he humanizes everything with the hands, which are normal. And you say:  «How cunning and intelligent the guy is!». He makes the hands normal. How wonderful the hands are! What a skill! «And now I hope that you should resemble the picture». How beautiful it is! What a wonderful thing!

E. C.: Finally, the fact is that El Prado was a source of inexhaustible information for you.

F. H.: But, and Goya’s Portrait of Fernando VII?  He uses sand, fine sand for everything which represents golden embroideries, he is no longer satisfied with painting, and he uses ground as well. Everything that has been done with matter, up to the same Fautrier, that was already made by Goya.

     And Tàpies is someone shrewd that goes to France in time, sees Fautrier and Dubuffet, and brings them to Spain and makes them Iberian. He has money and travels. He goes to New York. Lucio Fontana has a pasteboard in the Metropolitan that, seen calmly, looks like a concert, with its harmony and its counterpoint, and this same transfer of space can be seen in a pasteboard of Tàpies in the Museum of Cuenca. It has been there, in the Museum of Abstract Art of Cuenca, where I have seen the most beautiful picture of Tàpies. It is immense and it has a rare intonation of rotten quince or of bone. What a wonderful work! What a wonderful work! How extraordinary!

     It is just like travelling around all the European museums and coming up to New York. One notices that the authentic marchand is in Paris, with his office, his office and his phone. One goes to the Museum of Hannover. There is a small head by Modigliani; there is also a picture by Utrillo from the white period; there are works of Derain, of Rouault, of Matisse. With all that you already have the collection. You go to the Museum of Cologne. Again you have the same colection. What happens in both places is that those pictures are being provided by Paris, the marchands from Paris. It happens in Switzerland in all the museums, which are the best museums of contemporary art of the 20th century, that of Zurich, that of Basel, that of Bern. I have seen in Bern the whole collection of the Klee Foundation. There, there is a lot of money, and a lot of investment in art. And there are collectors who later give their collections. I cannot forget the Picassos which are in Switzerland, those harlequins that, for me, by the posture and the air that they have, seem members of the matador Francisco Ordóñez’ support team in a bullfight, with that unbeatable bullfighter air. That thing about the clothes and the harlequin, it is a lie; those harlequins are Andalusian, they are members of a bullfighter’s support team.

     And you come then to the height, to New York. Again we find the same sort of things. Modigliani, Rouault, Giorgio de Chirico, Matisse, Picasso, Derain. After Juan Gris dies, a marchand comes and suddenly says to his widow: «What do you need monthly?» She answers him and he gives her the money. They sign the contract, but on the condition that the pictures are sold slowly, very slowly, not now immediately, so that this way they are revalued. This is the way the marchands of Paris work. Then the museums begin asking for work of Juan Gris. Hence they give his widow a percentage; all that is stipulated in the contract. She continues calmly her normal life. Look at the way of selling, without hurry.

     I can remember having seen in Europe a picture by Tàpies, a silent one, as a Zurbarán, full of withdrawal, of piety, although it was all with crusts, seams, incisions, scratches, but the withdrawal was Spanish, neither Catalan nor from anywhere else, it was Spain, although they come now with all that story of independence. It was of an elevation … There was nearby a picture by Dubuffet, and of course, it was overshadowed by that one. Dubuffet, lightweight, as Guinovart, who is cruder. Oh no, no; Tàpiest is exquisite. He has an aristocracy that the other has not. The other one is a tasteless ass. But the fact is that, to express things freely, it is evident who is an ass and who it is not. Goya will be exquisite in the portraits! One of the many times that Francis Bacon comes to Spain, and stays in the Ritz hotel, in Madrid, the city where he died, a journalist asked him: «Master, you often come to El Prado; do you come to see Goya, don’t you?» «Oh yes, yes, I am a great lover of Goya», the Irish answers. «And what do you think about the black paintings? », the reporter asks again. «Well, I come to see his portraits». Certainly, as it is known about his distortions, about that so typical humanism of his, he, who was for me the last expressionist, and that has done very beautiful things, was thought that all that was owing to the black paintings of Goya. No, it was owing to the portraits. The journalist was absolutely perplexed.

