Starting in 1909, Luis Fernández lived in Barcelona, where he combined his studies with his work in a jewelry store initially and later in a photographic studio. In 1912 he enrolled in the School of Fine Arts where he met the person he would later come to regard as his mentor, José Mongrell y Torrent. From 1917 he worked in trades related mainly to typography, specializing in the offset technique.
In the early 1920s he decided to go to Paris, and by 1924 he was already working at a Parisian printing company. He came into contact with the Spanish artists living in the city, such as Bores, Viñes, Ángeles Ortiz and De la Serna. In 1925 he took part in the Exhibition of Iberian Artists in Madrid. The next year he joined the purist movement of Ozenfant and Le Corbusier. In 1927 he was admitted to the Masonic lodge of Fraternité du Grand Orient de France.
In the late 1920s, his work was strongly influenced by Mondrian and the De Stijl movement. In 1931 he was one of the founders of Abstraction-Creation, a group with which he collaborated until 1934. He also made contact through Josep Lluís Sert with the Group of Catalan Architects and Technicians for the Progress of Contemporary Architecture (GATCPAC), and his first writings on art were published in its magazine AC (Documents of Contemporary Activity), followed by articles in D’Ací i d’Allá and Cahiers d’Art.
In 1936 his period of dedication to geometric abstraction came to a close and he moved closer to surrealism; his friendship with Éluard and Breton defined his career from then on. He took part in various group exhibitions and collaborated with Picasso on the curtain design for the play 14 Juillet by Romain Rolland.
One year later, in Barcelona, he got involved in safeguarding Spanish artistic heritage during the war. Once the Spanish Civil War had ended, he joined the exhibitions organized by Spanish artists exiled abroad to express their condemnation of the Franco dictatorship. During the 1940s he distanced himself from surrealism in a move towards Picasso’s influence, and created various animal heads with a dramatic and expressive language. Later on his work became more subdued in terms of both its subject matter and aesthetics, as well as in the execution process.
In 1950 he held his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Pierre in Paris. This defined his style at the time, revisiting the theoretical analyses of his early years in different series. From 1948 he painted the landscapes of Bordeaux, which he used to visit with his wife. In 1954, after his wife’s death, he had a nervous breakdown, after which he focused mainly on the themes of seascapes and farm animals.
His exhibitions in the 1960s did not achieve the anticipated success. In 1972, one year before his death, the National Museum of Modern Art in France organized an anthological exhibition of his work at the Rothschild Palace.
Noemi de Haro