Ask Morgana 177: Rafael de Penagos

rdp0Rafael de Penagos (1889-1954) was a Spanish painter and illustrator in the Art Deco style. His women – willowy, elegant, and dressed in the fashions of the 1920s and 30s – were said to have set the style for modish ladies to imitate in Spain. They were certainly not ‘Mediterranean’ types, but rather the pale, urban sophisticates of New York and Paris. For all their waif-like, ‘poor little rich girl’ qualities, there was a kind of independence to them, a sexual freedom, but one that hinted at jaded appetites, boredom, and decadence too.

It seems strange that de Penagos, who portrayed the world of the rich and the haut bourgeois, should have been such a leading artistic light on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War – we must not typify all supporters of the Republic as communists or revolutionary anarchists. However, de Penagos was one of the foremost poster-designers for the Republican side, and was chairman of the Department of Illustration at the Workers’ Institute of Valencia, the aim of which was to provide working people with training and to raise the cultural life of the country. One would not need to have polarised political views to see how beneficial an aim that was.

He continued to live in Spain until 1948, when he went into exile in Argentina, only returning a year before his death.

The illustrations below are some of his women. I note that (5) appears to be signed ‘Zala’; however, it was presented as one of de Penagos’s drawings, and both the price caption and the signature with a Roman numeral below are in his style.

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Images reproduced under ‘fair use’ provisions.

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