Many of Fernando de Szyszlo's paintings respond to literary works. Throughout his life, the Peruvian artist maintained a close relationship with poets and writers, counting among his friends the Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa and the poet Blanca Varela, whom he married in 1949. Since his formative years in Paris in the late 1940s, de Szyszlo has been a keen reader of classic and contemporary works of literature, finding influence in the mythology and mysticism of indigenous Andean cultures and, equally, in European symbolist poetry. Duino-Nueve refers to the famous elegy by Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke written in the exalted solitude of a medieval castle during the First World War. The headless body that appears to emerge from the shadows recalls the Angel from the poem, a sinister and divine figure that embodies freedom and torment, sublimation and despair, as inseparable generative experiences. “Every Angel is terror,” Rilke declaims. “And yet, ah, knowing you, I invoke you, almost deadly, birds of the soul."
Text credit: Produced in collaboration with the University of Maryland Department of Art History & Archaeology and Patricia Ortega-Miranda