Manuel Benedito Vives

Valencia, 1875 - Madrid, 1963

  • Boy with a Hen


Manuel Benedito was born on 25 December 1875 in Valencia. In 1888 he entered the San Carlos School of Fine Arts and, having completed his studies in 1894, joined the workshop of Joaquín Sorolla, with whom he subsequently travelled to Madrid. There he produced a large number of illustrations for Blanco and Negro and Revista Moderna and took part in various Fine Arts exhibitions, winning numerous prizes. In 1899 he obtained a place at the Accademia di Spagna in Rome, attending the institution on a grant from 1900 to 1904. During this period he made several trips to France, Belgium and Holland, and in subsequent years took part in and again won prizes at various national and international exhibitions, and held his first solo exhibitions in Madrid.

The influence of Sorolla's form of luminarism is evident in the work of Benedito's early years as a painter, when his production consisted mainly of landscapes. However, after his travels in Europe, his style drew closer to the new artistic trends of the age. In this respect one of his most decisive trips was to Brittany in France, where he painted Breton Fisherwomen (Museo Nacional del Prado, on deposit at the Seville Museum of Fine Arts) in Concarneau in 1905. This painting was warmly received and highly acclaimed by contemporary artists and critics and is regarded as one of his best works.

Although Benedito painted landscapes and still lifes throughout his career, he was especially well-known for his portraits and by 1910 had become the favourite painter of Madrid high society and the Spanish royal family.

Particularly interesting among his numerous paintings of distinguished aristocrats are the pictures of women, especially Portrait of Cléo de Mérode (1910, Fundación Banco Santander Collection), Portrait of The Duchess of Dúrcal (1913, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid), Señoritas de Cárcer ("The Misses Cárcer", 1916, Fundación Manuel Benedito, Madrid), Señora de Moncada ("Mrs. Moncada", 1917, Generalitat Valenciana) and the masterful Portrait of Genoveva Vix (1918, Fundación Manuel Benedito, Madrid).

Apart from this more formal aspect of his work, he also painted portraits of a more "popular" style, depicting women from the world of entertainment and typical working class and gypsy girls. Outstanding in this respect are Gypsy Girl (1909, Fundación Manuel Benedito, Madrid), La Gavilana (1910, Fundación Manuel Benedito, Madrid) and Pastora Imperio (1914, Fundación Manuel Benedito, Madrid). Furthermore, he painted rural themes directly inspired by his period in Castile and deeply influenced stylistically by 17th-century Spanish painting. Examples of this facet of his production are Boy with a Hen (1913, Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection), Return from the Hunt (1913, Fundación Banco Santander Collection), My Nieces (1913, Fundación Manuel Benedito, Madrid) and La Campesina ("The Peasant Girl", 1944, private collection).

Benedito is regarded as one of the most important exponents of Valencian painting in the first half of the 20th century and enjoyed much prestige in the fields of art and culture of the time, with the result that in 1918 he was appointed artistic advisor to the Royal Tapestry Factory. In 1923 he was voted an academician of both the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts, where he took up the post of master of colour and composition on the death of Joaquín Sorolla, and the San Carlos Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Valencia. Two years later he became a member of the Hispanic Society of New York and in addition held other posts connected with art and culture both nationally and internationally. A large number of solo and group exhibitions featuring his work were held during his lifetime. He died in Madrid on 20 June 1963.

Works by Benedito can be found in a number of Spanish state museums (including the Museo Nacional del Prado and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía) as well as in institutions such as the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts, provincial museums and private collections. However, most of the artist's work belongs to the Fundación Manuel Benedito, which was founded in 2002 on the initiative of the painter's niece Vicenta Benedito. The Fundación Manuel Benedito with its collection of Benedito's work is situated in Juan Bravo street, Madrid, where the painter lived and kept a studio from 1927.

María Luisa García Serrano

María Luisa García Serrano