Maruja Mallo: life, works and curiosities – THE SINSOMBRERO

Maruja Mallo was a painter of the Generation of 27 and one of the greatest speakers of cubism and surrealism in Spain. She is part of the group of women artists known as The Hatless. Although for years he fell into oblivion due to his exile motivated by the Spanish Civil War, here we tell you everything about his life, his works and some of his anecdotes.

Who is Maruja Mallo: biography

Maruja Mallo was born under the name of Ana María Gómez González in Nursery (Lugo) in 1902. Due to her father’s work they moved to Avilés in 1913 where Maruja entered the School of Arts and Crafts where she would meet the painter Luis Bayón and with whom she would later meet again in Madrid.

Maruja Mallo in the Generation of 27

In 1922 another transfer for Maruja’s family arrived, this time to Madrid where she would start studying at the Royal Academy of San Fernando along with his brother Christian. He combined these studies at the same time with the Julio de Moisés Free Academy. It is in Madrid where he meets with the entire generation of 27 and surrounds himself with personalities from the arts such as Dalí, Lorca, Concha Méndez, Buñuel, María Zambrano or Margarita Manso. It is said that she was inseparable from Dalí and Lorca but that his best friends were always Concha Méndez and Margarita Manso. Since Dalí and Lorca were also inseparable from Buñuel, Mallo would also relate to the film director but they never hit it off very well. In fact, it is said that Bunuel, every time he saw Maruja he said «The menstruation contest is open!». Later, Margarita Manso would say in interviews that although they did not expect the success of any of them, the one they least expected was Buñuel since they even knew him as “Buñuel’s brute”. However, they would share an anecdote like the one in which Lorca and Buñuel, together with Maruja and Margarita Manso, were on their way to the Silos Monastery to listen to Gregorian chant when they were barred from entering the entrance because “skirts don’t go here.” It was then that Mallo and Manso took Lorca and Buñuel’s jackets as pants so they could pass.

*Maruja Mallo with Ernestina Champourcí and Salvador Dalí

With whom, without a doubt, he shared more than a friendship was with Raphael Alberto. It is said that they had many comings and goings due to the proposal of free love that Maruja Mallo always professed and that Alberti did not quite fit in. Although they argued a lot, they say that they could not live without each other. One of the best known anecdotes of the two was the tragedy that happened when Maruja was driving with her friend Mauricio Roesset (brother of another of Las sinsombrero, Marga Gil Röesset who committed suicide because of the impossible love he felt for Juan Ramón Jiménez) who was driving him. They had an accident and Maruja was seriously injured with a lot of blood. When her friend saw her bloodied she thought she had killed him and she killed herself. When he found out about her whole event, Alberti, who had gotten angry with Maruja and had separated from her, quickly returned to Madrid to reconcile with her.

*Maruja Mallo and Rafael Alberti

In 1927 he joined the painter Benjamín Palencia to found the first Vallecas School. Throughout the decade of the years he worked in various literary publications such as El Almanaque Literario, La Gaceta Literaria or The Magazine of the WestFounded by Ortega y Gasset, who knows his paintings and is so amazed by them that he decides to mount an exhibition in the magazine. It was the first and only exhibition hosted by the Revista de Occidente and it was a great success.

Maruja Mallo and The Sinsombrero

*The hatless

Another well-known anecdote of the group is the one in which Dalí, Manso and Mallo decided to take off their hats, which at that time was a sign of a high position in society or even synonymous with having studies. Maruja herself recounted that they were stoned as they passed through the Puerta del Sol, calling them “faggots” because, as the painter explains in an interview, “it is known that by not wearing a hat they identified us with the third sex.” The three had to take refuge in the underground while Dalí continued to provoke them, confirming that they were indeed of the “third sex”. Due to this anecdote, the women who were part of the Generation of 27 are known as the Sinsombrero. There is a whole project underway to make them known since many of them have been hidden, giving only relevance in history to their male companions. You can find more information at Among the works they carry out is a book about them and two documentaries produced by RTVE. Here are the two documentaries:

Maruja Mallo during the Second Spanish Republic

During the 1930s Maruja collaborated with Alberti on some creations such as the sets for Santa Casilda or on books such as I was a fool and what I have seen has made me two fools. During these years she too, she paints her series of Sewers and Bell Towers.

In 1932 she received a scholarship to go to Paris where she would meet painters of the stature of Miró, Breton or Magrittewhom he will deeply admire and from whom he will take clear influences to begin his surrealist stage in which he will have successes such as his exhibition at the Perre Loeb Gallery or the creation of his incredible work the Scarecrow, considered one of the great works of surrealism.

