José Bardasano

Madrid, 1910 - 1979

  • Pontejos


José Bardasano was born in Madrid in 1910. He owed his training as an artist to Marceliano Santa María, who came upon the eleven-year-old Bardasano painting with his father in the street. A generous patron of young men of small means, Santa María enrolled Bardasano in drawing at the School of Arts and Crafts in Madrid and continued to support him even after he was rejected by the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts.

Bardasano studied artistic stained-glass techniques at the Casa Maumejean and entered the world of advertising through a post as artistic director at the Rex advertising agency (1929). He took part in the National Fine Arts Exhibitions of 1930-1936, winning second prize in 1934 for his Portrait of Juana Francisca (his wife). That same year saw his first solo exhibition in the Friends of Art Society's rooms. In 1935 he was awarded a Legado del Conde de Cartagena scholarship and travelled to France and the Netherlands, where he painted a large number of landscapes and urban views which were exhibited in 1936 at the Circle of Fine Arts in Madrid.

In 1936 he founded and edited "La Gallofa", the plastic arts section of the J.S.U., which played an extremely important propaganda role during the Spanish Civil War. His posters, with those of other artists and propagandists, covered the walls of the streets of Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona. In 1939 he was sent to the Argelès-sur-Mer concentration camp with others like himself from the many thousands on the losing side. However, friendships which had been made during a stay in France in 1935 enabled Juana Francisca to secure his release and the couple finally managed to sail on the Sinaia for Mexico and a new life.

In Mexico, with the help of relatives of old friends from his youth Bardasano was taken on at a print shop, and immediately began giving free drawing lessons to his fellow-workers, thus laying the foundations for the School of Painting he later opened at his home which was to produce a number of interesting painters. Also worthy of mention among his activities in Mexico is the establishment with Mexican and other Spanish artists in 1945 of the Circle of Fine Arts, and his collaboration with the Mexican government's literacy campaigns. At the same time he painted, exhibited and, having made a name for himself as an excellent portraitist, became very popular in middle-class Mexican circles.

Almost twenty years passed until his heart attack in 1957. With the fear of death, suddenly the dream of returning to Spain that had been a driving force for the refugees in the early years of exile became his prime consideration. After a brief visit to Spain, he returned there permanently in 1960.

Bardasano rejoined the Spanish art scene in Madrid and entered work at several editions of the Salon d’Automne, winning a first prize in 1961 and a medal of honour in 1966. From France he received the "Arts, Sciences, Lettres" gold medal in 1964 and an Officer's Cross for Merit in 1965. For his collection of RENFE advertising posters he won the Geneva tourism poster award in 1967.

Bardasano dedicated his life to painting, describing it as a real physiological need. He was so prolific that he sometimes produced enough material for two exhibitions in the same year. His favourite venue was the annual Salón Cano, where he exhibited regularly from 1961 until autumn 1978, a few months before his death.

Twenty years after the first attack, his heart, by now weak and neglected, failed him again. Bardasano died in Madrid in 1979.

Carolina Peña Bardasano