Biography Claudio Bravo

Born: November 8, 1936
Valparaiso, Chile

Died: June 4, 2011
Taroudant, Morocco

Field: Painting

Training: Colegio San Ignacio (Santiago de Chile) and Miguel Venegas Cifuentes’ studio

Movement: Hyperrealism

Influenced by: Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Henri Matisse, Francis Bacon, Giorgio Morandi, Lucian Freud, Antonio López-Garcia, Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Zurbarán, Juan Sánchez Cotán, Juan van der Hamen, and Luis de Meléndez.


  • Hall of Fame Honoree (from The Pastel Society of America, New York in 1996).
  • Gran Cruz de Alfonso X El Sabio (from Alfonso X El Sabio, Madrid, Spain in 2000).
  • International Distinguished Artist Award (from Art Miami, Miami, Florida0 in 200).
  • Gold Medal of Honor (from Casita Maria, Bronx, New York in 2005).

Claudio Bravo (November 8, 1936 – June 4, 2011) 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.

Early Life and Education in Chile
Bravo was born in Valparaíso, Chile, to Tomás Bravo Santibáñez and Laura Camus Gómez. His father was a successful businessman who also owned a ranch, and his mother was a housewife. They had seven children: María Inés, Claudio Bravo, Patricia, Ana María, José Tomás, Hernán, and Ximena. One of his earliest childhood memories was being put on a horse at the age of three. [1]
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.[1] 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.[2]
In 1954, he had his first exhibition at “Salón 13” in Santiago at the age of 17. It consisted of mostly oil paintings with some red chalk drawings. The exhibit received good reviews and was considered a great success. All the works were sold, although they went to family and friends.[3] He became very involved in the cultural scene of Santiago and was influenced by people such as Luis Oyarzun, a poet and philosopher. Bravo and Oyarzun hitchhiked together throughout Chile with Oyarzun acting as a teach of philosophy, art, and life. Benjamín Subercaseaux was another friend who encouraged Bravo to expand his knowledge through reading. In 1955, he danced professionally with the Compañía de Ballet de Chile and worked for Teatro de Ensayo of the Universidad Católica de Chile and had his second exhibition at “Salón 13”.[1]

Madrid, Spain

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.[1]
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.[2]
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.[3]

Package Paintings
White and Yellow Package, 2005, oil on canvas, 36″ x 28 5/8″.
With Spain under Franco’s rule, most art was constrained to his ultra right-wing policies. Bravo’s portraits appealed to the conservative public, but he became frustrated with the lack of intellectual values concerning art. His art shifted one day when he three visiting sisters brought home some packages and left them on the table. He was fascinated by their forms and the texture of the paper they were wrapped with. Bravo’s first exhibit in Spain, at the Galería Fortuny in 1963, had all types of paintings, including these new package ones.[2]
White and Yellow Package, painted in 2005, is a good example of Bravo’s continuation of the parcel series. One of the first things to catch the eye is his use of trompe l’oeil, a technique from the Baroque period meaning “to deceive the eye”, used to create the illusion of three-dimensionality. This painting style is similar to his approach to still lifes and helps to emphasize the tactile qualities of the paper. The way the package fills the frame elevates its status in a similar manner to what Pop art was doing in the 60s when he began. It also abstracts the package, almost breaking it into clean color blocks, if it weren’t for the string keeping it contained. This abstraction is similar to Rothko’s paintings that employ fields of color and encourage almost a meditative state.
While similar to modern movements, White and Yellow Package also mimics the old masters and their use of draping cloth. Bravo’s use of light is similar to that of Caravaggio, a Baroque painter who used a dramatic lighting style called tenebrism to highlight a climatic moment and to bring attention to the front plane by concealing the background in darkness. Many of Caravaggio’s works were spiritual and Bravo’s Catholic upbringing left him with interest in themes of ritual, mystery, spirituality, death, and the idea of saints. This connection is made obvious through the title of one of his pieces, Homage to St. Theresa, also oil on canvas painted in 1969. A subtle reference to commercialism lingers in the simple fact that it is a parcel, but the mystery of what the paper conceals seems to be more important. The package is teasing the viewer by slowly opening up and while the internal structure is hinted at, it will never be revealed. In this painting, the act of teasing also becomes sexual, reinforced by the color scheme that resembles an egg – a symbol for rebirth and fertility. Overall, White and Yellow Package showcases his exceptional ability as a painter and is a fascinating mix of contemporary imagery done with traditional values.

