One of the rooms at the Centro Antonio Reyna Manescau. / SUR

Antonio Reyna Manescau, from Coín to the Hermitage

Nearly a century after his death, the Fundación García Agüera has created a cultural centre to make this local artist better-known

ANDREA JIMÉNEZ

An oil on canvas depicts a peaceful and idyllic scene of the Santa María del Giglio church beside the canals of Venice. It is one of more than three million works held by the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia, one of the biggest museums in the world.

To find its author, however, one has to travel to Malaga, or, specifically, to Coín: it turns out that he is Antonio Reyna Manescau, who was the most widely known painter from this town in the Guadalhorce Valley.

Nearly a century after his death, Fundación García Agüera set up a cultural centre to promote the work of this artist in his home town.

"He was one of the finest painters of his time and Coín owes him recognition," said José Manuel García Agüera, the president of the foundation, which can boast an extensive list of publications about culture and art based in Coín.

Antonio Reyna Manescau's painting in The Hermitage. / FUNDACIÓN G.A.

Since the centre opened over ten years ago, García Agüera has published hundreds of articles about local history, all posted free of charge on the internet and available for consultation.

"The headquarters of the foundation, in the Plaza de la Alameda, is also my house, and open to everyone," said García Agüera, who began his long cultural journey in Coín in 1984 with the Alameda Art Gallery, then at G. A. Ediciones Coincidentes, and is now at the heart of the Fundación García Agüera.

Promotion

Out of all his cultural work, comprising thousands of photos, documents and archives, the president of the foundation is especially proud of promoting Coín's best-known artist, Reyna Manescau (1859-1937). It is due to his exhaustive work that the municipality is now the home of a cultural centre dedicated to him as a person and his work.

"We owed it to him. It has taken many years of fighting in order for Coín to pay tribute to its own painter," said García Agüera.

The Íntimo y Universal exhibition, of which he is the curator, is a "rigorous, entertaining and informative" display of the works of the "painter of Venice", as he was known because of his unique way of recreating the light on the canals.

The works are mainly from private collections and have been loaned by the foundation, relatives and admirers of the artist, together with some which are the property of Coín council and the Malaga provincial authority.

So this is how the Centro Reyna Manescau came into being as a gallery dedicated to the memory of this artist, which was created by Fundación García Agüera in collaboration with Coín council and inaugurated on 29 November 2019.

It is located in premises which are part of the old Santa María de la Encarnación convent, close to what used to be the painter's family home.

Extensive collection

Its walls are home to an extensive collection of original works by Reyna Manescau in addition to photos, documents, research works and publications, bibliography, personal and other interesting items, with the aim of making more people from Malaga province aware of the artist's life and works.

Next to the rooms dedicated specifically to him, visitors can see Miradas de un Siglo, an exhibition which is designed as an introduction to this cultural centre, to put the art of his era in context with other grand masters of painting in Malaga in the 19th century.

The works that make up this exhibition belong to the Malaga provincial authority's art collection, and include two of Antonio Reyna's most academic examples, José en la Cisterna and La Disputa del Sacramento. He did these during the time he was receiving a grant from the institution in 1882 which enabled him to continue his training in Rome.

They are displayed with other works from 19th century Malaga artists, including José Moreno Carbonero, José Denis Belgrano, Antonio Muñoz Degrain and Ricardo Verdugo Landi.

Although he lived in Rome, Reyna Manescau never forgot the place where he was born and he used to come back for frequent visits.

One of his best-known works is Un Rancho Andaluz, painted in the summer of 1910, which depicts a traditional scene of houses in the countryside of the Guadalhorce Valley.

The painter died on 3 February 1937 and he was laid to rest at the Obra Pía de España in Rome, with other famous Spaniards.

Almost a century after his death, Fundación García Agüera has looked back at that period in numerous publications and that has also helped to add to the reputation of this cultural centre.

It is open to visitors from Mondays to Fridays, from 10am to 2pm and 5 to 8pm.

It is also possible to take a 360-degree virtual tour of the Centro Antonio Reyna Manescau, with each area viewed in 3D.