Gerardo Lizarraga, the Navarrese militiaman who worked for 20th Century Fox

Gerardo Lizarraga, the Navarrese militiaman who worked for 20th Century Fox

Gerardo Lizarraga, an artist affiliated with the UGT.

Reconocido and remembered in Mexico, unknown and forgotten in Euskadi, Gerardo Lizarraga placeholder image was a iruindarra attached to the UGT and an artist of the time like few others. The Navarrese lHe ran on the Republican front against the Franco regime and, after finishing confined in French concentration camps, he managed to reach the Aztec country, in whose capital he developed illustration and painting. In the opinion of his son Xabier, Gerardo was “a person committed to living and to freedom.”

An exhibition has claimed and updated in the Museum of Navarra his figure as a man who defended human rights and his lucid and talented work. “His suitcase has arrived at his land, coming from Camp No. 8 of Argelès-sur-Mer and Mexico, to stay, to be part of the cultural and artistic baggage of his land, that which tried to be violently erased by a coup military that sought to prevent any hint of modernity, equality and freedom “, they emphasize.

The Royal Academy of History also evokes that Gerardo Lizarraga Istúriz began his training in his hometown to continue it at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, receiving classes from Plá, Benedito and Romero de Torres. It was precisely at the Academy where He met Remedios Varo and Uranga, also an artist, with whom he married in 1930. This woman described herself as a “logicofobista”, that is, she had a phobia of what seems logical, and was a friend of Salvador Dalí, a work with similarities to that of the also surrealist Lizarraga.

Two years before that date, the Navarrese presented four works at the Exhibition of Basque Artists in Donostia and, thanks to a regional grant, he traveled to Paris, where he assimilated the cubist style. In Barcelona, ​​the city where he lived during the 1930s, he worked as artistic director of the advertising company Walter Thompson Company, also coming into contact with the world of cinema, opera and theater. From this time on, he practically always dedicated himself to poster design. He gave samples of his exemplary activism when he created the Professional Cartoonists Union of Barcelona.

The Spanish military coup of which on the 18th of this month will be the sad 84 years he caught Lizarraga in the county capital. Being there, the Ugetist socialist, one of the creators of the Antifascist Editions project, he enlisted as Volunteer in the Republican Army. Little has been written of his struggle at the front against the Francoists to date. With the worst possible end of the war for the standard bearers of democracy, the Navarrese che crossed the border in retreat, and was interned in the Argelés-sur-Mer, Agde and Clermont-Ferrand camps.

Picture painted in refugee camps.

Iruindarra researcher Ángela Martínez Urmeneta adds a curious circumstance about the poster artist who exiled ashore in peace from Mexico on the famous ship Nyassa. “Among the passengers was he, an artist from Pamplona with a very interesting and sometimes hazardous life, who settled permanently in Mexico. If I’m not mistaken, while in Argeles-sur-Mer, he was photographed and filmed by Chiqui Weisz, Capa’s assistant. That footage –which is still preserved– was seen by his ex-wife in a cinema in Paris, and she managed to get him out of there “, apostille. Weisz was the man who saved the so-called Mexican suitcase, finding three boxes with 4,500 negatives of images taken by photographers Robert Capa, David Bird Seymour and Gerda Taro in the middle of the Spanish Civil War.

Once in the American country where he settled permanently, joined the group of European artists in exile along with Remedios Varo, Benjamin Peret, Katy and José Horna, Leonora Carrington and Chiki Weisz, among others. There he married again, this time with Ikerne Cruchaga, photographer and daughter of Epifanio Cruchaga, Republican mayor of Tutera. They lived in Acapulco.

He actively participated in the cultural life of Mexico City, where he developed an intense artistic task both in the field of illustration and painting. In 1957 he even participated in the filming of The sun also rises, the Henry King, as artistic director and technical advisor, also making all the paintings that appear in the film and even They say that he starred in a cameo in it. This feature film was shot for 20th Century Fox and is based on the historical novel by Ernest Hemingway Fiesta. The story takes place in Lizarraga’s hometown, although it was recorded in the Mexican city of Morelia.

“sand and only sand”

In his last years, the Navarrese wrote about his experience in the French fields. “The field was a deserted beach, only sand; kilometers and kilometers beyond the barbed wire, without any roots … sand and only sand. I had time to think and little habit of doing it. The pencil thought for me,” he detailed then in his memoirs.

And he clarified, for example, that after his liberation from those sandy areas he lived in 1941 and 1942 in Marseille, where he held two exhibitions, to move shortly after to Mexico, where in 1945 he founded the Círculo de Bellas Artes in the capital and continued his career by making numerous posters and murals, with portraits, landscapes, Basque folkloric scenes and bullfighting themes. The Royal Academy of History analyzes his style as personal and free. “It presents at the same time cubist influences and those of the great masters of the past. His great mastery of drawing stands out and a palette in which ocher and earth alternate with black and blue, with a great use of light”, they ponder.

Blanca Oria praised her figure both in the aforementioned exhibition and in a documentary. “Gerardo Lizarraga made films, painted tirelessly throughout his life and carried out dozens of creative projects. But his work crashed again and again and most of his works disappeared.”

Nevertheless, In Iruñea it was possible to gather 80 drawings and caricatures that the artist made during his years of confinement in Argelès-sur-Mer, Agde and Clermont Ferrand. The artist came to define this collection of works as “the most important thing in my artistic production”.

Almost all the works that made up the exhibition were preserved by Lizarraga himself in Mexico. His sons Xabier and Amaya Lizarraga have preserved these valuable works, this valuable memory.

The Navarrese fought on the Republican front against Francoism and ended up confined in concentration camps

This socialist from the UGT was one of the creators of Ediciones Antifascistas and enlisted as a volunteer in the republican ranks


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Gerardo Lizarraga, the Navarrese militiaman who worked for 20th Century Fox