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Portrait by Juan Toro de Juanas
by: José Luis Díaz Ruiz

(Professor and Painter)

GUILLERMO SUREDA ARBELO shows us a rich and polyfacetic biography full, not only with successes and artistic accomplishments, but occurrences and anecdotes, that compels us to exercise abridgment and synthesis.

Let’s center our attention on his facet of Watercolor-painter, not withstanding that of sportsman, developed in his youth and those of musician-violinist and composer of themes simultaneously with painting, practically to this day.

Guillermo Sureda was born at Arucas(Gran Canaria) on the 14 of October of 1912, his father being destined as a Civil Guard, on that city. His parents: Mr. Guillermo Sureda Sansó

natural of Manacor (Mallorca) and Ms. Eulalia Arbelo Díaz from Chío (Guía de Isora), daughter of José Arbelo y Domínguez (from Icod) and granddaughter of Juan Arbelo and Modesta Domínguez y Sopranis. The Sopranis were long ago related to Icod, some of it’s members scribes who left in their documents witnesses of the most outstanding occurrences of their time.

The Arbelo family, relatives from the mother’s side of our beloved artist, had their residence on the street of Las Mirandas n°6 at Icod de los Vinos

It is convenient to indicate also that Sureda’s parents married at Iglesia Matriz of San Marcos, Icod on the 9th of May of 1902, his father had just been assigned to the recently constituted Civil Guard Post of Icod (Royal Decreed of 10-24-1898), his mother, as told before had her father’s family on this city.

Artistic Interests rises early in Sureda, bringing forth artistic drawing classes from Dº Pedro Tarquis y Soria, at the "Escuela de Artes y Oficios de Santa Cruz de Tenerife", city in which they settle down since 1926, Sureda being 14 years old. Also commencing his studies at the "Instituto de la Plaza de Ireneo González", that soon hi must leave.

This sensibility towards the Arts is nourished and broadened with his skill in Music, favored, no doubt, by the contact with musical instruments that his father sold, now honorably released from the Civil Guard and turned into a Commercial representative of National and Foreign Products.

Both, Music and Painting start developing gradually, coupled, in the life of our beloved painter. Painting, with it’s beginnings as draftsman at "Litografia Romero", receiving and fixing his attention on the teachings of Juan Davó and with the observation and admiration of other painters such as Bonnín Guerín, Borges Salas, Juan Davó himself and others.

Music, with considerable advances in violin, joining the Chamber Orchestra of "Círculo de Bellas Artes", intervening also in the Tenerife Symphonic Orchestra, created afterwards, constantly perfecting, taking violin lessons, from amongst others, Mr. Manuel Tricás Ibars, the great violin professor, of cherished memories to Icod.

Later on joining the musical group "Agrupación de Pulso y Púa - Echeyde", of which he becomes 1st mandolinist.

With 14 or 15 years Sureda uses to accompany, occasionally, his father, that carrying out his commercial occupation, transits about various towns, among which is Icod , with flourishing commerce, a place that Guillermo enjoyed visiting, partly because it was the city of his forefathers and also for the beauty of it’s nooks and crannies: Park of Lorenzo Cáceres, The Dragon tree, "Plaza de la Pila", ex-convent and plaza of S. Francisco,… on which he preferred to stay awaiting his father making drawings and incipient watercolors.

On the life of our beloved painter sports have an outstanding place: mountaineering, belonging to the mountain-climbing group "El Cencerro" (together with Riquelme, Pedro Padrón, Liberto Rojas,...), practicing on the peaks of Tenerife with the obsession of climbing El Teide and realizing several descents, through La Orotava, Chio, Icod; and above all swimming, being one of the founders of this sport in Tenerife beside Pepe and Manolo Cruz, Paco Rancel, Esteban Mandillo, Acidalio, and others attaining records in 400, 800, and 1000 meters freestyle in the Canaries.

Sureda realizes, at around 1940, the need to choose between two worlds that passion him: Painting and Music, choosing the former, taking advantage of a tour of the group "Agrupación de Pulso y Púa - Echeyde", to which he belongs, through several cities in the peninsula on 1942, establishing himself on Madrid with the firm intention of adventuring into the passionate world of painting and succeed. Here he gets in touch with various Canarian friends, specially Teodoro Ríos, who aides him gain entrance to the recently created Publicity Agency "Dardo" (1st Draftsman with a salary of 800 pesetas.) whilst, working arduously, disciplined, on watercolor technique painting and scraping a lot until attaining works of his liking, with the inestimable help and critic of his good friends Leocadio Machado y Teodoro Ríos, mostly. Leaving the "Dardo" agency works with the pharmaceutical laboratories A. Berenguer Beneyto S.A., which’s more relaxed working hours, permit him to travel through the towns nearby Madrid and paint steadfastly impromptu, the way he was told to by Bonnín Guerín.

