Obituaries
Obituaries published by the The Times and Guardian can be found at:

The Guardian : http://arts.guardian.co.uk/news/obituary/0,,2059495,00.html
The Times: http://www.timesonline.co.uk./tol/comment/obituaries/article1550305.ece
The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/fernando-montes-435198.html?origin=internalSearch

The text of the Eulogy delivered by Fernando’s son Juan Enrique is shown below:

Fernando Montes

Fernando Montes was a loving, gentle man who was devoted to his art.

Gentle as he was, he had tremendous determination and persistence in developing his painting.

His theme came to be the relationship between the Andean people and the land: the indigenous people sitting, contemplating the Earth and the horizon but also, stone-like, part of the Earth itself.  Later he developed this relationship by showing man’s works in the form of the pre-Columbian ruins such as Machu Picchu, set harmoniously in the mountain landscape.

It was a meditation on the place of the human being before the immensity of nature, infinite time and space – a universal theme, but expressed as seen in the Andean world, with the distractions of daily life stripped away.

He said: “Amid the immensity of the Altiplano it is easy to be alone.  This is something that I feel when I go to paint there.  In the Altiplano nature is greater than man, because nature is monumental.”

Fernando’s art strove for simplicity and the depiction of the essence.  He liked to cite Michelangelo: “Beauty is the elimination of the superfluous”.  Over the years, colour and detail were eliminated.  The light of the Andes, which had always struck him, became an increasingly intense presence in his painting; a burning white light covering ever-larger areas of his paintings.  A Buddhist monk commented on the tremendously enriched and purified space in his latest paintings, filled with its intrinsic holy light.  Some of you may remember recent paintings of massive Inca gateways – one passes beneath these great weighty stones hewn by men, to reach the space, air and, above all, light beyond.  In a way his painting was a journey from earth to light.

Fernando took his art to three continents, exhibiting in 16 countries His work is held in a number of public collections as well as private homes. In Japan, where he held 22 exhibitions, he was particularly admired for the contemplative quality of his work, the harmony expressed and the muted earth colours.  He represented his country, Bolivia, in the Sao Paulo Bienal in 1959 and in the Venice Biennale in 1999.  He held three retrospectives, in La Paz, Kyoto, and in the Mall Galleries in London last April.  In these exhibitions the body of work combined to communicate tremendous strength, permanence and the silence of contemplation: an astonishing contrast to the gentleness of his character.

Fernando said, “The most important thing to me in art as well as in life is the spirit: this energy that manifests itself in love”.  

With Marcela, his wife, he created a loving and harmonious family home for my sister, Sarita, and me.  For Fernando, to love was to share experiences – to escape with Sarita or me to an exhibition or a historic monument; to dart across the Channel with my mother in a surprise visit to Paris where they had enjoyed their honeymoon.

He achieved so much, yet took life at an unhurried pace.  This attitude enabled him to contemplate the world around him and give time to all who came to know him.  He would stare disarmingly at strangers – a number of friendships developed from conversations on a tube train or aeroplane.  He would listen to people.  He felt that every human being had something good in their character and had something to teach him.  In life, as in his art, he would search for the essential, brushing aside superfluous details.  Many friends have told how they sought his advice on life’s problems, discussing matters they never mentioned to others, and were comforted, reassured and encouraged by his wisdom.  Several have said that he was like a father to them.  

He preferred intimate gatherings to large parties, so he could hold long conversations with friends.

People remember his kindness, his smile, his warm and gentle personality.  Some said that he radiated goodness.  He knew how to love through small acts.  He taught people how to love and how to love themselves.  

He had a life-long passion for classical music - wonderful Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy, Fauré, and many Russian composers – and he never forgot the music of great Aymara ensembles resounding across the mountain landscape.  He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema.  He took pleasure in very simple things: gatherings with his family, creating a painting with his grandson, conversations with his granddaughter, open fireplaces, the films of Laurel and Hardy.  He enjoyed visiting historic buildings, having coffee in the best café in a city or taking tea with scones in a grand hotel.

He had many long-standing friendships.  It was typical of the man that he would inspire deep love and affection among those who knew him.  It is also typical that he was surprised and moved by the many visits, phone calls and messages he received when it became known that he was ill in hospital.

He had been ill for almost four years and life became at times difficult, painful and exhausting.  He was determined that people should not know of his illness and continued working and exhibiting until shortly before his death.  His last exhibition was in November in The Hague, the opening of which he insisted on attending.

Some friends, maybe unaware of the seriousness of his illness, have been shocked and greatly distressed by his death.  To them I would like to say that his end was very peaceful, free of pain and anxiety.  With hindsight I would say that it was through the strength of his spirit that he left hospital in mid December to spend a wonderful 46th wedding anniversary and a final Christmas with his family.  His final decline was rapid: over less than a week, but gave us time to tell him how much we loved him and express what he meant to us.  His sense of beauty and harmony remained with him to the end.  Nothing was left undone, that should have been done.  Nothing was left unsaid that should have been said.  His life was complete, fulfilled.  He sealed his life with a kiss for my mother, closed his eyes and silently slipped away.  At that moment, we were enveloped in a sense of peace.

His monument is in his paintings and in the hearts of all those who admired him as an artist and loved him as a man.


Juan Enrique Montes      31st January 2007
Obituaries