New York
In 1969, Bravo met Melvin Blake and Frank Purnell who were in Spain collecting art – especially figure and surrealist pieces. They encouraged him to move to the United States and helped him get connected to the art scene. He moved into an apartment in the East Side of Manhattan.[4] In 1970, Bravo had his first exhibition at the Staempfli Gallery in New York, receiving rave reviews from renowned New York Times art critic John Canaday. Years later, when Bravo’s work reflected the hippie movement, Canaday would refer to Bravo’s work as “cheap and vulgar”.

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.[4] 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.[5] 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.
He hadn’t intended on staying in Morocco, but it was there that he found the colors and light he had been searching for. Bravo considered what he was able to paint “…symphonies of color.” Morocco quickly became the place that he considered to be home and with his gardens and view, Bravo rarely needed to leave his house. However, in an attempt to reconnect with the Moroccan world around him, he bought a second home in Marrakech that became his winter residence. Later, Bravo purchased a third home in Taroudant.[4] Though Bravo’s style is hyper-realistic in nature, he rejected the assumption that he based his work on photographic imagery. Instead, Bravo had a daily ritual of painting that began with a walk in the garden and ended after he spent hours in his studio painting a present subject. He took his dedication to painting very seriously and tried to paint every day.[6]
Still lifes, packages and figurative paintings make up the majority of these works created in Morocco. While these all have connections to his previous work, they became infused with Moroccan culture. His use of Surrealism becomes more prominent as well, noticeable in his juxtaposition of objects, dreamlike compositions and ethereal backgrounds.[1] Bravo became interested in the spiritual aspects of the Islamic culture that had a sense of religious intensity that matched his preoccupation with mystery and spirituality. Many view his works as being a hybrid of multiple religions and styles – traditional techniques with contemporary sensibilities, Biblical saints displaced in a Moroccan world, and exotic objects next to common Western imagery. This is supported by the fact that despite his interest in his surroundings, Bravo rejected the label of Orientalist because he did not consider himself to be a part of any particular culture but rather a man interested in many. Though he was fascinated by the Arab world around him, his use of exotic objects and imagery was not done as an attempt to merge his work with the culture.[4]

The artist died at his home in Taroudant, Morocco, on June 4, 2011, due to an epilepsy attack.
Works by Bravo are included in the collections of El Museo del Barrio, New York, the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile; Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City, Mexico; Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany; The Palmer Museum of Art, State College, Pennsylvania; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Solo Exhibitions

1954 – Salón 13, Santiango, Chile
1955 – Salón 13, Santiago, Chile
1961 – Universidad de Concepción Chile
1963 – Galería Fortuny, Madrid, Spain
1965 – Galería Edurne, Madrid Spain (through 1966)
1967 – Galería Fortuny, Madrid Spain
1968 – Luz Gallery, Manila, Philippines
1970 – Staempfli Gallery, New York, New York
1971 – Galería Egam, Madrid, Spain
1972 – Staempfli Gallery, New York, New York
1974 – Galería Vandrés, Madrid, Spain
Staempfli Gallery, New York, New York
1976 – Galerie Claude Berndard, Paris, France
1978 – Staempfli Gallery, New York, New York
1980 – FIAC (Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain), Grand Palais, Paris, France
1981 – Galerie Levy, Hamburg, Germany
Marlborough Gallery, New York, New York
1982 – Museo de Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico
1983 – ARCO, Madrid, Spain
Marlborough Fine Arts, London, Great Britain
1984 – Galería Quintana, Bogota, Colombia
Marlborough Gallery, New York, New York
1985 – Marlborough Gallery, New York, New York
1987 – Marlborough Fine Art, Tokyo, Japan (through 1988)
Elvehjem Museum of Art University of Wisconsin, Madison;
then to Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist University, Dallas Texas,
then Duke University Museum of Art, Durham, North Carolina
1989 – Marlborough Gallery, New York, New York
1991 – Marlborough Gallery, New York, New York
1992 – FIAC Grand Palais Paris, France
1993 – Carlsten Art Gallery, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin
Museo del Grabado Español Contemporaneo, Granada, Spain (through 1994)
1994 – Museo Nacional de Bellas Arte, Santiago Chile
1995 – Galeía Marlborough, Madrid, Spain
1997 – Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, Florida
1998 – Marlborough Gallery, New York, New York
1999 – Marlborough Gallery, Madrid, Spain
2000 – Marlborough Gallery, Boca Raton, Florida
Marlborough Gallery, New York, New York
2001 – Marlborough Monaco, Monaco
2003 – Marlborough Gallery, New York, New York [7]

