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Cesar Manrique and Lanzarote

Cesar Manrique

Cesar Manrique and Lanzarote, a perfect symbiosis that offers the rest of the world an expression of art amongst the volcanic peaks, taking us close to the primary, to our ancestors, and teaches us to respect the natural world.

Cesar Manrique was born in Arrecife on 24th April 1919, in no.9 Juan de Quesada in El Charco de San Gines. The family was composed of his parents, Gumersindo Manrique and Francisca Cabrera, and by his brothers and sisters - Carlos, Juana and Amparo, his twin sister. He passed his infancy between El Charco de San Gines and La Caleta de Famara, developing, thanks to his sensitive nature, a close link with the natural world. His friendship with Pepin Ramirez, a childhood friend, would mark an important note in the history of Lanzarote, as destiny would unite their two professions - painter and politician - creating ventures that would change the future of the island.

In 1938, due to the Spanish Civil War, he entered as volunteer in the artillery of Ceut, a fact that would produce sad and painful memories in the future. He began to study at La Laguna, Tenerife, but after two years he abandoned the degree to go to La Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes de Madrid, thanks to the grant given by La Capitania General de Canarias.

In Madrid, he met Pepi Gomez, with whom he lived for eighteen years, a relationship that was cut short by her death in 1963. Coinciding with the surrealist movements of the 1950s, he completed the murals at El Parador de Turismo in Arrecife - El Viento, La Pesca and La Vendimia - and at the airport at Guacimeta. Without stopping his visits to Lanzarote, Cesar Manrique exhibited and travelled all over the world, until, in 1965, he decided to install himself in New York. He exhibited in the Art Original Gallery of New Canaan in Connecticut and in the New York gallery of Catherine Viviano, where he exhibited three times. In these years, he lived between Lanzarote and New York, receiving artist influences from contemporary American artists, developing his techniques in collage and assemblage.

In 1968, he built his house at El Taro de Tahiche, definitively establishing his residence on Lanzarote. From 1970 until 1976, he completed several works: the murals for the Grand Hotel in Arrecife; he began work on El Mirador del Rio (1973); he opened El Almacen - later converted into the island centre for culture, El Centro Insular de la Cultura; and, in 1976, he completed the following works - Costa Martianez in Puerto de La Cruz, the restoration of El Castillo de San Jose turning it into the International Museum of Contemporary Art and begins work on Jardin de Cactus.

The period from 1976 to 1986 was a time of great artistic activity for Cesar Manrique, who, at the same time, received recognition both from inside and outside the island: Las Banderas del Cosmos and the interior design of El Centro Astrofisico del Roque de Los Muchachos in La Palma; he would create the pool and gardens at the hotel, Las Salinas, in Lanzarote; the shopping arcade, La Vaguada, in Madrid in 1983; El Mirador de La Pe˝a (El Hierro, 1989); El Mirador del Palmarejo (La Gomera, 1992); Gold Medal for Tourist Merit; the World Prize for Ecology and Tourism of Berlin; the Gold Medal of Fine Arts from the Canarian government; the Goslarer M÷nhenhaus-Preises for Art and Ecology given by the city of Gosler; the Fritz Schumacher Prize from the University of Hanover, Germany; the Grand Cross of Civil Merit presented by King Juan Carlos and the Netherland Laureate Van D'Abeod in Holland.

In the following years, until 1992, he would finish the works known as Jardin de Cactus, the auditorium at Los Jameos del Agua, work on the Marine Park in Ceuta, and complete the Canarian pavilion for the Expo 92 in Seville.

He died in 1992 in a traffic accident about 50 metres from his Foundation, Cesar Manrique Foundation.

Cesar Manrique was a great artist who knew how to combine conservation of the natural world with the resources that the modern world offers. Thanks to his sensitivity, authenticity, imagination and force of character, he has created works that will remain with us even though we no longer have his presence.