Eduardo Chillida is born in San Sebastian in 1924. He interrupts the study of architecture, which began in 1943 at the Colegio Mayor Jiménez de Cisneros, in order to begin the study of art in 1947 at the private art academy, Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid. Here his first sculptures are made in plaster and clay (Torso 1948), which he can exhibit in the Salon already in 1949/50.
A stay in Paris stimulates his interest for iron as a material. According to Chillida himself, he executes his first non-figurative iron sculpture in the early 50’s using disassembled agricultural tools. The blacksmith and torch-work comes close to his own artistic notions about sculpture which develops from plastic volume to constructed room structures (Ilarik, 1951). With his sculpture Desde dentro (1953) he succeeds in producing the desired dynamic and spatial effect through vector-like thin iron spokes, which only demonstrate a reduced body-like presence. At the same time he investigates the two-dimensional possibilities of spatial illusion in graphic works. In 1954 he assumes his first official public commission, entailing the creation of four gates of he entrance façade of the basilica Arantzu / Onati. A further important phase of his work is characterized by the expressive dynamics of the twisted iron bands achieved through incisions (Hierro de temblor I, 1955).
Chillida increasingly works in monumental format toward the end of the 1950s. His sculptures become more static. Surface structures, which play as a result of working the material an especially aesthetic role until then, get reduced. Block-like and massive iron structures create cubic closed forms with smooth surfaces that form dovetailed, stacked or intertwined structures. From 1959 on the cast iron is increasingly replaced by steel (Gnomon, 1965; Monument 1970/71). In addition he uses the aesthetically effective qualities of different material combinations, including iron and wood (Yunque de los Sueños, 1954 — 62) and und fits traditional materials like wood (Abesti Gogora III, 1962 — 64), granite (Abesti Gogora V, 1966), alabaster and marble with new meanings. He knows how to use the light effect of alabaster, as demonstrated by his work Elogio de la Luz (1965), counting as one of his first mountable pieces in a public space. Chillida experiments also with cement as material, which he can use at a lower cost than steel in his sculptures that are becoming larger and larger in format. He uses the qualities of its aesthetic material by laying bare the traces of the forms and the armatures. The heaviness of the material is counteracted by the way it is hung. (Lugar de encuentros III, Madrid 1971/72).
In addition to Chillidas first (1959) and regular participation in Documenta in the ensuing years, many important one-man shows take place from 1962 onward in Basel, Duisburg, Amsterdam, Munich and Paris. In 1971 he is guest professor at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University, Cambridge / Mass.
In the following years, Chillida’s work distinguishes itself, among other things, through hommages of famous contemporary artists, scientists, and philosophers. He mostly allows himself to be inspired through personal contacts. Political and historical events are also pretext for artistic works. His book illustrations for Martin Heidegger’s »Die Kunst und der Raum« (1969), but also La casa de Goethe (1986), an outdoor sculpture made of cement in Frankfurt/Main are part of this complex of works. And similarly, we can understand his work Tolerance through Dialogue (1993) in Münster as abstract monument and moral message. Chillida’s political engagement brings him countless international prizes.
A further motif component in his work is the debate over the border between music and sculpture which he pursues in many of his works (EUZKADI IV 1976, Gezna IV (1969), Gravitation S.14 (1991), Besarkada VI (1992).
Eduardo Chillida dies in San Sebastián in 2002.
Schmidt, Sabine Maria: Eduardo Chillida, die Monumente im öffentlichen Raum, Mainz 2000
Chillida und die Musik: Ausst.-Kat. Sinclair-Haus Bad Homburg, hg. v. Christa Lichtenstern, Köln 1997
Koelen, M. van der: Eduardo Chillida. Werkverzeichnis der Druckgrafik 1986 — 1996, Mainz, München 1996
Chillida: Ausst.-Kat. Schirn Kunsthalle, hg. v. Thomas Messer, Frankfurt/M. 1993
Paz, Octavio: Chillida, Paris 1979