Group Exhibitions
1971 – Art of Dream, La Jolla Museum of Art, La Jolla, California
1972 – Documenta 5, Kassel, Germany
Humor, Satire and Irony, Art Center, The New School for Social Research, New York, New York
Sharp Focus Realism, Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, New York
La Paloma, Galería Vandrés, Madrid, Spain
1973 – Artes hyper-realistes, Galerie des Quatre Mouvements, Paris, France
Hyper-realisme: maîtres américains et européens, Galerie Isy Brachot, Brussels, Belgium
Contemporary Sapnish Realits, Marlborough Fine Art London, Great Britain
Réalisme Relativiste, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium
Tropic of Cancer – Tropic of Capricon: Contemporary Latin American Art, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts
Super Realist Vision, De Cordoba Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts
Jovenes en torno a la figuración, Torre del Merino IV Exposicíon de Arte Actual, Santillana del Mar, Madrid, Spain
1974 – Ars 1974: Alternatives of Realism, The Fine Arts Academy of Finland, Helsinki, Finland
Drawings, Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York, New York
Kijken naar de werkelijkheid Amerikaanse Hyperrealisten-Europese realisten, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
1976 – Modern Portraits – The Self and Others, Wildenstein & Co., New York, New York
Aspects of Realism, traveled through 30 Canadian museums til 1978
1977 – Illusion and Reality, traveled through Australian museums til 1978
1979 – Figurative/Realist Art, Marlborough Gallery (a concurrent exhibition with Brooke Alexander, Terry Dintenfass, Fisbach, Alan
Frumkin, and Kornblee Galleries, New York, New York)
1980 – Realism and Latin American Painting: The Seventies, Center for Inter-American Relations, New York, and Museo de
Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico
Latin American Paintings, Latin American Gallery of the Metropolitan Museum and Art Center, Miami, Florida
Printed Art: A View of Two Decades, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York
1981 – International Contemporary Art, Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City, Mexico
1982 – Drawings, Nahora Haime Gallery, New York, New York
Important Paintings by European Figurative Artists, F.I.A.C., Grand Palais, Paris, France; and Marlborough Gallery, New York, New York
Homo Sapiens: The Many Images, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut
Drawing, Inter-American Art Gallery, New York, New York
Forty-Eight Carnegie International Exhibition, Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington
1983 – Works on Paper by: Arikha, Botero, Bravo, Grooms, Katz, Kitaj, López-García, Petlin, Rivers, Welliver, Marlborough Gallery,
New York, New York
Nummer 6, Herbst ‘3, Galerie Levy, Hamburg, Germany
1984 – International Masters of Contemporary Figuration, Marlborough Fine Art, Tokyo, Japan
1985 – 16th Annual Invitational Contemporary Narrative Figurative Painting, Payne Gallery of Art, Moravian College, Bethlehem,
El Desnudo: Oleos Dibujos, Esculturas, Galeria Alfred Wild, Bogota, Colombia
Nummer 8, Herbst ’85, Galerie Levy, Hamburg, Germany
Plastica Chilena Horizonte Universal, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Chile
Pastels, Nohra Haime Gallery, New York, New York
The Classic Tradition in Painting and Sculpture, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art Ridgefield, Connecticut
Twentieth Century American and European Artists, Claude Berndard Gallery, New York, New York
1986 – The Foundation Veranneman Invites Marlborough, Foundation Veranneman, Kruishoutem, Belgium (through 1987)
1987 – The First America: Selections from the Nancy Sayles Day Collection of Latin American Art, Center for Inter-American
Relations, New York New York
Recent Developments in Latin American Drawing, The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois
Recent Works by Arikha, Bacon, Botero, Bravo, Grooms, Katz, Kitaj, López García, Mason, Rivers, Welliver, Marlborough Gallery, New York
1988 – Visions/Revisions: A Contemporary Representation, Marlborough Gallery, New York, New York
