Eduardo Chillida was a Spanish Basque sculptor, born in San Sebastian, Spain in 1924. Chillida is notable for his monumental public sculptures displayed in Spain, Germany, France and the United States, along with his practice that ranges in small-scale sculpture, plaster work, drawing, engraving and collage. The artist’s works drew upon his Spanish heritage combined with an overall interest in organic forms, as well as influences from European and Eastern philosophies, poetry and history to formulate a broad artistic vocabulary that resonated with a continent undergoing rapid political and social transformations.
Chillida produced preliminary studies to enroll in architecture at the University of Madrid before turning his focus to drawing which he studied at Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid. Chillida was awarded a scholarship to attend the Cité Internationale Universitare and travelled to Paris. Upon his return to Spain in 1951, he started to experiment in materials that resonated with the Basque region’s industrial heritage such as iron, wood and steel. The artist settled in Hernani and, in 1952, he set up an iron foundry, learning techniques from a local blacksmith. During this time, he continued to make engravings and collages which subsequently became the basis of his practice, continuing through much of his career and allowed him to explore form and line by cutting into paper.
From 1954 until 1966, Chillida worked on a series entitled Anvil of Dreams, in which he used wood for the first time as a base allowing the metal forms to rise up in explosive rhythmic curves. In 1965, he began to make sculpture in alabaster. Rather than turn over a maquette of a sculpture to fabricators, as many modern artists do, Chillida worked closely with the men in the foundry. He then added an alloy that caused the metal to take on a brilliant rust color as it oxidizes.
Major retrospectives of Chillida’s graphic and sculptural work have been mounted by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (1966); Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh (1979); National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1979); Guggenheim Museum (1980); Palacio de Miramar, San Sebastián (1992); and Museo nacional centro de arte Renia Sofía, Madrid (1999). Chillida’s monumental sculptures designed for both urban and more secluded spaces are permanently installed internationally and comprise of a defining moment in artistic production. Chillida received numerous awards, including the Grand International Sculpture Prize at the Venice Biennale (1958), Kandinsky Prize (1960), Carnegie Prize for Sculpture (1964), Andrew Mellon Prize (1978, with Willem de Kooning), Grand Award for Arts in France (1984), and Jack Goldhill Award from the Royal Academy of Arts in London (1966). In 2000, the Chillida-Leku Museum, a monographic exhibition space, opened in San Sebastián. Chillida died in San Sebastián in 2002.