Joaquín Torres-García (Montevideo, Uruguay, 1874–1949) arrived in Barcelona aged 17 when his father, a Catalan who had immigrated to South America, decided to return. It was in Barcelona that he received his artistic training and where he soon emerged as one of the promoters of Noucentisme, the movement advocating a return to classicism and the Mediterranean tradition. Painter, sculptor and toy maker, he was a great advocate of the art and theory of Constructivism. He began travelling from 1920, visiting New York, Italy and Paris, where he settled in 1928. In Paris he associated with avant-garde writers and groups and, together with Michel Seuphor and other abstract artists, created the group and magazine Cercle et Carré.
At this time, in the group's magazine, he was to claim: ‘It doesn’t matter whether there is emotion or reasoning at the base of construction: our only aim is to build.’ (Joaquín Torres García, ‘Vouloir construire’, Cercle et Carré, no. 1, Paris, March 1931, published (in Spanish) in Ángel González García, Francisco Calvo Serraller, Simón Marchán Fiz: Escritos de arte de vanguardia, 1900/1945. Madrid: Akal, 1999, p.278.
He soon distanced himself from the group and, based on the principles of pure abstraction of the Neoplasticist movement, developed his personal style, a language predicated upon a system of geometric relationships and a repertoire of pictograms, which he termed ‘constructive universalism’, and proposing an art following the principles of proportion, unity and structure. In 1934 he returned to Uruguay to promote Constructivism in South America, where he became a vigorous advocate for this new aesthetic. In 1942 he created the Taller Torres García, from which a Uruguayan and Latin American school of painting with its own identity emerged: the School of the South. Torres García was one of the most influential South American artists and a charismatic figure on the international scene of the twenties, where he exhibited with renowned artists such as Gaudí and Picasso in Barcelona, Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg in Paris, and Marcel Duchamp in New York. Among his books, the most important include Estructura (1935), Universalismo constructivo. Contribución a la unificación del arte y de la cultura en América (1944) and La recuperación del objeto (1952).
His many exhibitions include the Musée national d’art moderne, Paris (1955); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1961); Comisión Nacional de Bellas Artes, Montevideo (1962); National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1970); Museo Español de Arte Contemporáneo, Madrid (1973); Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (1975); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (1991 and 2000); Institute of Contemporary Art, Amsterdam (1991); IVAM, Valencia (1991); Musée d'art moderne et contemporain, Strasbourg (2002); and Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona (2011). His work is included in the collections of the Musée national d'Art moderne, Paris; Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid; MACBA, Barcelona; and Fundación Torres García, Montevideo, among others.