The Paintings of Gabriel Morcillo Raya
Born in Granada, Spain, in February of 1887, Gabriel Morcillo Raya was a painter and teacher. His oeuvre is composed mainly of figurative works and landscapes influenced by Orientalism, a movement which was particularly influential in Spain, due to Spain’s exceedingly dense and complex relations with Islamic culture.
Gabriel Raya initially studied painting under the tutorage of his aunt Paquita Raya. He later attended Granada’s School of Fine Arts, where he studied under landscape and genre painters Miguel Vico Hernández and José de Larrocha González. In 1907, Raya relocated in Madrid to continue his studies under Valencian painter and illustrator Cecilio Plá y Gallardo: however, due to financial reasons, he was impelled to return to his hometown of Granada. In 1910, Raya received a grant from the Granada Provincial Council which enabled him to travel back to Madrid for further studies.
Raya exhibited his work during his years in Madrid and earned in 1912 an honorable mention for the work he presented at National Exhibition of Fine Arts. In the same year, he was appointed director of the Residence of Painters of the Alhambra. Two years later, Raya returned to Granada and, in 1918, was awarded a scholarship to the Academy of Painting in Rome, which he did not accept. His work began to challenge the pictorial content of the time with its more concrete detail and use of movement and color.
In 1925, Gabriel Raya became an academician of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, Granada’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts at San Telmo. He accepted the position as Professor of Decorative Painting and Natural Figure in 1927 at Granada’s School of Arts and Crafts, where he influenced several generations of local artists, among whom was the painter José Guerrero whose later work became known for its chromatic masses of color, and Miguel Pérez Aguilera, whose development of his own pictorial language played an important role in contemporary Spanish art.
Raya had his first exhibition of his orientalist works in 1944 in Granada and achieved great success at exhibitions held in Buenos Aires, New York City, and Venice, Italy. During the period from 1955 to 1960, he traveled to Madrid to paint portraits of Francisco Franco and his wife, and Admiral Carrero Blanco and other members of Madrid’s high bourgeoisie. Raya received the Silver Medal of the Red Cross, a decoration for those people whose voluntary actions supported the Spanish Red Cross, and, in 1951, the Grand Cross of the Order of Alfonso X the Wise for merit in the field of culture.
Gabriel Morcillo Raya passed away in Granada in December of 1973, at the age of eighty-five. Several of his works, including the 1916 “Dwarf El Puerto Real”, can be seen in the collection of Granada’s Museum of Fine Arts.
Note: An interesting article on the orientalist movement is “Editorial: Spain and Orientalism” by Anna McSweeney and Claudia Hopkins which is located at Taylor & Francis Online: https://doi.org/10.1080/17561310.2017.1316039
Gabriel Morcillo Raya, “Muchachos”, Initial Stucy, Date Unknown, Watercolor on Paper, 57 x 47 cm, Private Collection
Gabriel Morcillo Raya, “Self Portrait”, Date Unkonw, Oil on Canvas, Private Collection