Puerto Rican painter who depicted island traditions. His work is known for recreating the landscapes, characters and customs of Puerto Rico of the early 20th century. His work is distinguished by his realistic style, though with impressionist influences, particularly in the use of color and light. Pou also founded a school of art in Ponce where numerous Puerto Rican artists developed their talents.
Miguel Pou was born in Ponce on April 24, 1880, the son of Juan Bautista Pou Carreras and Margarita Becerra Julbe. In his youth, he took painting courses in his home town under the tutelage of Pedro Clausells and Santiago Meana. In 1898, he earned a bachelor of arts degree at the Provincial Institute of Ponce. He was also a disciple of Francisco Oller y Cestero. In 1906, he completed the methodology course in teaching drawing at the Hyannis Normal School in Massachusetts in the United States. In 1919, he took formal studies in painting at the Students Art League in New York and in 1935 he began studies at the Fine Arts Academy in Pennsylvania.
Pou spent most of his life in his home town. He worked as an assistant superintendent of the School District beginning in 1900. In 1909, he became director of the Dr. Rafael Pujals School. The same year, he married Ana Valldejuly. In 1910, he founded the Pou Academy, a school of art that he directed for forty years. Some of the artists who studied at the institution were José R. Alicea, Epifanio Irizarry, José Manuel Cintrón, Horacio Castaing, Rafael Ríos Rey and Luis Quero Chiesa.
Pou’s paintings, like those of Ramón Frade, Oscar Colón Delgado and Juan Rosado, sought to depict the Puerto Rican reality of the era in which they lived. Through his oil paintings, he recreated the island landscapes and Puerto Rican characters. His work is considered impressionistic because of his use of a palette of colors and of light, although he presented reality as he saw it, without softening or exaggerating it. Nevertheless, he is a painter of the realist school because of his effort to depict Puerto Rican reality.
In addition to a large number of rural landscapes, he painted some 300 typical regional portraits and numerous urban scenes. One of his best known portraits is titled La promesa (1928) and depicts a sad and resigned-looking rural worker dressed in a “habit,” an outfit used in that era in popular religious practice when making a promise to a Catholic saint as part of a request that the saint intervene on the petitioner’s behalf. Also among his best known paintings are Las lavanderas (1898), Los coches de Ponce (1926), Mi hijo Jaime (1927), Raza soñadora (Retrato de Ciquí) (1938) and Vendedor de hamacas (1938).
Pou gave this opinion with respect to his own work: “Among the great masters of painting, the greatest influence on my work has been the impressionists for their interest in color. However, I have tried to preserve the purity of drawings by following classic preferences. The ideal that has guided my work, in large part, has been to reflect the soul of my people and the characteristics of the landscape of my island. For the former, I have painted and I continue to paint their traditions and customs; for the latter, its light and its atmosphere.”
Miguel Pou’s pictorial work has been recognized locally and internationally. In addition to exhibiting his work on the island, he participated in collective exhibitions such as the Paris Colonial Exhibition (1931), the National Exhibition of American Art in New York (1938), and the Second Biennial Exhibition of Spanish American Art in Madrid (1951), among others. The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture held a retrospective exhibition of his work in 1957.
Among the prizes he was awarded were two gold medals in the Ponce Progressive League competition for his works Los Coches de Ponce and Retrato a Pluma del tío Ramón (1914), a medal and certificate of honor from the Puerto Rican Athenaeum for his work El tío Ramón (1924) and a gold medal for his contributions to the culture of Puerto Rico from the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (1960).
Miguel Pou Becerra died in 1968. Today, some of his works can be seen at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Juan, at the Museum of History, Anthropology and Art at the University of Puerto Rico’s Río Piedras campus and at the Puerto Rico Museum of Art.
Gaya Nuño, Juan Antonio. ” Miguel Pou”. Revista Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña año 11, núm. 39 abr-jun 1968: 34.
Departamento de Instrucción Pública. “Miguel Pou, Su vida y su obra” . División editorial, 1973.
Cintrón García, Arturo. “Miguel Pou mentor de generaciones: homenaje en su centenario”. Horizontes 23 núm. 46 abril 1980: 71-80.
Gran Enciclopedia de Puerto Rico
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 03, 2014.
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