     The same thing happens when Jean Cocteau comes to the airport of Malaga and a Spanish journalist asks him: «What are you?» «I am a French poet», Cocteau answers. «What do you love more, France or Spain», he keeps on making him questions. «Spain», Cocteau says. «Why», the journalist asks him just like that. And Cocteau answers him: «France sells the Gioconda ten or twelve times and here the first time they burn it». Cocteau loved passion.

E. C.: Bacon especially loved Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X.

F. H.: I have seen it in Rome, in the Dorian Gallery Pamphilj. When the Pope saw the picture, he said:  «This work must not go out of Rome». When the Pope is told by the Embassy of his Catholic Majesty, Philip IV, that there is going to come a painter from the Court of Spain to portrait him , he smiles, as saying: «Bah!, what can be brought to me from Spain». But when he only sees the beginning of the canvas, he is astonished. Velázquez comes to Rome and works in unison with his servant, Juan de Pareja, and in just a short time he revolutionizes the whole pictorial Roman atmosphere. Then, he agrees with the Pope a schedule for this to pose. Inocencio X turns up accompanied by two cardinals, he starts posing, and as Velázquez paints directly, without charcoal, with his palette and his paintbrush, at the first strokes the Pope stands up and says: «This work must not go out of Rome». There he realizes what had entered through the gates of the Vatican.

E. C.: Poussin had been living in Rome for a long time.

F. H.: The French line goes, from Poussin, passing by Corot, up to Cézanne and Derain. This is the refined Romanized France. And here, in Spain, from the period of Tartessos: who has taken us? It is something unmanageable. Didn’t the Tartessian kings say that the mercenary Iberian army was unbearable, unruly, and anarchic? It is something unmanageable. Here everyone does what he pleases. And today, it is the same. There is no discipline.

E. C.: In the Dutch painting, for example, there is a great vocation, which here, except for some individuality, was absent.

F. H.: There is not because here they have no patience, because there is great urgency. But if here, Pedro Berruguete, the great painter of altarpieces from Castile, wants to follow a Van der Weyden and he has no patience. The peace and patience that a Van der Weyden or a Memling has there cannot happen here. The adoration of the Mystical Lamb, by Juan van Eyck, is impossible to be made here. There are painters, whom I do not want to quote, that want to surprise you with their skill, but that is what Gauguin said: «If things turn to be … [too easy], I am having it cut and paint with my left one». They do not understand him. It is not a question of surprising, like Sorolla’s  Bebedor vasco (Basque Drinker)[37], of the Malaga Museum, which has made the painting from Malaga a tremendous damage. One day, in the National Library, after I was introduced to him by a painter from Santander, Pancho Cossío said to me[38]: «Where are you from?» «I am from Malaga», I answered. «It is a beautiful land. Would you like to make this?», Cossío asked me about referring to his pictures. «No», I answered: «Why?», Cossío asked surprised. «Because you have made it», I answered.

E. C.: This anecdote brings to my memory that you met Morandi personally.

F. H.: When I went to visit Morandi[39] in his house in Bologna, he was still a stranger in Spain. It was approximately eleven o'clock in the morning when I came to his house. After the servant had served me some coffee, Morandi says to me:  «I love Spain very much. I have been invited in four occasions to collective exhibitions and have had the opportunity to visit your country, beautiful Spain. I love Picasso very much, great master of the 20th century. You, young people, have it very difficult, because he already gave us a way of solutions through Cézanne and the lights of your own country. It turns out very interesting that everything is confused and that it happens like in the Titanic, I mean, that every man gets saved for himself. However, now when there is nobody who directs, there is a tremendous confusion; it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good. We, those of my generation, are descending from Cézanne. The main lines are planned to us by Cézanne, whereas your generation is a punished generation because it has not the luck and the fortune to have had antecedents». This was what Morandi said to me.

