Echevarría, Juan de

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Juan de Echevarría

Bilbao, 1875

Madrid, 1931


The son of industrialist Federico Echevarría, his education from childhood was directed at taking over the administration of his father’s business concerns. He received a cosmopolitan upbringing: he did his Baccalaureate in France and studied for a degree in engineering in both England and Germany. Around 1900 he returned to his native city and took over the management of the family steel business, a position he left two years later following the death of his mother. It was then that he decided to devote himself entirely to painting. His artistic training began in Bilbao, at the studio of Manuel Losada, a painter strongly related with Basque localism. In the Basque capital he mingled with the artistic and intellectual circles of that time: Unamuno, Gutiérrez Abascal, Guiard, Iturrino and Regoyos

From 1903 he continued his artistic education in Paris, where he attended the Rodolphe Julien Academy and went to the gatherings at the Café Lapin Agile, frequented by Picasso, Degas, Zuloaga and Gauguin, among others. In 1908 he married Enriqueta Normand Böer. Three years later, thanks to the intervention of his friend Paco Durrio, he was admitted to the Parisian Autumn Salon, where he won the praise of Guillaume Apollinaire

Following the outbreak of the First World War, he moved to Spain where, before settling in Madrid, he spent two seasons in Granada and Ávila. In the south, he painted Albaicín scenes and compositions of the Roma people, displaying a primitivism similar to Gauguin. A few months later, he inaugurated his first solo exhibition at the Society of Basque Arts in Bilbao, of which he was an active member. The exhibition featured several drawings of Ondárroa, which were exhibited again in 1917 at the Ateneo de Madrid show. In the capital, he produced portraits of several Spanish artists and intellectuals, especially from the generation of 1898, such as Pío Baroja, Azorín, Valle-Inclán, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Unamuno, Maeztu, etc., whom he had met at the gatherings in the Café del Gato Negro. He also composed numerous still lifes and landscapes in a style reminiscent of Fauvist chromaticism and Gauguin’s compositions, influenced by the circles in which he moved during his time in France. The Basque regionalist painting of the beginning of the century also had an impact on his work, especially the work of artist Adolfo Guiard. 

In 1923 he held a new solo exhibition in the Salón de los Amigos del Arte in Madrid, an experience he would repeat two years later. On this particular occasion, Juan de la Encina wrote in La Voz: “He has lived like a patient Benedictine, tireless, thoughtful, deeply tortured by his own sensitivity, always unsatisfied, under pressure, terrible in the critical sense that he turns furiously against his own creations.” His last solo exhibition was held at the Witcomb Gallery in Buenos Aires in 1927, four years before his death. 

Isabel Menéndez