Ricardo López Cabrera
Cantillana, 1864 - Seville, 1950
Ricardo López Cabrera was born in Cantillana (Seville) on 24 September 1864. Under the protection of Francisco Palazuelos he moved to the Andalusian capital to study at the School of Fine Arts under the master Eduardo Cano de la Peña (1823–1897).
In 1887 he was awarded a travel grant from the Sevillian Diputación (provincial council) to study in Rome. During this formative period, in addition to studying the historicist aesthetic of the day and furthering his skills in academic drawing, he gradually shaped his artistic personality in a completely opposite direction that was more in tune with his sensibility to everyday themes, and genre scenes, portraits and landscape paintings therefore accounted for most of his output. During those years as a student in Rome he painted Un gladiador victorioso (“A Victorious Gladiator”), a work notable for its skilled draughtsmanship and now in the Seville Museum of Fine Arts.
On returning to Spain in 1892, he came into contact with the great painter José Jiménez Aranda (1837–1903), with whom he established ties that were not only personal – they became relatives after he married Jiménez Aranda’s daughter – but also artistic, as they shared the same aesthetic and cultural tastes.
López Cabrera was not attracted by prizes and honours and mainly exhibited his work in private circles, particularly at the start of his career. It was only later on that he took part in the National Exhibitions of 1892 and 1895 with genre paintings such as El cuento del abuelo (“The Grandfather’s Tale”) – also shown at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 – and La nana (“The Lullaby”), winning medals third-class for both. He was awarded a second-place medal in that of 1897 for El mercado de Sevilla (“The Seville Market”), a painting with a pronouncedly genre flavour.
When the painter Federico Eder died in 1906, López Cabrera was appointed an academician of merit of the Seville Academy of Fine Arts and a drawing instructor at the school. He held this post until 1909, when he travelled to Argentina. The income from his teaching job at the Provincial School of Fine Arts in Cordoba (Argentina) and the constant commissions he received for portraits allowed him to explore his creativity not only in painting but also in music during his fifteen-year stay in the country, by composing and masterfully performing works on the violin.
The execution of a large allegorical painting measuring more than eight metres wide for the ceiling of the Graduation Hall of Cordoba University and its irreversible deterioration throughout the following decade brought his stay to a bitter end and he returned to Spain in 1923 with plans to produce fifteen triptychs on Spanish regional customs from an ethnographic approach, in the style of Sorolla’s Vision of Spain for the Hispanic Society in New York. This purely personal project executed over a five-year period met with great success when it was shown at the Circle of Fine Arts in Madrid in 1928; the set was later dispersed on the Catalan art market.
Totally isolated from painting during the last years of his life, he died in Seville on 7 January 1950. Shortly afterwards his son, the well-known art critic Bernardino de Pantorba, wrote a biography of him.