About this Piece
In addition to using the shape and theme of two tablets, referencing a liturgical format, the group of figures that stretch across the central part of the composition reference frescos in the Brancacci Chapel in Italy painted by Masolino and Masaccio, and ultimately finished by Filippino Lippi. The Brancacci Chapel is in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence. According to Wikipedia, it is sometimes called the "Sistine Chapel of the early Renaissance" for its frescos, amongst the most famous and influential of the period.
As with most of his work, Zapata often references historic themes or objects that carry historic reverence and he strives to bring these elements into a modern-day context and relevance. His working method is a balancing act of building up a surface and then tearing back into it, painting the surface and then scratching back through the paint to reveal lower layers, and he stops this process when he feels an equilibrium has been reached.
About the Artist
Miguel was born in Cuenca, Spain in 1940. By the time he reached the age of 17, he had shown great promise as an artist. At the urging of his father who was a prominent attorney, Miguel enrolled in law school at the University of Madrid. He found that law was not his path and when he did not appear for the final law exam, his father cut off financial help. Miguel fell into the bohemian life of an artist. Thereafter, he self-directed his education to become what Luis Martin described as, “the greatest Renaissance mind that I have encountered in my life.” For several years he survived by taking odd jobs and offering his services as a portrait artist in taverns around Madrid. Gaining some success with his easel paintings, in 1960, Miguel moved to Barcelona where he joined a commune of artists. In 1964, he moved to Paris to take a job in the theatre, designing sets and costumes. He moved back to Madrid in 1967 and lived with a physician friend, paying his rent with drawings. Miguel quickly discovered that he had an aptitude and a great interest in medicine so he enrolled in medical school. In his fourth year, he was asked to leave when he participated in a demonstration to protest how medical funds were being diverted from their intended use. In 1972, Miguel moved back to Cuenca and focused exclusively on his art.
Miguel Zapata’s association with Texas began in 1986 when the Meadows Museum in Dallas honored him with his first US exhibition and a catalogue. Miguel was chosen by Donald E. Knaub, then Director of the Meadows, because “...he bridges in imagery the Golden Age of Spanish art with the second half of the twentieth century.” By appropriating the visual vocabulary of works from the Spanish Golden Age, Greco-Roman art and architecture and art of the Italian Renaissance as design elements in his work, and reinterpreting these powerful images of the past, he gave them a new, modern relevance.
The warm welcome Miguel and the love of his life, Begoña del Valle-Iturriaga, received in Dallas prompted him to acquire a home and studio here, allowing him to divide his time between Spain and Texas. Miguel began an association with Adams-Middleton Gallery in Dallas, and also showed with galleries in Santa Fe and Miami. Since 1996, his work has been represented by Valley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden in Dallas. Since 1959, Miguel had 70 solo exhibitions in Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the United States and Japan. In addition to the many large commissions Miguel executed in Spain, commissions in the US include a portrait of Juan Carlos I, the King of Spain, that hangs in the foyer of the Meadows Museum in Dallas; an exhibition for the City of Pensacola, Florida, in 2009, to honor the city’s 450th anniversary of its founding; and an equestrian portrait drawing of George Washington that was commissioned as a gift for the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas.
Miguel’s largest public commission in the US, Texas Door, a 12 foot tall bronze, was installed at Texas State University-San Marcos in 2013. It was inspired by an earlier commission to replace the aging 20 foot tall doors of La Iglesia del Salvador in Cuenca, Spain that was completed in 2000. Using this monumental door format, Miguel worked for 10 years on drawings, mixed media works and bronzes to refine his concept of telling the story of Texas’ independence using vignettes illustrating the great moments and men in Texas history. His Texas Door is a fitting tribute to the affection that Zapata had for his adopted home.
Miguel Zapata returned to Spain in November 2013. He was laid to rest in Cuenca, Spain.