Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Josep Renau Berenguer: A Giant Among Mexican Movie Poster Artists

A good starting point for understanding the beauty of Spanish and Mexican Movie posters would be with the art of Josep Renau Berenguer.  Many agree that Berenguer is one of the finest and most well-known poster artists of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema.

The artist's father was a professor of drawing in Valencia, Spain, which suggests that art was already in Berenguer's blood.  His brother Juanino also became a movie poster artist, so it was like the family business.

Giant, huge, or larger-than-life are all appropriate descriptors for Berenguer, who had some big ideas.  During his career in Spain, Berenguer was a member of the Communist Party before the Spanish civil war, was the publisher of an arts journal, founder of the Union of Writers and Artists, a professor at the same university as his father, and the arts Director General who hired Picasso to paint the master work Guernica.

Trained as an artist, lithographer, and photographer, Berenguer first gained widespread recognition with series of Art Deco watercolors shown at a Madrid exhibition in 1928.  He was not concerned about working commercially in order to fund his political and other artistic passions, and thus produced many commissions for advertising and posters for Spanish Cinema.  Much of his work was also on a literally large scale, with agit-prop posters Berenguer drew meant for a wide audience, and huge murals he made in both Germany and Mexico covering buildings several stories high.

Interned in France after leaving Spain, the artist, along with many other refugees from the fascist Franco regime, went to Mexico to carry on his life and work.  During this period, Berenguer produced many wonderful and collectible posters for Mexican cinema until he left for Berlin in 1958.  Berenguer remained in the GDR for the rest of his life, with occasional visits to Spain after the end of Franco's regime.