By Brooke Gazer
In 1951, Vicente Gandía immigrated. with his widowed mother and sisters, from Spain to Mexico. He was just sixteen, but within a few years he enrolled in UNAM to study architecture. After two years, he realized he preferred drawing existing buildings to designing new ones and left to pursue his career as an artist.
Those two years were not wasted, however; many of his pieces are grounded by detailed architectural elements like windows, patios, and doors. His work was strongly influenced by the great French impressionist and post-impressionist painters: Manet, Bonnard, Cezanne, and Matisse. This movement is inspired by the concept of capturing the moment. His paintings have a decorative quality with a bold use of color. Organic matter springs to life as landscapes, gardens, and floral arrangements seem to move within the canvas.
Like many artists, he struggled, but by the mid 1970s, Gandía began to achieve international acclaim. His work has appeared in museums and galleries throughout North and South America, as well major cities in Europe. In 1988, the catalogue for the Palacio de Bellas Artes, in Mexico City, stated: “The work of Vicente Gandía is part of the best tradition of Spanish painting. It starts out from real, solid things, and makes them glow from within, as though with the hidden splendor of their true essence.”
I like the work of this artist, but even more, I believe I would have liked the man. He was my friend’s father, and she told me a touching story about him and one of his paintings.
When she was nine years old, Mariana walked into her father’s studio, which was part of their home in Cuernavaca. She’d fallen in love with an enormous canvas titled, Ventana con Magnolias, which he had recently completed. Even as a small child she was frugal and had been saving her pesos. Their Spanish conversation went something like this.
“Pappa, I love this painting and I want to buy it from you.”
“Oh, sweetheart, you don’t have to buy it, you can have it. It is yours.”
“No, this is your work. I want to pay for it, but I can only pay 9000 pesos because this is all I have saved. Will you sell it to me?”
“Of course, my love.”
This was 1985 and 9000 pesos might sound like a lot for a nine-year-old girl to have saved. To Mariana it was, but keep in mind that Mexico suffered a horrific devaluation in the 1980’s, and in 1985 it was the equivalent to about $40 USD.
Vicente was becoming “discovered.” The writer Gabriel García Márquez had heard his name mentioned in art circles, and asked to come to the house to see Vicente´s work. He intended to purchase a piece of this up-and-coming painter. This was a huge opportunity for any aspiring artist and of course Gandía was both honored and excited.
When Garcia arrived at their home, he was immediately drawn to the piece Mariana had purchased. Unaware that it was not for sale, he asked the price. Vicente told him it was not for sale because it belonged to his daughter. The writer’s ego could not accept that this artist, of some small acclaim, was refusing to sell him the piece of his choice. But he was infuriated that the man was withholding it in favor of a mere nine-year-old girl.
Gabriel García Márquez left in a huff, without making a purchase, and never returned. The sale to a famous writer might have advanced Gandía’s career, but to Vicente, a promise to his daughter was more important. This painting, which is currently valued at $50,000 USD, is prominently displayed in Mariana’s Mexico City apartment.
Vicente Gandía passed away in 2009 but both originals and prints can be found online and in several galleries.