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Gaya Nuño, Juan Antonio

    Full Name: Gaya Nuño, Juan Antonio

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 29 January 1913

    Date Died: 06 July 1976

    Place Born: Tardelcuende, Soria, Castile-Leon, Spain

    Place Died: Madrid, Spain

    Home Country/ies: Spain

    Subject Area(s): Modern (style or period)

    Career(s): art critics

    Institution(s): Galerias Layetas


    Author, art critic. Gaya Nuño was born in Tardelcuende, Spain to Antonio Gaya Tovar (1876-1936) and Gregoria Nuño Ortega. His father came from a wealthy family of physicians with republican ideals. In 1920, his family moved to Soria where he earned his bachelor’s degree at the Instituto de Soria. He earned a degree in Filosofia y Letras (Philosophy and Letters) from the Universidad Central de Madrid in 1932. He defended his thesis El románico en la provincia de Soria (Romanesque in the Province of Soria) in 1934. At the university, he worked under Manuel Gómez-Moreno Martínez (1870-1970), Manuel Bartolomé Cossío (1857-1935) and Elias Tormo (1869–1954), Leopoldo Torres Balbás (1888–1960), and Blas Taracena (1895–1951) who later became his mentor. He became a member of the Real Academia de la Historia in 1935. He worked for the Sección de Letras del Instituto de Soria and as an archivist-librarian at the Diputación Provincial de Soria. While he was a candidate to be a professor of Art History, Archaeology, and Numismatics at the University of Santiago and Murica, his career was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Prior to the outbreak of the war, Gaya Nuño was a supporter of Manuel Azaña (1880-1940). The assasination of his father during the first weeks of the war compelled him to join the Frente Popular. He was a lieutenant of the Numancia Battalion and fought in Guadalajara. He married Concepcion Gutierrez de Marco (1916-1989) in 1937. After the war, he surrendered himself and the Consejo de Guerra sentenced him to twenty years in prison. He was imprisoned between 1939 to 1943 at the prisons of San Anton, Carabanchel, Valdenoceda, and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. After he was released, he moved to Madrid and met Spanish art historian Jose Gudiol Ricart (1904-1985). Thanks to Gudiol, he became the director of the Galerias Layetas from 1947 to 1951. He took interest in Modern art and published volume V Arquitectura y Escultura Románicas for the Ars Hispaniae with Guidol in 1948 and La pintura española del medio siglo (Mid-century Spanish Painting) in 1952. During these years, he travelled throughout Spain studying museums and private collections and wrote Historia y guia de los Museos de España (History and Guide of Museums in Spain) (1955). He was the director of the Boletín de la Sociedad Española de Excursiones (Bulletin of the Spanish Society of Excursions) and worked with the Instituto Diego Velazques as an advisor of scientific investigations. He was named to the Hispanic Society of New York because of his knowledge of North American historiography, and was also part of the Academia Breve de Critica de Arte. He was awarded the Premio Nacional de Literatura in 1957 along with his close friend and Spanish art historian Jose Camon Aznar (1898-1979). He was a visiting professor at the Universidad de San Juan de Puerto Rico between 1962 to 1963. He published La pintura española del siglo XX (Spanish Painting of the 20th Century) in 1970 and Historia de la crítica de arte en España (History of Art Criticism in Spain) in 1975.

    Gaya Nuño published more than sixty-six books in his career, where he analyzed artistic movements and schools as well as individual artists. He took particular interest in the study of sources of information used in artistic historiographies. In a time of social, political, and economic uncertainty, Gaya Nuño’s ability to collect and synthesize information allowed for this data to be accessible to a larger population. He not only was the most prolific photographic documentor in Spanish history, he also wrote extensively on foreign artists (with a particular focus in North America) (Alzuria and Martin). While the government and universities refused to offer him a permanent office because of his political ideologies, he is unanimously recognized by art historians for his extensive and exhaustive contributions.

    Selected Bibliography

    • La Pintura española en el medio siglo. Barcelona: Omega, 1952;
    • Escultura española contemporánea. Madrid, 1957;
    • Historia y guía de los museos de España. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1968;
    • La pintura española del siglo XX. Madrid: Ibérico Europea de Ediciones, 1972;
    • El Románico En La Provincia de Soria. Madrid: Departamento de Historia del Arte, Instituto de Historia, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Centro de Estudios Sorianos, 2003;


    • Angulo Iñiguez, Diego. “Juan Antonio Gaya Nuño.” Archivo Español de Arte; Madrid 49, no. 195 (July 1, 1976): 361–362;
    • Marco, Concha de, José María Martínez Laseca, and Ignacio del Río Chicote.Juan Antonio Gaya Nuño, 1913-1976 entre el espectador y el arte. 1990;
    • Alzuria, Gonzalo Pasamar, and Ignacio Peiró Martín. Diccionario Akal de Historiadores españoles contemporáneos. Ediciones AKAL, 2002;
    • Jiménez-Blanco, Dolores. “Gaya Nuño, Juan Antonio.” Oxford Art Online. 2003;;
    • Río Chicote, Ignacio del, and José María Martínez Laseca. “Juan Antonio Gaya Nuño  Real Academia de La Historia.”

    Contributors: Denise Shkurovich


    Denise Shkurovich. "Gaya Nuño, Juan Antonio." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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