America Sanchez. Romanesque portraits. Ink on paper

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America Sanchez. Romanesque portraits. Ink on paper
©MNAC

Just a few metres from the impressive collection of Romanesque art at the MNAC you'll find a small space in the Oval room where graphic designer, illustrator and photographer American Sanchez (Buenos Aires, 1939) has some 70 previously unshown drawings hanging, giving you a contemporary look at faces from murals and tablets from a thousand years ago.

For nearly three decades, Sanchez's work has been exhibited regularly in Romanesque sections of museums; they show how he's been observing and trying to capture the magic of those early painters.

This collection, which comes from sketches of faces found in churches, offers an exciting new reading of old stories. Sanchez is true to forms and to thick lines in his drawings. He retains simplicity and schematic, as well as the subjects' hieratic and elongated faces. That said, he's tremendously creative in his application of colour, and when you combine that with the Romanesque element – voilà – it's pop art. Suddenly it seems like you're standing in front of Andy Warhol's famous Marilyn Monroe series instead of images of apostles and virgin Marys. The arbitrary use of the palette changes the exercise of copying into a process of updating that shakes up the National Museum's collection with a touch of chromatic humour.

The originals, high-quality small-format inks on paper – some from the 17th century – are in display cases, where you can also see colour tests and charts Sanchez used to practise with; while the facsimiles hang on the walls. As you head out, look for the same portraits in the permanent collection. Fascinating. 

 

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