Background: Claudio Bravo was born in Valparaíso, Chile on November 8, 1936. Claudio was a Chilean hyperrealist painter. He was greatly influenced by Renaissance and Baroque artists, as well as Surrealist painters such as Salvador Dalí. He lived and worked in Tangier, Morocco, beginning in 1972. Bravo also lived in Chile, New York and Spain. He was known mainly for his paintings of still lifes, portraits and packages, but he had also done drawings, lithographs, engraving and figural bronze sculptures. Bravo painted many prominent figures in society, including dictator Franco of Spain, President Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady Imelda Marcos of the Philippines and Malcolm Forbes.
Education: In 1945, he left the family ranch to join the Colegio San Ignacio (Santiago de Chile)|Colegio San Ignacio in Santiago, Chile, where he excelled in choir, literature and music. In order to raise his grades in math, physics or chemistry, he would give his teacher a portrait. The prefect, Father Dusseul, noticed his self-taught artistic ability and paid for him to study art in the studio of Miguel Venegas Cienfuentes in Santiago. Eventually, Bravo’s father granted him permission to take the classes and took over the responsibility of paying for them. Bravo studied under Venegas from the age of 11 to 20 and it was the only formal art training he ever received. Bravo’s developing hyperrealist style was encouraged by Venegas who was known for being a strong supporter of the realist movement in Chile. Chile has a strong tie to European arts and did not experience a large modernist movement that other Latin American countries did
Achievements: At 21, Bravo began doing portraits in Concepción, Chile, and quickly gained many commissions. He saved his earnings and bought a ticket aboard the Amerigo Vespucci to sail to Paris. The trip, however, was very stormy and Bravo got off at Barcelona and made his way to Madrid where he stayed. Bravo established himself in Madrid in the 1960s as a society portraitist, gaining recognition for his astounding ability to create verisimilitude. His ability to depict complex objects and shapes is reminiscent of Velázquez. There was even a dress designer, Balenciaga, whose dresses had a Renaissance quality to them. Bravo made women of nobility purchase one of Balenciaga’s works before he agreed to do their portrait. A year and two months after his arrival, he was already painting Franco’s daughter.
His interest in Renaissance and Baroque works came from his many visits to the Museo del Prado in Madrid where he admired paintings done by old Spanish and Italian masters. Specifically he was inspired by Diego Velázquez for his light effects, Francisco de Zurbarán’s cloth studies, Juan Sánchez Cotán’s still lifes, Juan van der Hamen who popularized still life painting in Madrid, and Luis de Meléndez who had great technical skill in using light to depict texture.
In 1968, Bravo received an invitation from President Marcos of the Philippines to come and paint him and his wife, Imelda Marcos, as well as members of the high society. He spent six months there doing portraits and traveling. Bravo found that the quality of light there was more intense than in Spain or Chile and it transformed how he painted while there. He held an exhibit at the Luz Gallery in Manila where he displayed over 50 works.
Bravo’s relationship with the New York art scene stayed strong, but he began to feel the gray cement and urban setting affecting his work. That, paired with the active social demands in both New York and Spain, caused him to start looking for a new place where he could dedicate more of his time to painting. Not wanting to cut himself off completely from his friends in Madrid, Bravo decided to spend some time in Morocco. The fact that was a completely different place in almost every aspect of life (religion, language, clothing, etc.) was intriguing to him. Bravo moved to Tangier in 1972, where he purchased a 19th-century three-story mansion. He had many of the walls removed, and the remaining walls were painted white to encourage the Mediterranean light so present in his paintings.