RENOWNED Spanish painter Luis Martinez Torras passed away on Sunday, January 14 at the age of 111.
He leaves behind a rich artistic legacy and a career that saw exhibitions in some of Spain’s most prestigious collections.
The maestro, who has been called “the grandfather of Galicia”, is the northern region’s oldest man.
He was quite possibly the oldest living painter in the world before his death — and was certainly the oldest in Spain.
Torras was born on December 29, 1912 in Vigo, Galicia.
In 1935 at the age of 23, he moved to Madrid to study at the San Fernando School of Fine Arts.
His studies, however, were interrupted by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936.
Torras was back in Galicia on summer vacation when the war broke out and was forced to join the fighting.
He survived to finish his studies, but not before being shot in the head, leaving him deaf.
After the war he painted prolifically and taught drawing at the School of Arts and Crafts of Vigo.
His works, which are typically still-lives, landscapes, or portraits, have been displayed all over Spain, including at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid.
A large collection of his work can be found in his hometown’s Casa de las Artes in Vigo, in addition to exhibitions in the Pontevedra Museum in Pontevedra, Galicia, as well as the Galician Museum of Contemporary Art in the Galician capital of Santiago de Compostela.
Although inspired by cubism, the painter’s touch was uniquely his own, having been described as both reflective of the modern condition and evocative of classic aesthetics.
“Luis Torras uses a realistic language as a denial of modern life, contrary to what is done, for example, by Edward Hopper, who reflects it,” writes Galician art historian Carlos L. Bernardez, comparing Torras’ work to that of the legendary American realist painter.
Drawing inspiration from the frescoes of the European masters, Torras used a soft, earthy colour palette and thick textures over rough surfaces, a technique that’s particularly notable in his striking portraits and portrayals of the Spanish countryside.
“They are works that convey an awareness of the modern condition, in which we perceive classicism as not a simple return to the past but a reformulation of the classical ideal sifted through a perception closely linked to modern values,” writes Bernardez in the profile published on the painter’s website.
According to La Voz de Galicia, the Torras’ wife and lifelong partner, Maria Jesus Incera, died just months before at the age of 100.
The couple lived together on the top floor of the family home, and reportedly were highly independent, cooking and doing household chores until very close to the end.
His daughter-in-law, Marina, told the paper that Torras’ secret to longevity was eating well, avoiding alcohol, and almost never sitting down.
“He doesn’t sit still,” she said.
“He’s always standing.”
And of course, his lifelong passion for painting kept him going.
He was reportedly still learning and acquiring new painting techniques until well past his 100th birthday.
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