Nummer 9, Herbst ’88, Galerie Levy, Hamburg, Germany
1989 – Art in Latin America: the Modern Era, 1820-1980, The Hayward Gallery, London, Great Britain
1990 – ARCO 90, Madrid, Soain
Ocho Artistas Latinoamericanos, Galería Fernando Quintanta, Bogotá, Columbia
Marlborough en Pelaires, Centre Cultural Contemporani Pelaires, Palma de Mallorca, Spain
1991 – Realismos: Arte Contemporáneo Español, Ashai Shimbun, Nihonbashi, Takashimaya, Tokoyo, Japan; Nanha Takashimaga,
Oasaka, Japan; Shijo Takashimaga, Kiota, Japan; Takashimaya, Yokohama, Jaan
Latin American Drawing Today, San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California
Selections from the Mary Crosby Kemper Collection, Kansas City, Missouri
Paintings, Sculpture and Works on Paper by: Abakanowicz, Arikha, Auerbach, Bacon, Botero, Bravo, Grooms, Katz, Kitaj, Lipchitz, López García, Rivers, Schwitters, Valdés, Marlborough Gallery, New York, New York
1992- Jardín de Vidrio, Galería Leandro Navarro, Madrid, Spain
On Paper, Marlborough Gallery, New York, New York
1993 – Drawings III, Koplin Gallery, Santa Monica, California
1994 – The Human Body, Nohra Haime Gallery, New York, New York
Debut: Selections from the Permanent Collection of the Kansas City Art Institute, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, Kansas City, Missouri
1995 – 3 Continents: Botero, Bravo, Rivers, Valdés, A.M.S. Marlborough, Santiago, Chile
Bravo/Tamayo/Toledo, Marlborough Graphics, New York, New York
1996 – On Paper, Marlborough Gallery, New York, New York
Paper Visions: A Biennial Exhibition of Works on Paper by 24 Contemporary Latin American Artists, Housatonic Museum of Art, Bridgeport, Connecticut
Latin Viewpoints into the Mainstream, Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, New York
Su Carta, Galleria d’arte il gabbiano, Rome, Italy
1997 – ART 1997 CHICAGO: 5th Annual Expo of International Galleries Featuring Modern and Contemporary Art, Navy Pier,
1998 – Forma y Figuracion: obras maestras de la coleccion Blake-Purnell, Museo Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain
2000 – Art Miami 2000, International Art Exposition, Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami, Florida
2001 – Latin American Art: La Belleza y la Fuerza, Elkon Gallery, New York, New York
Between Earth and Heaven: New Classical Movements in the Art of Today, Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Ostend, Belgium
2003 – Transforming the Commonplace, Susquehanna Art Museum, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
A Singular Vision: Works from the Melvin Blake & Frank Purnell Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts [7]

Public Collections
Archer M. Huntington Gallery of Art, University of Texas (Austin, Texas)
Art Museum, Florida International University (Miami, Florida)
Art Museum, Princeton University (Princeton, New Jersey)
Ateneum Art Museum (Helsinki, Finland)
Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, Maryland)
Doane College Museum (Crete, Nebraska)
Gibbes Museum of Art (Charleston, South Carolina)
Indiana University Art Museum (Bloomington, Indiana)
Kansas City Art Institute (Kansas City, Missouri)
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (Kansas City, Missouri)
Mitter Heinisches Landesmuseum (Mairiz, Germany)
Museo de Arte Abstracto (Cuenca, Spain)
Museo de Arte de Ponce (Ponce, Puerto Rico)
Museo de Artes Visuales, Colección Santa Cruz-Yaconi (Santiago, Chile)
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Santiago, Chile)
Museum Boymans-van Beuningen (Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Museum of Art, University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, Massachusetts)
Peter Ludwig Museum (Cologne, Germany)
Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Rufino Tamayo Museum of International Contemporary Art (Mexico City, Mexico)
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, New York)
The Metropolitan Museum and Arts Center (Miami, Florida)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, New York)
The Museum of Modern Art (New York, New York) [7]