In the early 1920s, in the midst of a personal and creative crisis, the artist Joaquín Torres-García wrote in his diary, “I am not going to paint anymore. I am going to put all my painting into toys. What children do interests me more than anything else. I am going to play with them.”
Influenced by the pedagogical currents of Maria Montessori and Friedrich Fröbel, as well as by his own life experience—the son of a carpenter, Torres-García earned his living as a teacher—the artist began to design toys in the late 1910s. Small, colorful, and wooden, the figurines tend to be crudely wrought and often designed with interchangeable parts that could be disassembled and recombined. To create his miniature menageries of donkeys, elephants, and lions, Torres-García cut each creature out of a block of wood, then painted it in a flat color, drawing in the details with thick, childish, and seemingly careless strokes.
A selection of these objects is currently on view at Galería Guillermo de Osma. The exhibition includes sets of building blocks labeled with letters (Abecedario [Alphabet, 1927–28]) or numbers Numerario [Numerals, 1927-28]); a slender ostrich alongside ducks, puffins, and pelicans; a harlequin with wire joints; a shady-looking gangster; and various vehicles ranging from a sports car to a milk truck and a horse-drawn wagon. This joyful carnival is rounded out by drawings, paintings, and sketches that share formal affinities—the simple geometries and color palettes, the rebuslike constructions—with the toys, copies of which remain in production today.
Translated from Spanish by Michele Faguet.