In 1933 he returned to Madrid to collaborate with the Iberian Society and Artists and during this stage he showed great interest in geometry, order and how they fit into nature. She is a faithful defender of the Republic, during this year she will give drawing classes to her at the Arévalo Institute and also at the Madrid School Institute and the Madrid School of Ceramics, where she will create a series of plates that have disappeared today. .

At this stage he maintains a love relationship with Miguel Hernandez who works with in The children of the stone. We can see the painter’s influence on Hernández in works such as El rayo que no cesa.

During 1934 and 1935 he continued to hold exhibitions in cities such as London and Barcelona while participating in actions such as Misiones Pedagógicas in his native land. It will be precisely in Galicia where the Civil War surprises him.

Maruja Mallo in the Civil War

While Maruja is in Galicia, the Civil War breaks out in the year 36 and she is forced to flee to Portugal where she awaits her. Gabriela Mistral who was then Chile’s ambassador to Portugal. It will be Mistral who, through an invitation from Amigos del Arte, will take Maruja to Buenos Aires to give some lectures on Spanish art. He would finally stay in Buenos Aires throughout his exile, which lasted no more and no less than 25 years. During his exile he continued to paint and the places he visited were of great influence on his painting.

Maruja Mallo in exile

*Maruja Mallo with Andy Warhol

Maruja manages to be well recognized in Argentina while collaborating in the magazine South Vanguard (Borges also collaborated) and is dedicated to making great trips through Argentina, Uruguay and Chile, also taking his exhibitions to Paris, Brazil and New York.

During this time he will continue with his Wheat series painting wheat surprise and will continue with works that are also well-known in painting, such as Human Architecture, Song of ears and Message from the sea.

* Maruja Mallo’s wheat surprise

In 1939 she is invited to Santiago de Chile for a series of conferences and here she will discover the beaches of Chile that will leave their mark on her work with the famous shells from her series Living nature.

*Living nature by Maruja Mallo

Also in this year he published his book «The popular in Spanish art through my work» and continues to visit the beaches of Punta del Este and Punta Ballena where the series of photographs will be taken in which Maruja appears bathed in a blanket of algae.

*Maruja Mallo covered by algae

In 1945 he traveled to Chile to make some trips to Viña del Mar and Easter Island together with Neruda, to find inspiration to make a mural commissioned by a cinema in Buenos Aires. Easter Island really impressed Maruja as she found pure untapped nature. In 1949 she moved to New York while her exhibitions continued in Buenos Aires, New York and Paris. Finally, she will return to Spain in 1962.

The return to Spain of Maruja Mallo

Maruja Mallo herself acknowledged that she does not know very well why she returned to Spain, since all her friends “are in exile or underground.” In addition, she returned with fear because she “believed that Franco could remember me.” However, her surprise was even greater when it was not only Franco who did not remember her, but also that no one remembered who Maruja Mallo was or her works. The painter herself said on one occasion that she did not mind not selling her works but that she was looking for the recognition that she deserved and that she had been denied it. While she sees how her public life that she had harvested in Latin America, the United States and France disappears, she returns to work for the Revista de Occidente.

Her last stage as a painter is recorded at the age of 77 when she made The Dwellers in the Void. In 1980 she is awarded the Gold Medal for Fine Arts and in 1982 he was awarded the Plastic Arts Prize in Madrid. Although Maruja was forgotten for many years, the time of the Movida and pop art made her return to the artistic scene.

To learn more about the life of Maruja Mallo, we recommend you watch this interview she conducted for the program A fondo in 1980:

Maruja Mallo: art and works

Although the best-known works of Maruja Mallo are the Festivals, The Wheat Surprise and Living Nature, here you can see other of her works:

  • The Vervain (1927)
  • The fair (1928)
  • Song of the Spikes (1929)
  • The Footprint (1929)
  • Earth and excrement (1932)
  • Surprise in the Wheat (1936)
  • Figures (1937)
  • Head of a Woman (1941)
  • Masks (1942)
  • Living Natures series (1942)
  • The Bunch of Grapes (1944)
  • Gold (1951)
  • Agol (1969)
  • Geonaut (1975)
  • Selvatro (1979)
  • Concord (1979)
  • Mask Three-Twenty (1979)
  • Airagu (1979)
  • Macro and Microcosm Acrobats (1981)
  • Acrobats (1981)
  • Protozaans (1981)
  • Panteo (1982)
  • Acrobat (1982)
  • Protoscheme (1982)8
  • Races (1982)8
  • Aether Travelers (1982)8

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