Fernando Montes, the artist


The Artist


“A man discovers himself  on a journey.  He knows not where he goes.  He knows  only where  he  comes  from.  He meets strangers in unknown places, and leaves a part of his soul atevery  stop. Living  day  by  day with  the  keenest  sense of experience,   solacing  his solitude,  he  becomes  ever  more indomitable.Seeking  his identity, he  (Fernando Montes)  moves from his native  South  America to Spain and on to distant London.  At last, he should find  himself again as a man on the highlandsof South America.  Reminders of  his homeland  and the spirit of his disappearing people.  Today, it  is in these he will find the  source  of  his  expressions”

Takeshi Kanazawa, former Vice-Director, Hara Museum, Tokyo



Fernando Montes was born in La Paz, Bolivia in 1930.  He lived and worked in London.  His first professional activity in the arts was in films, as a member of the three men-pioneering group that made some of the first Bolivian films.

In 1959 the Spanish Government awarded him a scholarship to study at the San Fernando Royal Academy, Madrid.  That year he also represented Bolivia at the 5th Sao Paulo Biennial, Brazil.  In 1960 he arrived in London and studied at St Martin’s School of Art.  

In 1977 he won the Award in Painting at the IMBO Biennial in La Paz, Bolivia.  In 1993 he was elected academician of the Accademia Archeologica Italiana, Rome.  In 1999 he represented Bolivia at the 48th Venice Biennale.  He also had a retrospective exhibition at the National Museum of Art in La Paz, Bolivia.  

Montes has exhibited widely in Europe, the Americas and Japan.  His work is represented in public collections in Bolivia, England, Portugal and the United States.  He has been widely reviewed in the international press and on television and radio.  The book “Fernando Montes - Obra 1957-1999”  was published by Santillana in 1999.

Montes died in London on 17 January 2007.



Montes on himself

I found my inspiration in the High Andes where I was born.

There is a sacred connection between the  Indian and Mother  Earth. This has become  the  subject of a long  series  of  paintings  of  figures  in  landscapes where I explore in many  ways this relationship between Man and Earth that is so alive in the High Andes.

Then I continued  working on the relation of the pre-Columbian  architecture with the same landscapes and became aware that the Indian of today, as much as the Indian of the pre Columbian times, is a spiritual ecologist.

I hope that my work communicates an awareness of the great issue of our time and of the new Millennium: our attachment to this planet, this Earth our home.
 (Photo of Fernando Montes by JE Collier)



The egg tempera technique

I first came across the  technique in Bolivia in  the 50’s. I was experimenting with many  techniques described in textbooks including Cenino Ceninis  famous  treatise.

The technique simply consists in  making a paste with water and the pigment and adding to this paste the same amount of egg yolk. The colour thus made is applied to the panel, which has been prepared with plaster of Paris and rabbit skin glue, or to the  canvas that I prefer to prepare only with the glue. The result is a beautiful matt and durable surface.   

The matt quality suits my work. Tempera allows me to build up numerous translucent layers of paint.  The paint and the plaster preparation is reminiscent of the texture  of a  wall.  This suits the forms I want to create. In my work I look  for a primeval quality  in  my figures  and  In  the  ruins.  I  feel  that  tempera helps  me  to  achieve  this.

Egg tempera is a difficult technique that took me a long time to master, but it  achieves a result that fully justifies the effort.


Selected exhibitions

Organisation of American States,
Washington DC, (1967)
Modern Museum of Paris 1973
The Signs Gallery, New York (1981)
UNESCO, Paris (1980)
Sun Yu Khan Gallery, Osaka, Japan (1982)
Premio Cristobal Colon, Madrid (1984)
Salle Patiño, Geneva (1988)
Kintetzu Gallery, Osaka, Japan (1989)
Latinarica, Montreal (1990)
Azabu Museum, Tokyo (1994)
Retrospective in La Paz 1999
Gallerie GNG, Paris (1996/1999/2002);
Lineart, Gant (1997)
Retrospective, Kyoto, 2004
Bruton Street Gallery, London (2001)
Japan Art Forum,  JARFO, Kyoto (2000/2002)
Shimada Gallery, Kobe, Japan (1989/1992/2002)
Retrospective at The Mall Galleries, London (2006)

“….. the pictures become a window on the infinite, charged with an indescribable gentleness which speaks to us in the
language of nostalgia and which compels us to reflect anxiously on the immensity of space…” Roberto Durighetto


FERNANDO MONTES