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Camón Aznar, José

    Image Credit: Media Storehouse

    Full Name: Camón Aznar, José

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 04 October 1898

    Date Died: 14 May 1979

    Place Born: Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain

    Place Died: Madrid, Spain

    Home Country/ies: Spain

    Subject Area(s): Renaissance, Spanish (culture or style), and Spanish Renaissance-Baroque styles

    Institution(s): Complutense University of Madrid, Universidad de Salamanca, and Universidad de Zaragoza


    Professor, museum director, founder of Goya. José Camón Aznar received his bachelor’s degree from the Escuelas Pias de Zaragoza, where his uncle, Reverend Desiderio Aznar, and his brother, Angel Aznar, were professors. He then graduated from the University of Zaragoza with a law degree. There he studied under Spanish writer Domingo Miral y Lopez (1872-1942) and Andres Jimenez Soler (1869- 1938). In 1927, he became the Chair of the Teoría de la literatura y de las artes (Theory of Literature and Arts) department at the University of Salamanca. It was there he befriended Spanish essayist Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936). He remained in Salamanca until 1939, when he left to work at the University of Zaragoza as an Art History professor. In 1940, he shared his critical point of view in El arte desde su esencia (Art from its Essence) though it was met with some controversy in Spain. Beginning in 1940 he began writing in the Tercera de ABC (the third page and most read page of ABC, a daily national Spanish newspaper) and published more than 500 articles throughout his career. In 1943, he became the Chair of Medieval Christan and Byzantine Art at the University of Madrid and later became a Dean of Faculty of Philosophy and Letters. He founded the art magazine Revista de Ideas Esteticas (Magazine of Aesthetics Ideas) in 1943. During these years he published Dominico Greco (1950) and “Los Disparates” de Goya y sus dibujos preparatorios (1951). In 1951, he founded and became the first director of the Lazaro Galdiano Foundation Museum in Madrid. Because of the reforms introduced by Aznar and the inauguration of new exhibition spaces, the Lazaro Museum became one of the most highly regarded museums in Madrid (Iñiguez). Working with the foundation, he created the review Goya (1954) which was published by the museum. He founded and was the president of the first association of Spanish critics, La Asociación Española de Críticos de Arte (Spanish Association of Art Critics) in 1961. He published an extensive account of Picasso in Picasso y el cubismo (1956). He compiled miscellaneous articles from his works in ABC in more extensive publications like Las artes y los dias (The Artes and the Days) (1965). In 1973, he was awarded his third Premio Nacional de Literatura (National Literature Prize). A couple of years before his death he wrote an autobiography titled José Camón Aznar: perfil autobiográfico (1984) .Months after his death, the Museo e Instituto de Humanidades Camón Aznar (Museum and Institute of Humanities Camón Aznar) was inaugurated in his birth town.

    Aznar’s reflections, essays on art and its theory, and critiques of art and its aesthetics were critical in reviving the art scene in postwar Madrid. Throughout these works, rather than cataloguing miniscule details of artists and their respective works, he approached the critique of art as a literary interpretation of artistic pieces from all periods (Lorente). He refused to establish chronological or methodological boundaries between history of art and its aesthetics. His articles covered topics from prehistoric paintings, to modern skyscrapers, to Spanish contemporary art, as he tackled the historiography of art. He wrote extensively on Spanish artists including Picasso, Velazquez, and the Renaissance painter Pedro Berruguete (1450-1504). Aznar explained that his intent was to convey the personality of the artist while sharing his own commentary. Because his works were so widely read, they encouraged the general public to more broadly consider both aesthetic reflection and artistic criticism.

    Aznar lived during the Francoist regime. In his youth, Aznar expressed liberal, republican ideologies––he was a member of the Juventud Aragonesista and was a candidate for Salamanca for the Partido Radical. Prior to Franco, the Junta para Ampliación de Estudios (The Board for Advanced Studies) enabled Aznar and his colleagues to be well acquainted with foreign art history publications. While Franco disbanded the board in 1938, Anzar remained rather silent about his political ideologies throughout the duration of Franco’s regime. He was even named a representative to the Academias en las Cortes (Francoist Court). He then shifted to accept the democratic monarchy which emerged after Franco.

    Selected Bibliography

    • El arte desde su esencia. Zaragoza: Espasa-Calpe, 1940;
    • “Los Disparates” de Goya y sus dibujos preparatorios. Barcelona, 1951;
    • Dominico Greco. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1950;
    • Las artes y los días. Madrid: Sucesores de Rivadeneyra, 1965;
    • Picasso y el cubismo. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1956;
    • José Camón Aznar: perfil autobiográfico. Zaragoza: Museo e Instituto “Camón Aznar,” 1984;


    • Alfeo, María Victoria Gómez and Fernando García Rodríguez. 2008. “José Camón Aznar:
      Documentación De La Crítica De Arte En La “Tercera De ABC” Documentación De Las Ciencias De La Información
      31: 67-104;
    • Alzuria, Gonzalo Pasamar, and Ignacio Peiró Martín. Diccionario Akal de Historiadores españoles contemporáneos. Ediciones AKAL, 2002;
    • Angulo Iñiguez, Diego. “José Camón Aznar.” Archivo Español de Arte; Madrid 52, no. 206 (April 1, 1979): 279–280;
    • Camón Aznar, José. “Camón Aznar.” José Camón Aznar: perfil autobiográfico. Zaragoza: Museo e Instituto “Camón Aznar,” 1984;
    • Canosa, Paloma Alarcó. “José Camón Aznar” Oxford Art Online.
    • J. A. Gaya Nuño: Historia de la crítica de arte en España: Sus monumentos y artes, su naturaleza historia (Madrid, 1975);
    • Lomba Fuentes, Joaquín. El Pensamiento de Camón Aznar. [Zaragoza], 1984;
    • Lorente, Jesús Pedro Lorente. “Camón Aznar como crítico y presidente fundador de la AECA.” AACADigital: Revista de la Asociación Aragonesa de Críticos de Arte, no. 18 (2012): 6–15;
    • Pardo Canalis, Enrique. “Necrología del Excmo. Sr. D. José Camón Aznar.” Academia; Madrid 2, no. 48 (Spring 1979): 3;
    • Cook, Walter W. S. Review of Review of La arquitectura plateresca, by José Camón Aznar. The Art Bulletin 28, no. 4 (1946): 281–83. a href=” target=”blank”>

    Contributors: Denise Shkurovich


    Denise Shkurovich. "Camón Aznar, José." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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