Bravo: one of Chile´s greatest artists

Claudio Bravo began drawing as a child in rural Chile and his natural ability to reflect reality continued to set him apart for the rest of his life.

Monday, June 06, 2011  
Bravo never painted from photographs, he said it was necessary to capture the essence of the person Bravo never painted from photographs, he said it was necessary to capture the essence of the person or object being painted.

As one of Chile´s greatest painters, it seems fitting that the birthplace of Claudio Bravo was Valparaíso, the nation´s cultural heart.


The hyperrealist painter was born into a farming family on November 8, 1936, and he spent most of his childhood in the rural area around Melipilla.


Bravo began drawing when he was 11 years old and his considerable artistic skill was immediately apparent. However, the budding artist´s family did not initially support him in his newfound hobby.


In 1945, Bravo was accepted into the Santiago workshop of Miguel Venegas Cifuentes, a noted Chilean architect and painter, where he refined his natural talent while studying drawing and painting.


Between 1945 and 1954, Bravo studied at the San Ignacio Jesuit College in Santiago. Shortly after his seventeenth birthday, Bravo´s work was publicly exhibited for the first time in Santiago´s Salón Trece.


After graduating from high school, the multi-talented artist danced professionally with the Ballet Company of Chile while participating in theatre activities at the Catholic University of Chile.


In the 1960s Bravo moved to Spain where he established himself as a portrait artist for Madrid´s high society. The young Chilean artist soon became well known because he portrayed his subjects with a remarkable likeness.


By the end of the decade his fame had spread abroad and in 1968, he was invited to paint a portrait of the Filipino President, Ferdinand Marcos, and his wife, Imelda. Two years later, he held his first exhibition at the Staempfli Gallery in New York.


Bravo never painted from photographs, always insisting that it was better to produce a work with with models present. He said it was necessary to capture the essence of the person or object being painted and to do that successfully he needed to look directly at his subject.


In 1972 Bravo moved to Tangier, Morocco, where he bought a three-story, 19th century mansion. After moving in, he painted the walls white in order to take advantage of the Mediterranean sunlight, which featured prominently in his paintings.


Bravo´s reputation abroad continued to grow and in 1981, his paintings went on display at the Marlborough Gallery in New York. From that point on, the gallery represented and promoted the Chilean artist internationally.


The Chilean public showed little interest in the expatriate artist until 1994, when the National Fine Arts (Bellas Artes) Museum in Santiago displayed some of Bravo´s paintings. The exhibition was a huge success and Bravo started returning to Chile more frequently.


In 2000, he received the Grand Cross of the Order of Alfonso X el Sabio from the King and Queen of Spain.


Bravo died in the Moroccan town of Taroudant on June 4, 2011.