Antonio Berni (1905-1981)

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Born in Rosario, Santa Fe province, Argentina, in 1905, he was a painter and printmaker and one of the first Latin American surrealist artists. Also a bulwark of narrative social realism. With a particular critical gaze on society, people, the neighborhood and the street were his main inspiring muse

He was a painter and engraver and one of the first Latin American surrealist artists. Also a bulwark of narrative social realism. With a particular critical gaze on society, people, the neighborhood and the street were his main inspiring muse.

At the age of ten he enters an apprentice in a polychrome stained glass workshop. There he learns drawing. At the age of fifteen he was already very clear about his vocation. In 1925 he traveled to Europe to continue his studies with a scholarship. There he discovers the avant-garde and begins in some of the techniques (engraving and collage) and styles (Fauvism and Surrealism) that would make up his future work.

Toledo and the Religious or El Fraile, 1928

 In Paris he is related to the Argentine artists who were there, known as the “Paris Group”. He meets the Marxist philosopher Henri Lefebvre, who introduces him to the surrealist poet Louis Aragon, with whom Berni shares ideas about art’s commitment to revolution.

In 1930 he returned to Argentina and settled with his French wife and daughter in the city of Rosario. In 1931 he joined the Communist Party and, the following year, provoked the Buenos Aires public with a surreal exhibition (the first in Argentina), held at the Amigos del Arte Association. From that moment on, Berni turned to critical realism. In 1933 he participated, with David Alfaro Siqueiros, Lino Enea Spilimbergo, Juan Carlos Castagnino and Enrique Lázaro, in the realization of the mural “Plastic Exercise”, in the fifth of Natalio Botana, director of the newspaper Crítica.

Unemployed, 1934, tempera on burlap, 218 x 300 cm

 Antonio Berni, La muerte acecha en cada esquina, 1932, óleo sobre lienzo 54 x 71 cm

Death lurks in every corner, 1932, oil on canvas 54 x 71 cm

 In 1934, together with other artists, he founded the Popular Mutual Society of Students and Artists of Rosario, where he directed the school-workshop.

The Open Door, 1932, oil on cardboard, 53 x 44 cm


The woman in the red sweater, 1935, oil on burlap, 108 x 92.3 cm


Chacareros, 1936


Midnight in the world, 1937, oil on burlap, 195 x 289 cm


Between December 1941 and May 1942 he toured Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, in order to carry out pre-Columbian studies at the request of the National Culture Commission. His work “Indigenous Market” (1942), he based on photos he took during this trip.

In 1943 he obtained the Grand Prize of Honor from the National Salon and the following year, with Spilimbergo, Castagnino, Urruchúa and Colmeiro, he created the first Mural Painting Workshop.

Imágenes del mural de la Galería Pacífico en Buenos Aires cuyo panel central fue pintado por Berni Durante


Images of the mural of the Pacific Gallery in Buenos Aires whose central panel was painted by Berni During 1951, 1952, 1953 Berni went to Santiago del Estero (province of northwestern Argentina). There he made the series “Motivos santiagueños”.

Los Hacheros, 1953


Migración, 1954

 In the period 1955-1956, he will make the series “Chaco”. These paintings will be exhibited in Paris, Berlin, Warsaw and Bucharest. Aragon even presented it in Moscow at the Creuze Gallery, in 1955.

In 1960 he resumed his interest in portraying the characters that surrounded him as an instrument for social criticism. The predominant technique is material collage (made from waste materials) such as photomontage. In this period he created two characters: Juanito Laguna and Ramona Montiel. The history of these two beings will envelop him by time and with them he will transcend many more. Both “Juanitos” and “Ramonas” were quoted on the foreign market at incalculable prices.

Juanito Laguna ciruja


Juanito going up a kite, 1962, woodcut on paper 150 x 105 cm


Juanito’s Christmas, 1961, oil on burlap 300 x 200 cm


Ramona and the fortune teller, 1976


In 1962 Berni won the International Grand Prix of Engraving at the Venice Biennale. In 1966 he received the prize of the Krakow International Biennial of Engraving.

In 1976 Berni goes to New York. There he painted, made engravings, collage, and presented a sample entitled “The Magic of Everyday Life” at the Bonino Gallery. During his stay in that city, he made 58 works that remained in the Gallery for an exhibition in Texas that was never performed. In 1982, after his death, they arrived in Buenos Aires. From this era is “Airport” and The Hippies “,” Streets of New York “,” Lunch “,” Chelsea Hotel “and” Promise of Chastity “.

In 1981 he decorated the chapel of San Luis de Gonzaga with the paintings The Apocalypse and The Crucifixion.

Naked Woman in the Sand, 1981


Antonio Berni died in Buenos Aires in 1981, at the age of 76.

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