Rafael Falcó Güell: Dialogue with an Adventist painter in Spain

Rafael Falcó Güell was born near Barcelona, Spain. When he was 12, both his parents died, leaving him to the care of relatives. From his earliest childhood he loved to draw and paint, and for several decades has never turned back from that first love.

At 22, spurred by a scholarship, he went to Madrid to study art. There he visited regularly the Sorolla Museum, where he spent hours studying the great masterpieces, especially the light and the brilliant colors of the Valencian impressionist master, Joaquín Sorolla. Under the artist's influence he painted many beach scenes, with children playing in the sun. His paintings reveal a fascination for the reflection of colors on the moving waters, which would become one of his favorite subjects through his professional life.

Back in Barcelona, the young artist was admitted to the impressionist school of Rafael Benet, and soon became an outstanding student. He also became acquainted with many artists, and in 1965 shared a studio with the famous painter Gabino Rey. In 1968, Falcó Güell participated in his first collective exhibition of art in Barcelona. And two years later, he presented his first individual exhibition in the prestigious Sala Jaimes (James Hall), with his favorite subjects: children playing on the beach and landscapes depicting the seaside of the beautiful Costa Brava, on the Mediterranean. He spent the whole of 1970 in Paris, painting diverse local subjects for several exhibitions in Barcelona and other cities in Catalonya. Five years later, the American art expert Herbert Arnot (Arnot Gallery in New York) got so interested in Falcó Güell's work that he bought almost all his production of several years.

From 1985 to 1994, the artist joined the Rusc Art School of Blanes in Barcelona to teach art skills to the young and the aspiring, and to share with them his passion for painting. (Falcó's portrait, above left, was painted by one of his students, Cristina Jeremías, who dedicated it to him.) During this period, he visited Venice many times, producing some 400 works that reflected the colors and scenes the city was historically noted for. The Venetian motif underscored his successful art exhibition in numerous art galleries in the United States as well as in France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. His 1992 exhibition during the Barcelona Olympics won him accolades from art critics throughout Europe.

Rafael Falcó Güell and his wife are members of the Urgell Adventist Church in Barcelona.

When did you start painting, and who gave you the initial encouragement?

When I was just seven years old, my father gave me a box of watercolors. That was the first step, and I have never stopped painting since then. I liked visiting art galleries and museums, and there I discovered what beauty is all about. I found within me lying dormant the desire to paint. Later I saw in that desire a gift that God has given–only to be developed, to let it blossom.

What has been the hardest thing in your career?

As a youth I worked as a mechanic, but in leisure time I found my joy in painting. As a painter, the first challenge I encountered was economical. No one wants to buy a painting from an unknown painter! It takes time to become and to be known as a professional painter. Little by little, I climbed that hill, and one day that moment arrived to surprise me. My first exhibition was off to a good start, and since then I had no problem making a living as a painter.

What are your favorite themes?

Mostly landscapes. The sea, the beach, and the little villages on the mountains always attracted me. But I also paint life in the big cities. I specially like Venice and Barcelona. Life is interesting for me in all its forms. But I find that nature allows me a greater freedom, working with colors and playing with light.

How would you define your style?

I have not tried to stick to a particular style. Style comes by itself. The experts call my style “new impressionism.” I do not disagree.

You have been a successful artist. What would you say is the secret of your success?

For me, success is not a question of money but of satisfaction. Real success comes from the quality of work done and being fully satisfied with the final product. The way I depict light and colors is liked by many. The secret rests on a certain balance between honesty and competence.

What makes you happy as an artist?

To be happy in a fallen world such as ours is not an absolute possibility. We need to find happiness in doing best whatever we are gifted and called to do. My happiness is to reflect in my painting the great beauty that I see every day, in many places, in God’s glorious creation. Having completed a painting, whether commissioned or not, and then place it in the hands of an owner brings both satisfaction and suffering. The satisfaction comes when we know that our work will make someone happy, and will add beauty to a home or an office. The suffering comes from the realization that I will never possess that work again. But a contented painter will learn to deal with both aspects of his or her profession.

Does your faith affect your view of art?

Do you intend to convey a particular message in your work? Certainly so. One’s view of life affects one’s work, and this is particularly so in painting. I see God in His work all the time, and it is with that thought I take my brush and approach my canvass. However, I never try to convey some hidden message. Let the beauty of art speak for itself. When I paint I just give away what I have received, what I see, and what I feel. I like to think of myself as a copyist, an imitator, or a transcriber and a worshiper of God, and I convey God’s gift through my work.

How does your family life affect your work?

My family is very much a part of my work. Without a happy and supportive family, one cannot concentrate on one’s work, and this is specially so in such a sensitive art as painting. Although I do not like some of the criticisms that my relatives share with me about some of my paintings, very often on second thought I have to accept them, because they are right and quite positive.

How did you become acquainted with Seventh-day Adventists?

After my military service, I became reacquainted with an Adventist family in Barcelona. I particularly liked their daughter, who led me to the Seventhday Adventist Church. We got married and she has been my faithful companion all these years.

Do you feel supported by your church in what you do?

Generally, yes. Some of my church friends have encouraged me and appreciated my work. But I have to confess that many in the church do not a have cultivated interest in art and painting.

What would your counsel be to young Adventists aspiring to be painters?

To decide to become a painter is a very personal matter. A gift is something received from God. To be an artist is a serious matter involving talents and gifts, but also convictions and a lot of determination. If some one feels gifted along this line, go for it!

Roberto Badenas (Ph.D., Andrews University) is the director of the Education Department and Dialogue representative for the Euro-Africa Division. His email address: roberto. badenas@euroafrica.org. Rafael Falcó Güell may be contacted through email: rfalcoguell@hotmail.com.