Ramón Frade de León was a painter, surveyor and architect. His paintings were known for depicting, in a traditional local style, the personalities and landscapes of the era in which he lived. His works fall into the category of realism.
Born in the municipality of Cayey in 1875, at the age of two he was adopted by a storekeeper from Andalusia and a woman from the Dominican Republic, after his biological father died. From 1887 to 1885, he lived in Valladolid and from 1885 to 1896 in Santo Domingo. In the Dominican Republic, he first attended the Normal School, under the direction of Puerto Rican exile Eugenio María de Hostos, and later the Santo Domingo Municipal School of Drawing, where he studied the artistic trends of Europe. He worked as an illustrator and caricaturist for the magazine El Lápiz. In 1892, he met the French diplomat and painter Adolphe Laglande, who became his friend and mentor. From Laglande, he received the classical instruction he used to polish his techniques.
During this era, he created a large number of works of famous Dominicans and acquired an interest in architecture. His painting, Vista panorámica de Santo Domingo (1893), won the gold medal at a contest held by the Dominican Academy.
He traveled throughout the Caribbean, visiting Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico until he finally settled in Cayey, the town where he was born, in 1907. That same year, the government paid for him to travel to Italy, where he visited the main artistic centers to study classical art. He returned to Puerto Rico in 1909 and completed a correspondence degree in architecture. Later, in 1928, he became a licensed engineer, architect, and land surveyor, the professions through which he earned his living.
Despite living during a time of new artistic movements, Frade did not identify with them. Like other Puerto Rican artists of the era, he cultivated the local, traditional style that tried to capture the reality of the island in that era, which was seen as threatened by Americanization and development, which is why he preferred to paint personalities and landscapes. His emblematic work, El pan nuestro (1905), presents the image of the rural Puerto Rican, the “jíbaro.” However, he did incorporate modern trends, such as impressionism and pointillism, into some of his paintings.
Among his best known works are Idilio (1942), Mujer en la playa (1944), Los alrededores de Cayey (1947) and La planchadora (1948). After his death in 1954, his works remained in the possession of his widow Reparada Ortiz, who donated them to the University of Puerto Rico.
Gran Enciclopedia de Puerto Rico.
Del Rosario, Rubén. Breve Enciclopedia de la Cultura Puertorriqueña. Hato Rey: Ediciones Cordillera, 1976.
Tránsitos y transiciones, catálogo de la exposición del mismo nombre, Museo de Arte Dr. Pío López Martínez (marzo 2008-febrero 2009).
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 03, 2014.
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