ESTEBAN VICENTE was born in Turégano, Spain in 1903. His father served in the Civil Guard, a police force in the Castile region and was an amateur painter who took the young Vicente with him on visits to the Prado Museum. In 1918, Vicente entered military school, but left after three months. At fifteen years old, Vicente began at the School of Fine Arts of the Real Academia de San Fernando in Madrid. As a young man living in Madrid, Barcelona, and Paris, he developed friendships with artists and writers. In 1928, he had his first exhibition with Juan Bonafé at the Ateneo de Madrid.
Vicente left Europe for New York City in 1936. The United States became the artist’s permanent home. His contemporaries and associates included Willem de Kooning (their 10th Street studios were on a shared floor), Elaine de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Barnett Newman, and Ad Reinhardt.
Vicente spent a good portion of his career teaching. He was among the faculty at Black Mountain College, Black Mountain, NC; the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, New York, NY; and the University of California, Berkeley, CA, among other institutions.
In addition, he received numerous awards, some of them being the most prestigious given to an artist in the United States. His works can be found in important collections and museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, among others.
At the end of his life, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Esteban Vicente, a museum in his honor, was opened in Segovia by the Spanish government. Vicente attended the museum’s opening in 1998.
Vicente died at the age of 97 in 2001 in Bridgehampton, NY, ten days before his 98th birthday. He had a long and prosperous career, living and working with multiple generations of artists and painting well into his 90s at his home in Bridgehampton.
Esteban Vicente. Color and Form is the most important exhibition of this artist ever organized in Catalonia. With almost 40 works, this exhibition proposes a complete view of the artist's aesthetic development, starting with his figurative works, when he exhibited in Barcelona in the early 30's, until his latest abstract paintings of the 90's after going through the abstract expressionist stage that became so relevant in the United States during the 40s and 50s. In fact, Esteban Vicente was the only Spanish artist that belonged to the first generation of the renowned New York School.
The Spanish-born artist Esteban Vicente, whose career spanned eight decades, seemingly did it all. Arriving in the U.S. in 1936, the artist was part of the first generation of the New York School Abstract Expressionists, held a teaching gig at Black Mountain College, and counted Willem de Kooning as a floor mate at his Tenth Street studio space.
New Exhibition Brings Abstract Expressionist Esteban Vicente’s Signature Touch to Light:
In the hallowed canon of American abstract expressionists, the name Esteban Vicente is rarely included. And yet the Spanish-born artist—who moved to New York in 1936—put down roots in this country amidst the members of the New York School, participating in their seminal exhibitions at the Samuel Kootz, Sidney Janis, and Charles Egan Galleries, earning representation by ab-ex patron Leo Castelli, and later going on to found the New York Studio School, where he taught for 36 years.
Esteban Vicente died in 2001, having lived to the ripe age of ninety-seven and worked to the end. It was not a bitter end, as his last paintings – thirteen of which were on view in this exhibition – indicate. Made between 1998 and 2000, these bright, colorful abstractions were inspired by the artist’s garden in Bridgehampton, New York, where he lived and worked. Among the flowers he planted were phlox, helianthus, foxgloves, daisies, and morning glories, all apparently in great abundance and carefully cultivated. Registering the effect of sunlight hitting the blossoms, the paintings are a sort of tachistic patchwork of quietly lyrical, atmospheric hues, sometimes amorphously spreading, sometimes striking and concentrated, like the red patches that suddenly appear as spontaneous accents in "Untitled," 1999.
Esteban Vicente’s death in 2001 at the age of 97 marked the passing of one of the last surviving members of the first generation of New York School painters. He arrived in America in 1936, schooled in the old world academic tradition of his native Spain and fresh from a sojourn in the heady milieu of 1920s Paris.
Concrete Improvisations: Collages and Sculpture by Esteban Vicente will feature approximately 80 of the artist’s works, both collages and polychrome sculptures, which Vicente referred to as divertimientos or juegos, (“toys” in English). Vicente’s “toys” display his thorough understanding of Cubism, Constructivism and assemblage. Together, this group of works will reveal interesting facets of the career of this accomplished, if unassuming, artist.
Esteban Vicente: Portrait of the Artist,” at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, starts with one artist, but quickly — and thankfully — opens up into one of these broader, more inclusive chapters. Vicente (1903-2001), a Spanish-born artist who lived most of his life in New York, was best known for his collages, and a big red abstract-floral one greets visitors at the entrance. A watercolor by his contemporary Philip Pavia, “Freefall No. 2” from 1959, hangs nearby, however, turning the installation immediately into a dialogue.