     But, well, we are not going to be with cubism the whole life. I say that cubism is like throwing a stone at glass, throwing a stone at the image of the 19th century, which smashes it to pieces. But you cannot be permanently doing cubism. This would be boredom. Art does not ask for permission.

E. C.: What did Morandi look like?

F. H.: Dressed in his jacket, with his suit and tie, he offered a charming, elegant figure, perhaps slightly similar to Joyce. Paris acclaimed him and denied him at the same time, but as he neither fights nor lives in Paris, although Paris denies him all kind of acknowledgement, it does not matter to him, since he was universally established without counting on Paris. Modigliani, on the other hand was destroyed by Paris.

E. C.: You have to be very strong to survive in Paris, not to mention to excel, like Picasso.

F. H.: Because Picasso was a scamp, an urchin from Malaga. I can imagine him lying on bed reading comic strips, in the hotel, or in the guesthouse where he stayed, and then Sabartés comes, and finds him reading comic strips, him, who cannot do division, who cares, of course. But what exquisiteness the pink period had! Something unexcelled, unique in the world. There is nothing similar. Those gestures … with nothing; a hand, nothing any else, and it tells you the whole world. «Look, look, Pablo –Sabartés tells him, look at what Le Figaro says, look at what it says about your exhibition». And Picasso takes the newspaper, and after a moment says to him: «It mentions me fourteen times». The rest does not matter for him; he is not interested in what it says about him. Can the newspaper say what he has endured? It is not important for him what it says. Those hands, those feet, those small fingers of his figures from the pink period, and that clothing … how are they called? ... Kimonos. And one exclaims:  «What things he expresses with nothing!» What a thing, what exquisiteness, with bare heads, everything mysterious, wonderful, creative. What a pink period! What a drawing, what a thing! Like that group that is in Washington[40], what a beautiful thing, what luck to have that work. And Las Señoritas de Aviñón (The Misses of Avignon), in New York; How nice, what a place. This picture, if you look at it carefully, has the lines that there divide what is the buttock with the belly, some kind of bands, made with such a love … All the angular one, all what has of strength, is Mudejar, it is already in the coffered ceilings of the province of Malaga. Yes, it has a Mudejar resonance; that cannot have it either France, or Germany, or Italy.

E. C.: Well, Germany has an expressive special strength; Matías Grünewald, for example.

F. H.: Yes, but the result is uglier. I say about Alberto Durero that he is a grandson of the Gothic, but that Venice pushes him. Durero transfigures the Renaissance. If Durero goes to Venice, it is for a different reason, but he has not anything in common with Lucas Cranach, who paints dislocated beings. There is a dislocation in Cranach that bothers me. About the Isenheim altar by Grünewald, I say that it is an immense crown of thorns. Dalí did not like it; Dalí is Mediterranean. We are very influenced by the Mediterranean, by the plenitude of form that occurs in the Mediterranean.  Beauty. It is Greece. Then there is the Hellenic Greece, which is where the whole expressionism of the world, the mastery of pathos begins. Even in the low area of the Last Judgement by Miguel Ángel, that dramatic Hellenism is also there.

E. C.: As the Altar of Zeus in Pergamus.

F. H.: Yes, that is in Berlin. But, in spite of everything, you cannot remove what you have from Greece. It is impossible. It is connatural. Castile does not have that any more. Castile is Gutiérrez Solana. What a marvel! Such a wonderful painting La tertulia del Café Pombo! (The Literary Circle at the Café Pombo) The way it breathes! It makes me feel as if it were a Pompeian fresco; that thing has such a … presence. I do not see the Madrid of Azorín, with the protests of the time, but the brightness of the bottles and the siphons, that is another form of protest. It is a pure protest. If these things could speak! But the case is that they speak. It is tremendous. What purity! Look at the fountain pen that Ramón Gómez de la Serna has. And everything is informal; it is a pure heart, feeling. And the hands move.

