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Almost by chance, or perhaps as a break in a period during which she only painted self-portraits, Mercedes Carbonell painted her first children’s portrait: that of her eight-year-old son, Pablo. Now Pablo has just turned 20, and Mercedes paints children’s portraits almost exclusively. Although there are no galleries in Spain dedicated to portraiture, she has had a brilliant career, including shows in prestigious venues such as Galeria Mar Estrada, Cavecanem, Juana de Aizpuru, Magda Belloti or the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo. Her work is represented in a number of important institutions, such as the Fundación Focus, Fundación El Monte, and the Centro Nacional Reina Sofía.

Although Mercedes has also painted adults­–including celebrities such as Luz Casal, Antonio Carmona, Kiko Veneno, Gabino Diego and María Barranco—her children’s portraits have a particular magic. The child’s clear look, those first traces of an individual’s personality, beginning to define itself, and the lively and profound curiosity for a life discovered day by day, are all uniquely captivating to the artist.

Art is a solitary process, difficult and demanding. Face to face with the canvas, the artist is flanked by his muses, but he is also surrounded by ghosts. Inspiration always comes with work, and work is a continuous struggle for determination among a thousand possiblities. His sure-handed choices, his skill at finding his way through the labyrinth in which beauty lies hidden, is the triumph of art and the intimate satisfaction of the artist. Mercedes has found that painting children helps her find this path, and ensures that she travels it in congenial company. The children—each child—has the world open before him; this is the most sanguine present moment in humanity, because each child is pure hope, sheer life.

Mercedes surrounds herself daily with this meeting between the thrill of art and the joy of childhood, by teaching afternoon painting classes for children in her studio, in English. The energy of this congress makes its way into her portraits. The portraits of Lucia, Ana, Javier, Sofia[ etc.] have become part of Mercedes’ own life story. She has come to love every one of “her” children, and always will. Alie, her latest comissions (and Sir Lawrence Olivier’s grandchild), keep her company in her studio these days. Mercedes is delighted. She has always been an anglophile, perhaps because she had her first exhibition in London, when she was 24. Mercedes undoubtedly hopes that this comission will reintroduce her to the British market, but her true impetus originates in the magical life of her studio and its children.


Pepe Yñiguez