César ManriqueDecember 26, 2016
César Manrique – the local artist and architect who helped shape the look and feel of how Lanzarote is today.
All homes on Lanzarote have one or two storeys, with hotels being allowed a couple more floors. The way the island matured is in part down to César Manrique, who encouraged that all buildings should be white, with green windows (or varnished wood), and blue windows if you are facing the sea.
César Manrique Cabrera came from a typical middle class family, but had a less than typical life. Born in 1919, it wasn’t until 1934 that Manrique truly fell in love with Lanzarote, when his father bought land in Caleta de Famara and built a house next to the ocean. The house left a considerable and visible impression on César Manrique that lasted his lifetime.
During the Spanish Civil War, Manrique fought as a volunteer on Franco’s side. He witnessed such ferocious violence that he refused to talk about it afterward. He returned to Arrecife after the war in 1939.
Still wearing his military uniform, after saying hello to his parents he went up to his flat roof, took off his clothes, and set them alight with Petroleum.
Following on from the Spanish Civil War, Manrique tried his hand at studying Technical Architecture at La Laguna University. He abandoned it after two years. He graduated from Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, following a scholarship, as Art Professor and painter.
1964 saw Manrique travel to New York on the advice of his cousin. He stayed as guest of Waldo Diaz-Blart, a Cuban Painter. He obtained through his cousin’s network of friends a generous grant which allowed him to rent his own studio to produce and exhibit quite a few paintings.
Whilst in New York he wrote to his friend, Pepe Dámaso “… more than ever I feel true nostalgia for the real meaning of things. For the pureness of the people. For the bareness of my landscape, and for my friends. … My last conclusion is that MAN in N.Y. is like a rat. Man was not created for this artificiality. There is an imperative need to go back to the soil. Feel it, smell it. That’s what I feel.”
Manrique was starting to miss Lanzarote.
When he returned to Lanzarote, Manrique noted in his diary that he had an impeccable urge to turn the island into one of the more beautiful places on the planet.
The current-day Lanzarote owes a lot to César Manrique, who used his skills as painter, sculptor, architect, ecologuest, monument preserver, construction advisor, planner of urban developments and landscape gardener, to shape the way Lanzarote has emerged today.
César Manrique died in a tragic car accident in 1992, at the age of 73. An irony, because he loathed the massive amount of vehicles on Lanzarote. The César Manrique foundation continues his work, helping to ensure that Lanzarote remains an island which respects natural beauty.
Manrique’s mark is clearly left in the conscience of modern-day Lanzarote. His work exists in the many monuments and sculptures across the island as well as Jardín du Cactus and Jameos del Agua.
Source: La Fundación César Manrique.