E. C.: You took part in the Biennial of Venice in 1966. Speak to me about that experience.

F. H.: Owing to the 33rd Biennial of Venice, to which I was invited by the Institute of Hispanic Culture, the Government offered a pair of coaches at our disposal leaving from Cibeles Square. Luis Gordillo[41] was among those who went, but there were also many troublemakers whose only purpose was to abort the Biennial. The painter Úrculo[42] entered the Spanish Pavilion wearing a farmer hat, and González Robles[43] told him to take it off or to go out. They wanted to abort the Biennial, and to do that some Spanish people went to speak with representatives of the Communist Italian Party, but these told them that that was not appropriate, and that it was not possible, since Franco was still governing from El Pardo Palace. On the night of the opening we were in a small square where we saw an inscription that indicated the house where Canaletto had been born, when the sculptor Pablo Serrano appeared unexpectedly[44], with his bearing and prestige that gave him the appearance of a Spanish cardinal, and he tells the members of the most politicized group, those that wanted to ruin the event, that that was an absurdity, a juvenile protest, trying to pacify them, since, according to him, in addition to an absence of responsibility, that political action was going to harm them when they returned to Spain.

E. C.: What is the reason of that avant-garde language in your painting of the sixties that culminates in the Tríptico de Venecia (Triptych of Venice) of 1966?

F. H.: It is an entire non-conformism, it is a search. In the international avant-gardes I could feel influenced by an artist who insinuates a kind of buttons, which I tried to inflame, and I also mixed ideas very much, for example rejecting the sharp thing of cubism and adopting forms that are in nature. I saw nature as something circular, it is neither flattened nor cubic, and this was what took me to the limits of researching into it, into the curve, which is infinite. The curve has some infinitude that the cubic geometry does not have, being this one a limited exactitude. What I want to say is that I was very fed up with cubism, because I see it boring at a certain time. It is a reaction against cubism and against a kind of aesthetics to which we can refer to as one coming from Campigli and the Spanish artists pensioned in Rome whom I mentioned previously, like Villaseñor, Mampaso[45] and Pascual de Lara, who return to Spain with a type of painting, with a style that they impose at a certain time.

Perhaps the Axarquía area had something to do in my organic painting, the mountainous system of this region from Malaga, so feminoide, that it is how I see our Malaga scenery, with its turgid breasts and a feminine anatomy. All that had also something mental and I perceived it. I think that in that painting of mine from the sixties there is an animal part that is the sincere one, and a refinement that is the culture and the exquisite treatment of what matter is. If that biological part is removed from painting, for me then it is nothing, it is like an advertising poster. Many people of those who devote themselves to painting do not know what that mass, that matter, is. That's why very well made still lifes are seen and they are prints like those which were formerly in Andalusian farmhouses. It is, simply, craftsmanship. But painting is another thing. When I visited a few days ago for the nth time El Prado, after entering the hall of Las Hilanderas (The Spinners), I said to my brother who accompanied me:  «What a beautiful blotch!» It is a blotch that, later, after a while, starts getting forms defined. It is insinuating, but not scorching, that it is what the so-called hyperrealists do, burning life. It is just as to take a butterfly and to put it in a box with a crossed pin, to look at it through glass. This is what the hyperrealists do. Velázquez insinuates. The foot of the woman who is in the distaff [Minerva], has the fingers made only with a mark; that is enough for Velázquez. He does not have to draw, drawing hinders him. It is such a magisterial and mysterious synthesis which has no equivalent in the world. Caravaggio has neither the nobility nor the truth of Velázquez; he turns into a choreographer, with that effect of lights. However, Velázquez is a natural window. Caravaggio can play, demoniacally or angelically, he plays, as a choreographer or a window dresser, but Velázquez is the truth. He is the truth when, for example, he subjects himself to the light of eleven or twelve in the morning in Madrid. My god! And I say it thinking about the difficulties that that entails, and, nevertheless, with what aristocratic indifference he solves it!