On 1947 exhibits his first individual exposition on the Halls of the "Dardo" agency of Madrid with 33 works amongst which is one titled "Cumbres de Icod", and on 1949 presents anew on the same hall obtaining, on both occasions, a rotund success that open the doors to the complicated art world, as well not ceasing to participate in collective exhibits.

Sureda attains his personal differentiation, his own stile, evolving it, improving it, identifying fully with the new landscape: paths, towns nearby Madrid, skies and lands different from those he’d always seen, with the memory on the retina of those eternal Canarian grays.

The years go by and he decides to resume a new life on a new world, this way it commences his American stage on Puerto Rico, where he moves with a contract to work as 1st Draftsman and Art Director of the newspaper "El Imparcial" (1950), a time this, when his painting reaches a new echelon we could call of "maturity". Continues reaffirming himself, coupling and identifying with new shades of vegetation and scenery, introducing the human figure (that on the Canarian scenes would be the "magos" with their cloaks) keeping on with the rendering of his interpretation of the panorama and above all with the consummate use of gray that earns him the definition of "Master in greys".

Sureda, although having painted portraits, mostly upon his arrival at Puerto Rico, has always felt identified with nature, with the landscape, be it earthly (rural or urban) or marine. The scenes he shows us are treated to a studied composition, with cropping of meditated and defined perspective that permit the perception of depth and farness with hues that on his "mature" stage are usually little transparent , with "grosor" (density of color), that remind the cast of oil painting, technique which he also masters, but not to prolific, and with a mixed application over the canvas, dry or wet, wetting the cardboard only on the part/parts of the subject that interest him, puddles of water with reflections, skies of leaden clouds between which blue streaks, skies made up from crossed thick strokes when it pleases him, that imbibe the work with a different atmosphere, vibrant, of unique vivacity and movement, masterful.

The labor of Sureda on Puerto Rico has been enormous. There he gives watercolor classes on Colleges and Academies, on the Deaf and Mute College of Saint Gabriel, on the American Naval Base Roosevelt Roads, on the Lawyers School of Puerto Rico. Engages also in the restoration of works of art, oil paintings, on churches, as proposed by the Catholic Bishop Monsignor Pedro Jaime Davis. But maybe most important to the suredan work there was becoming the impelling force to watercolor, acting as a catalyst and agent for the young painters, painting and rescuing the corners of Old San Juan, which makes him known as "Utrillo del Caribe" or "el cantor pictórico del viejo San Juan" (the pictoric singer of Old San Juan).

On 1952 founded the private painting Academy "Sureda", valued and esteemed by the government.

On October of the same year gets married to a young lady from the Dominican Republic, Miss Miriam Josefina Burgos, in the United States, first residing in Puerto Rico and now in Miami Florida.

From 1956 onwards, when he received the award: "Encomienda de la Orden de Isabel la Católica" granted o the merits of his prolific art contribution and his cultural work in the art world by the Spanish government, together with the Plaque of the Institute of Hispanic Culture "for his labor of bringing together Hispanoamerica", the stage of apogee of his painting begins and also begins the raining of awards and distinctions that he will continue to receive throughout his life, that we will comment on another section.

Although dedicated to painting, Sureda has never left music, composing various melodies, ranging from hymns for counties and organizations, marches, folklore songs, habaneras and other themes. Of particular interest are the compositions: "San Juan", "Arucas", "Laria", "Anoche tuve un sueño"(recently recorded by the Symphonic Orchestra Satumare of Hungary), "El Solitario", "Amarca"(habanera), "Icod", "Veo en ti", "Cuatro Rosas", "Canarias isla queridas", "Yo soy mencey", "Tanya", "A tí ", "Era una isla bella", "Guanche", "Teide", "Mi fantasía", "Plegaria a la Virgen de Candelaria", "Tinguaro", "Chío", "Borinquen" and a long list of others, Hymns to the virgin of Candelaria, Tacoronte, Icod, etc.

Being an authentic Canarian and the love of his land has kept him from parting with her, visiting frequently to rest, stay with his family and above all to keep in touch with our art and artists, whom he has always kept in mind and because of this he organizes two art exhibits at the "Agrupación de Acuarelistas Canarios" on 1968 and 1975, inaugurated at the Academy of Arts and Sciences of Puerto Rico, later presented at various cities throughout the island with a great success.

His love for our Folklore has made him the founder and director of three Canarian musical groups in Puerto Rico and lately in Miami, specifically on the Canarian Home of Miami in the U.S. known as: "Rondalla Canarias".

©2001 Guillermo Sureda Burgos