Juan Antonio Rosado was a painter from the 1940s Generation who sought to define Puerto Rican national identity through realism. He is also known as the “maestro of maestros” because several young artists who studied under his tutelage later achieved renown, such as Rafael Tufiño, Antonio Maldonado and Carlos Raquel Rivera.
Juan Antonio Rosado was born in the municipality of Toa Alta on December 14, 1891. He attended elementary school in his hometown. He did not finish high school because he moved to the capital and went to work to help support his family. He showed an interest and talent for painting from his adolescence. Between 1906 and 1911, he studied under the tutelage of Nicolás Pinilla, an artist of Cuban origin who taught him the trade of commercial art. In 1913, he studied painting with Fernando Díaz Mackenna, a Spanish painter who founded an academy of painting in San Juan.
In 1922, he established his own commercial art workshop called the Rosado Arts Sign Shop, located in Puerta de Tierra, on the outskirts of Old San Juan. The business was dedicated to creating signs, carnival floats and masks made of papier-mache. He also had his painting studio there and offered art lessons.
Rosado’s workshop was a gathering spot for the artistic class in the capital. Young painters exhibited their works there. Performers who appeared at the adjacent Eureka Theater used it as a dressing room and meeting spot. Among those who visited the studio were Puerto Rican performers Ramón Rivero, better known as “Diplo,” Bobby Capó, Rafael Hernández and the Mexican Cantinflas. Contemporary painters such as Miguel Pou, Ramón Frades and Oscar Colón Delgado also frequented the studio.
Juan Antonio Rosado was also one of the artists who, in the early 1940s, created the artistic space known as L’Atelier, also located in Puerta de Tierra. Its purpose was to create a home for the kind of bohemian and artistic lifestyle modeled after the ambience of the Latin Quarter in Paris. Musical performances also took place there, with Rosado playing the piano and Luis García the cello.
Rosado was also an outstanding teacher. Painters of the stature of Rafael Tufiño, Antonio Maldonado and Carlos Raquel Rivera have credited him as one of their first tutors and one of the most important influences in their careers.
As a painter, he falls within the realist tradition. He was a prolific painter, but many of his works have disappeared. Rosado’s work is best known for his landscapes. Paintings such as Los paisajes, Mar bravo, árboles y casa, Casa con dos escaleras and Camino de Cataño, painted in the 1930s, show his technique of painting with a painting knife, which he learned from his teacher, Díaz Mackenna.
Rosado also painted human figures. In this genre, his brushstrokes are academic and sober, as well as detailed. Outstanding examples are La Espera and Decepción, both created in the early 1930s. In the former, Rosado presents a woman in a play of light and shadow with her back turned toward the viewer. In Decepción, another woman sits upright on a chair in a curved posture with her face hidden between her arms.
Over the course of his life, Juan Antonio Rosado participated in various collective exhibitions, including the Mackenna Students Exhibition (1918); the Insular Fair (1920); the Third Exposition of Puerto Rican Art (1933), and the Puerto Rican Art exhibition at the Community Art Gallery in Philadelphia (1956). Two exhibits were dedicated to his work alone: one at the San Juan Regional fair (1920) and the other sponsored by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.
Among his achievements and distinctions during the course of his career were a mention at the Third Exhibition of Puerto Rican Art, held at the University of Puerto Rico (1933); the people’s prize at the Open Air Exhibition at the Puerto Rican Art Center (1951); and first prize in painting at the Third Hispano-American Art Biennial in Barcelona, Spain, in 1945.
Juan Antonio Rosado died in 1962. The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture posthumously held the Homage to Juan A. Rosado Exhibition in his honor (1986). Today, his works are part of the collections of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture and the Museum of History, Anthropology and Art at the University of Puerto Rico’s Río Piedras campus.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 03, 2014.
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