E. C.: Returning to your painting, those forms by means of knots and bones evolve up to coming, in the seventies, to pictures like the Alegoría del cante jondo (Allegory of flamenco singing), that is also like an expressionist shriek.

F. H.: The head in that picture has been turned into a stump, because it turns out that everybody is going to see the open mouth of the flamenco singer, and then I say: «No!» everybody is going to look towards the open mouth, towards the anecdote, and then I remove it, so that they meet something surprising. Metaphorically, we can see there the roots of that singing, which sprout from the ground, rise through the limbs, as the circulation of the blood, and culminate in the head. And all that is later accompanied by the geometry of the church of Santa Maria in Velez-Malaga, which is seen behind. There is an alloy of piety, singing, tradition and depth. Like a gypsy seguiriya (flamenco singing), which is like a prayer, which transmits a cosmic terrible pain.

E. C.: In the middle of the seventies, as it happens in the picture of Virgen cosmica (Cosmic Virgin), there already appear some curves and a geometric - symmetrical composition which are very characteristic.

F. H.: Geometry is a secret but universal language. An educated person understands that language in the whole world. That is why Picasso’s Guernica is so universal, although he has removed the whole chiaroscuro and has made an urgent telegram with the graphic images of what horror is. However, Velázquez is behind. Picasso is influenced by Velázquez. Geometry has an enormous pleasure for a painter. Before placing definitively a gesture, an arm, a hand, it is the pleasure that one internally feels in placing the objects of the real world. For me, those movements that Picasso has constitute an inner necessity, and it makes no difference to put an eye in a place that is not the habitual one, since one can intuit the geometric perfection that the work transmits. People are not yet prepared for a suitable reading of Picasso.

E. C.: What I want to underline is the evolution that takes place in your work from the middle of the sixties up to beginning of the eighties. Indeed, a very coherent evolution.

F. H.: Evolution is an internal need and the personal stamp is by rebelliousness, in order not to be trapped by that mesh that the artists who preceded me are. Zabaleta[46], for example, is a Picassian product, the same as Guayasamín[47]. However Dalí, on the other hand, is very clever, he stops in the pure forms that do not go out of fashion; the others remain in a certain date, and when the fashion goes out, they age. Dalí affords to create a world in which he simultaneously deforms and believes, he creates suggestive metaphors. I always tried not to repeat myself, to flee from stereotyped formulas. It is necessary to leave and not to fall into a trap. If I fall in love with the hip of a woman, or with the breast of a woman nursing her child: why is abstraction going to enslave me? They can tell me: «It is just that painting is not the anecdote». Well, and the pleasure of painting what I please, of being myself?

E. C.: It seems to me that from the first half of the eighties your painting enters another stage, that in fact has not finished, very symbolic, very metaphorical, with many references to the Mediterranean, to the classical world, starting composing pictures with several figures – two, three, four or any more–, beginning to appear also naked women, like nymphs or goddesses, and where an intense religious subject-matter also arises, with a strong symbolic load. It is a stage, the last one, where you worry very much about drawing, about the composite effects, abounding the triangular, pyramidal schemes, as if everything was very thought-out, existing a very big conjunction of geometry, of figure and …

F. H.: And of form.

E. C.: Yes, and of form. All that that I mention happens from 1982 or 1983. In your painting, I can see several clearly differentiated stages. It is the period of the fifties, with that free stroke, with that pictorial dynamism, and also with those fantastic portraits made with graphite, of classical roots; later there is the stage of the sixties, which is a very experimental period, of avant-garde orientation, which culminates with the Tríptico de Venecia (Triptych of Venice); another period is that of the seventies, when the stumps appear, and whose culmination is in Alegoría del cante jondo (Allegory of flamenco singing), in Virgen cósmica (cosmic Virgin) and in Cristo crucificado (crucified Christ), all of them from 1974. From that time another stage begins, as if Francisco Hernández became a kind of a re-creator of the Mediterranean world. The tie between all the stages is always drawing, an activity that you have never stopped practising incessantly and that, in my view, constitutes the essential base of all your art. There is absolutely no doubt about the fact that you are a magnificent drawer. Some drawings are simply marvellous. In this sense, I would like to mention Dalí’s opinion on a radio interview. «In Spain there are only two real drawers. One of them is me and the other is someone called Hernández who I think lives in the south».

