Manuel García Rodríguez
Seville, 1863 - Seville, 1925
Manuel García Rodríguez combined his higher secondary education with music studies. After renouncing an ecclesiastical career he joined the workshop of the local painter José de la Vega, who was still espoused to the Romantic tradition and cultivated a minutely descriptive realism linked to the Seville Free Academy of Fine Arts.
He was taught by Manuel Wssel and Eduardo Cano at the Seville School of Fine Arts and Industries, where he came into contact with Sevillian artists of his generation. In this milieu, around the time Emilio Sánchez-Perrier began to enjoy commercial success abroad, García Rodríguez, fascinated by the painting of Martín Rico and Mariano Fortuny, appears to have shown a preference for landscape painting, a genre which he would cultivate almost exclusively throughout his career as a painter. This interest must also have brought him into contact with the circle of Carlos de Haes in Madrid.
By the time he was twenty or so, his painting appears to have followed very closely the production of Sánchez-Perrier to the extent that their relationship might be considered not only of one master and student but also one of friendship, as they were companions on plein-air painting sessions and expeditions, particularly to the town of Alcalá de Guadaíra.
These activities appear to be borne out by the works he submitted to the 1885 exhibition at the Cadiz Academy showing different views of parts of the city that were published in La Ilustración Española y Americana in 1884.
In 1885 he began to contribute as an illustrator to various publications such as La Ilustración Artística – to the 1886 issue paying tribute to Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer – and took part in various competitions such as the Barcelona Universal Exhibition (1888) and the Paris Exposition Universelle (1889), and became a regular participant in the Madrid National Exhibition, where he won a second-place medal for La tarde (“Afternoon”) in 1890. Following that success his work was widely disseminated and he achieved great popularity. In 1891 his work Entrada a una huerta en Sevilla (“Entrance to an Orchard in Seville”) was acquired by the Barcelona museum and a painting entitled Sevilla (“Seville”) was purchased at the Berlin International Exhibition. Also dating from that year is Diciembre en Sevilla (“December in Seville”), now in the National Museum of Cuba in Havana.
In 1893 he entered El verano (“Summer”) in the Chicago World’s Fair and took part in the Munich Exhibition with Calle de Granada (“Street in Granada”), Mañana de marzo en Sevilla (“March Morning in Seville”) and La casa del gobernador en Tánger (“The Governor’s House in Tangiers”). He again took part in the National Exhibition in 1895, entering two works, Sevilla and La presa del Molino del Arzobispo (“The Dam at Molino del Arzobispo”), a riverside landscape of Alcalá, for which he earned a second-place medal.
In 1897 García Rodríguez took part in the exhibition organised by the Seville Athenaeum and made the first of many contributions to Blanco y Negro.
The subjects of the landscapes he painted during the final years of the century appear to extend to other places such as the Albaicín district in Granada and the coast of Cadiz, and also to coastal views and spots along the branch of the railway leading to Puerto de Santa María, Rota, Chipiona and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The painter spent his summers in Sanlúcar near La Jara beach. There he produced scenes and panoramic views of the mouth of the Guadalquivir, the beaches and the surrounding agricultural and residential area.
In 1899 he was appointed a member of the San Fernando Academy in Madrid and in 1904 he paid a new trip to Morocco, from which a few known views of Tangiers date.
During the second decade of the new century, García Rodríguez’s work and personal fame became particularly widespread. From this point onwards he divided his time between Madrid and Seville, faithfully submitting his new series of landscapes of La Jara, gardens of the Alcázar and new corners of courtyards, orchards and riverbanks to every National Exhibition of Fine Arts and to the exhibitions periodically held in Seville by the Economic Society of Friends of the Country and the Centre of Fine Arts of the Athenaeum. His relationship with José Pinelo Llull, also a landscape artist in Alcalá de Guadaíra, spurred him to take part in exhibitions in various South American capitals (1899, 1902 and 1906).
His final years were especially productive, particularly in views of the Alcázar of Seville incorporating the alterations made before the Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929. In the 1920s, shortly before his death, he discovered the city of Ronda, which inspired new plans for paintings.
While engaged in this task he died on 6 May 1925 after a peaceful, homely life.
Juan Fernández Lacomba