Penagos, Rafael de

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Rafael de Penagos

Madrid, 1889

Madrid, 1954


Rafael de Penagos is, without a doubt, the great graphic illustrator of the first half of the 20th century in Spain. From the beginning of his career, he made numerous drawings to illustrate the collection La Novela Ilustrada and participated in the traditional poster contests held by the Teatro Real and the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid. In the Spanish capital, Penagos is immersed in the cultural environment, and is part of the gatherings at Café Nuevo Levante, which brought together the Madrid intellectuals. Penagos became close friends with Valle-Inclán, the Baroja brothers, Romero de Torres, Arteta and Anselmo Miguel Nieto.

Between 1913 and 1914 he traveled to Paris and London, where he soaked up the new ways of life emerging at the dawn of the First World War. Back in Madrid, he often collaborated in the most important illustrated magazines of the time, such as La Esfera, Nuevo Mundo, Blanco y Negro and ABC. There he displayed his genius, constructing in his illustrations a new type of feminine, which began to develop in the society of the time, and which, in Spain, became known as “the Penagos woman”.

In parallel to his collaborations in the press, Penagos made several advertising posters, worked for the house of Gal and continued his work as an illustrator of books for the famous collection Cuentos de Calleja. In the 1920s, his merit was internationally recognized and, in 1925, he was awarded the gold medal at the International Exhibition of Decorative Art in Paris.

Professor of Drawing at the San Fernando School of Fine Arts in Madrid since 1935, Penagos also worked at the Cervantes Institute in Madrid, along with Antonio Machado, and later at the Luis Vives and Obrero institutes in Valencia. Between 1948 and 1952 he lived in Chile and later in Buenos Aires. A year before his death, he returned to Spain, where cartoonists and writers paid him a heartfelt tribute.