F. H.: Yes, I respect very much proportion and drawing and I do not risk, because in my opinion it is very comfortable to deform and very difficult to construct. And with regard to the Tríptico de Venecia (Triptych of Venice), it is a work made without thinking, created in an irrational way, with a spontaneous dynamism, and only later the quality is added to it. It is a pencil directly on the canvas, and I, since I have made it, know that I can make thousands of metres like that. That is called creative act. But, just for giving an example, another very different thing is to make one of the Slaves by Miguel Ángel. One of those figures, or any other of the Sixtina ceiling or of the Last Judgement, needs to be measured, to verify that a part does not turn out to be disproportionate with regard to the others. That is very difficult, and, it is also ignored. I have lived that and I can tell you but, those who do not know it…

E. C.: In your work we can feel tension, a stylistic evolution, a change that cannot be seen in other current painters already consecrated, of much flatter career.

F. H.: It is because there are painters who always make the same empty, hollow, flat painting, pure rhetoric. There is no drama, they have removed it or they have never considered it. When there is no drama, it is like a Miura fighting bull whose horns have been cut with a handsaw. Why do they not paint a pregnant woman? Or one whose dress has got hooked and has broken? Or a torn or spotted garment? Life is not only prettiness, nor a confectionery, nor is it as pleasant as a cup of chocolate with cookies at five o'clock in the afternoon. The cup can also fall down and break, and stain that one who is alongside. But there are some people who do not realize that. In the end, those painters are condemned to obscurity.


 Traducción de José María Valverde Zambrana


[1] It refers to the year 1921, during the summer, when Francisco Franco Bahamonde, being still a commander, under the orders of general Sanjurjo, took part in the reconquest of the Melilla command and of diverse positions next to the city, which had been taken by the people from El-Rif led by Abd the Krim. In July the disaster of Annual had taken place, where general Silvestre lost his life along with approximately 9000 Spanish soldiers.

[2] The participation of Hernández in these contests began in January, 1948, within the framework of the 6th Art Provincial Exhibition, held in Malaga, in the halls of Sociedad Económica, in January between 8th and 22nd. In the exhibition the selected authors exhibited their works. Hernández took part in it with seven works. The participant authors had to be «producers», that is to say workers, since it was a contest promoted by the Union Organization. Hernández appeared in the catalogue as «assistant» , and in fact he carried out that task in the shop that his family had in the town. The exhibited works could be sold, there being included in the catalogue the prices of some pictures of our painter from 75 to 150 pesetas. In the exhibition of 1949, where he takes part with four works, the prices were already ranging from 500 to 700 pesetas.

[3] Virgilio Galán (Malaga, 1931-2001), genre painter, of free, fresh and spontaneous stroke. He was a permanent member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Telmo in Malaga.

[4] On this painter, see the brief critique published in

[5] Alfonso de la Torre Marín (Malaga, 1928-1989) devoted himself especially to portrait, still life and genre painting scenes. He was appointed permanent member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Telmo in Malaga in 1981.

[6] José Guevara Castro (Malaga, 1930) has worked along his extensive career all the pictorial genres. He was an out-standing member of Peña Montmartre and of  Grupo Picasso in Malaga.

[7] Luis Molledo (Oviedo, 1907 - Malaga, 1991), restorer and painter very influenced by Rafael Sanzio. His original work, of strong surrealistic accent, has, especially in the drawings of the so-called «erotographic series», at present in the Picasso Foundation in Malaga, a clear sexual symbolism.

