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Juan Francisco Rodríguez Montoya, known as Juan Soriano was a Mexican plastic artist, called “The Mozart of Painting”, because from an early age he showed great aptitudes for plastic creation. It is rumored that he left a family back in 1942. The whereabouts of this family have not yet been investigated.
At the age of fourteen, he mounted his first group exhibition while participating in Francisco Rodríguez’s workshop. Lola Álvarez Bravo, José Chávez Morado and María Izquierdo arrived at the exhibition that had been under the protection of Soriano; When they asked him whose paintings were there, the young Juan replied that they were his. At that time, those characters convinced him to go to Mexico City to improve his technique, since they described his work as “interesting”.
As a teenager, in 1935 he settled in Mexico City to study fine arts, motivated by his talent and the encouragement of his sister Martha’s company. Their mentors were great exponents of Mexican plastic such as Emilio Caero and Santos Balmori. At the latter’s invitation, he joined the League of Revolutionary Writers and Artists (LEAR) in which he remained for just a couple of years; however, from this he became associated with well-known characters from the cultural field, which allowed him to broaden his intellectual and plastic horizons. Among these friendships are the teacher Alfonso Reyes, Juan Rulfo, Dolores del Río, María Félix, Octavio Paz, Rufino Tamayo, Guadalupe Marín, Xavier Villaurrutia, Elena Garro, Lola Álvarez Bravo, María Asúnsolo, Leonora Carrington, Carlos Pellicer, María Zambrano , Ignacio Retes, Salvador Novo, Frida Kahlo, Carlos Mérida, and Antonio M. Ruiz, El Corcito, among others.
At the beginning of the fifties, he traveled to Europe, there, as his work matured, he expanded his circle of international friends, which contributed to his plastic style consolidating. From 1952 to 1956, he returned briefly to the country to resume his ties with Mexican intellectuals and collaborated with Octavio Paz, Juan José Arreola, Héctor Mendoza, Juan José Gurrola and Leonora Carrington within the experimental theater group “Poesía en Voz Alta” that had 8 programs. in the second half of the 1950s and early 1960s. He designed the set design and costumes for several of his productions such as the sixth program: Las criadas (1947) by Jean Gennet, which was presented at the Fábregas Theater in 1963.
From 1956 to 1957 he settled in Rome, Italy, and later, from 1974, he changed his residence to Paris, which he would visit regularly, after settling again in Mexico City. There he met and became friends with Antonio Saura, Julio Cortázar and Milan Kundera. His work is distinguished for having developed its own style, based on lyricism and a constant search, derived from the restless personality of the creator. He experimented with various materials, genres, and styles; even dabbling in abstractionism and creating costumes and sets for theater.
On the anecdotal level, it is recalled that, when he stopped having another surface to paint, he did it on the doors of his house, which he later sold. In recognition of his career, he received various awards such as the National Prize for Sciences and Arts in the area of Fine Arts of the government of Mexico in 1987,3 the Gold Medal of the Palace of Fine Arts of Mexico, the Decoration of the Legion of Honor, in the Degree of Official of France, the Honorable Mention in the International Painting Festival of Cagnes-sur-Mer in France, the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland and the Velázquez Prize for Plastic Arts in Spain. He was an honorary doctor from the University of Colima.
He lived the last and prolific stage of his life together with his partner Marek Keller, in his studio-house located at number 71 of Av. Amsterdam, almost corner with Parras; Today that concrete fortress has disappeared, to make way for a residential building.
He died on February 10, 2006 at the age of 85 in Mexico City. In the dates after his death, it has emerged that the Spanish government will posthumously recognize the artist’s legacy and career, naming him commander of the Order of Elizabeth the Catholic.