César Manrique And The island Of Lanzarote
By Sue Almond.
The Tate galley in London has some of his paintings, he had an exhibition at the Catherine Viviano Gallery in new York in the 1960s and has enjoyed fame in many parts of the world, as well as in Spain, but César Manrique’s most unique legacy must surely be the very special seven monuments that he created on the island of his birth, Lanzarote.
The first of these was Jameos del Agua, in the north of the island, which Rita Hayworth described as ‘The Eighth Wonder of the World’.
It is built in several natural ‘jameos’, which are formed as bubbles in the lava during volcanic eruptions and exposed only when the roofs collapse leaving crater-like grottos of various sizes. Here, in the Casa de Volcanes, and at Timanfaya (The Fire Mountain), the island hosts students of Vulcanology from all over the world and these two sites are home to a comprehensive collection of instruments for measuring volcanic activity. The gardens, swimming pool (where only the King of Spain has exclusive swimming rights) the restaurant and the lava tunnel, which is home to tiny blind white crabs that exist elsewhere only at great depths in the ocean, are a magnificent triumph of nature and architectural imagination.
In the same year he build his house, Taro de Tahiche, in five smaller jameos, where he lived until 1987, when he moved to Haria. Above ground it is constructed of local materials and in typical Canarian style. His house is now the headquarters of the foundation that bears his name and continues to support his ideal, that the island should not be overdeveloped and that traditional building methods and materials should continue to be used. It is also the permanent home of his own personal art collection including original works by Picasso and Miró, as well as some of Manrique´s own paintings and designs.
More art of similar importance can be found at Castillo San José which was turned into a modern art gallery by Manrique in1976.
El Monumento Fecúndidad al Campesino Lanzaroteño, a 15 meter statue in the geographical centre of the island was controversial in its day but is Manrique’s tribute to the industry and ingenuity of the farmers on this arid island.
El Diablo Restaurant in the Timanfaya National park was built in 1970 and as it was impossible to hide the edifice he designed it using round shapes to blend in with the landscape.
El Mirador del Rio was built in 1973, on the site of a gun emplacement built at the end on the 19th Century, It has simple but aesthetic lines and the sculpture, created on site, was not just to please the eye but to absorb sound in such a large space.
The Cactus Garden was the last of his seven major works on the island, completed in 1991 in an old quarry where the volcanic material used to protect the soil from the sun had been excavated by farmers. It is a stunning vista of literally thousands of plants on terraces and between water features and natural rocks.
Born in Arrecife, in 1919 he first studied surveying and architecture. He was conscripted at the time of the Spanish Civil war, 1936, which, as a sensitive, artistic person he found horrific. When he returned from the fighting he is said to have gone onto the roof and symbolically burned his uniform. He went to Madrid in 1945 to study at ‘La Escuela de Belles Artes de San Fernando’ and graduated from there in 1950. He found fame in Madrid, and then the rest of Spain and Europe and, later, particularly in Japan and the USA.
When he returned to Lanzarote in the 1960s, he was of an age where many people of power and importance there were his friends from childhood, such as José Ramirez Cerda, the President of the Cabildo (the Government of the Canary Islands) and Louís Morales a builder working for the Cabildo who with architect, Jesús Soto constructed Jameos del Agua from Manrique´s plans. With these allies Manrique was a huge influence in promoting sustainable tourism and preventing the construction of high-rise buildings, and the over-development of the island. He, with his contemporaries, worked tirelessly to persuade the local people to maintain their traditional style of architecture and the natural beauty of the island. He had a refrain, ‘Art and Nature, Nature and Art.
Manrique remained a vigorous and energetic man up until he died on 25 September 1992 following a car accident. He is buried in Haria.
Blog: 60 (Category: Lanzarote) Tags:Writing Prose,Writing for Blogging,Journalism
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