[8] On the painter Eugenio Chicano, see and the catalogue of his retrospective in Palacio Episcopal of Malaga (University of Malaga, 1997).

[9] By Murillo a San Francisco de Paula, by Ribera a Martirio de San Bartolomé (Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew)  and by Alonso Cano a Saint John Evangelist in the island of Patmos, a work of which the Museum of Budapest preserves a splendid version.

[10] Painted in 1887.

[11] It is a valuable oil painting on canvas of big format (282 X 574 cm.), of clear influences from Rubens, that was entrusted by the count of Mollina in 1647 to the artist of Flemish ancestry Miguel Manrique in order to decorate the refectory of  the Convent of Virgen de la Victoria de los Frailes Mínimos. In 1835, as consequence of the of Mendizábal’s disentailment, the work was taken from its original emplacement and installed in the Cathedral.

[12] On the painter Manuel Barbadillo, see abundant information in, as well as in the «doctoral thesis» section in, where Los orígenes del arte cibernético en España (The origins of the cybernetic art in Spain) by Enrique Castaños Alés is published.

[13] The individual exhibition of Francisco Hernández in Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País in Malaga, was held in March between 21st and 31st, 1955 (many later catalogues mistake the date), and there were hung 78 works split into portraits, works of genre and drawings. The exhibition of Cub de Prensa is from the previous year. He had already held another individual one previously in Velez-Malaga .

[14] Luis Bono and Hernández de Santaolalla (Malaga, 1907 - 1998).

[15] On Félix Revello de Toro (Malaga, 1926), see the catalogue of the retrospective of Malaga Municipal Museum (Malaga City Hall, 2004).

[16] Francisco Hernández’ military service was done in Madrid between 1951 and 1954.

[17] Outstanding portraitist, Gabriel Morcillo (1887 - 1973) was also characterized for making a painting of orientalist, sensual and colourist subjects.

[18]Sculptor Adrián Risueño was born in Malaga towards the year 1900 and died in the same city in 1966. We owe him La Fuente de las Gitanillas, placed until a few years ago in Plaza de la Constitución in Malaga and now in Plaza de Manuel Alcántara, as well as numerous sculptures and religious images spread along the whole city.

[19] Carlos Pascual de Lara (Madrid, 1922 – 1958). Very talented Spanish painter, prematurely dead as consequence of a brain haemorrhage at the age of thirty six, who shows in his work the influence from Massimo Campigli and Henry Moore.

[20] José María de Labra Suazo (Corunna, 1925), graduated in the School of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid in 1950, devoted exclusively from 1954 to his pictorial vocation, standing out in the accomplishment of murals and glass windows, as those of the church of Padres Dominicos in Valladolid, by the architect Miguel Fisac.

[21] Manuel López Villaseñor (Ciudad Real, 1922 – Torrelodones, Madrid, 1996), figurative painter influenced by expressionism, realism and surrealism.

[22] Massimo Campigli (Florence, 1895 – Saint-Tropez, 1971), Italian painter whose beginnings were marked by a postcubist and purist search, he studied Seurat, Léger, Picasso, the Egyptian art and that of the primitive current ones, and he showed his interest in archaism and in a balanced simplicity of form. The influence from the Etruscan art offered him the possibility of melting myth and reality in an atemporal space.

[23] Contemporary of Eugenio Chicano and of other painters from Malaga belonging to Peña Montmartre in the years immediately previous to 1957, Enrique Godino Muñoz (Linares, Jaén, 1935) practised at first a few cubed forms and received in other pictures the influence from the surrealism of Óscar Domínguez. The variety of his language reaches even up to an abstraction with great matter, as the one that a work of his offers which the Picasso Foundation in Malaga keeps.

[24] On Francisco Peinado, see

[25] Rodrigo Vivar Aguirre (Malaga, 1934), a genre painter who was a member of Peña Montmartre and of Grupo Picasso in the second half of the fifties.

[26] On Gabriel Alberca Castaño the critical review can be seen published in

[27] The obituary written by Chicano in Sur newspaper of Malaga was published on July 22nd, 1998. Vicente Ricardo Serra had died on previous June 13th.

[28] It refers to Francisco Gutiérrez Durante

[29] The exhibition took place from May 19th  up to June 5th, 1956, with a number of 39 works, among oils, gouaches and drawings.

[30] Working neighbourhood of the west area of Malaga built in the decade of 1860 to lodge the workpeople of the near factories and foundries of the Heredia family.

[31] Ramón Stolz Viciano (1903 - 1958). He was a painter and muralist from Valencia. Among his works there stand out the great canvas of the high altar of Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados in Valencia (1932), the vault fresco painting above the High Choir of Basilica del Pilar in Zaragoza (1941) and diverse mural fresco paintings also in the latter temple (1952). In 1975 homage was paid to him in the gallery Segrelles in Valencia, consisting of an exhibition of sketches and paintings for his mural paintings. Enrique Lafuente Ferrari wrote the text of the catalogue.

[32] The painter Fernando Somoza, born in 1927, was an outstanding representative of the critical realism during the sixties and seventies. One of his most well-known works, Glamour, is from 1969.

[33] Antonio Machado was a teacher in the School of Secondary Education in Segovia between 1919 and 1931.

[34] The exhibition was held in November, 1958.

[35]  Painter and permanent member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid. He died in 1963.

[36] Exposicion del cuerpo de San Buenaventura (Exhibition of the lying body of Saint Buenaventura), coming from the church of  Colegio de San Buenaventura in Seville.

[37] Painted in 1910.

[38] Pancho Cossío (San Diegode los Baños, Cuba, 1894 – Alicante, 1970), Spanish painter of Cuban origin. His work, between  post-cubist figuration and abstraction, focuses on the concern for transforming reality from the plastic resources and the expressive values of form.

[39] The visit took place in 1959. Giorgio Morandi died in 1964.

[40] La familia de saltimbanquis (Family of acrobats), from 1905, in the National Gallery of Washington

[41] Luis Gordillo (Seville, 1934), outstanding member of the Spanish neo-avant-garde, is especially linked to pop and to the «new figuration» of the seventies.

[42] Eduardo Úrculo (Santurce, Biscay, 1938 – Madrid, 2003), figurative painter associated with pop.

[43] Luis González Robles (SanlúcarLa Mayor, Seville, 1916 – Madrid, 2003) was a tireless impeller of the Spanish art of avant-garde during the sixties and seventies. Person in charge of many international artistic events in which Spain took part during those decades, through the Office of Exhibitions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which he directed, he was also the director of the Spanish Museum of Contemporary Art between 1968 and 1974.

[44] Pablo Serrano (Crivillén, Teruel, 1908 – Madrid, 1985), deeply humanist sculptor who worried along his career about the relations between the empty and full things, the individual and the social thing, the features of the character and the telluric thing. He met Torres García in Montevideo in the decade of 1930 and he was a founding member of El Paso in 1957.

[45] Manuel Mampaso (Corunna, 1924 – Madrid, 2001) was, nevertheless, one of the pioneers of the avant-garde of the fifties, being a member of Informalism.

[46] Rafael Zabaleta (Quesada, Jaén, 1907 – 1960), painter who lived the life of a recluse in his native town, where he creates a particular iconography of the Andalusian country, between realism and the magic component, being a debtor of cubist forms. His work, without eagerness for social denunciation, sometimes bordered on poetical expressionism of intense colour.

[47]On Oswaldo Guayasamín, see,


Publicado originalmente en el catálogo de la exposición de Francisco Hernández que, bajo el título de Francisco Hernández 1945-2007. Entre el clasicismo y la modernidad, se celebró en las salas temporales del Museo del Patrimonio Municipal de Málaga entre el 13 de abril y el 10 de junio de 2007.