Eduardo Chillida Juantegui, or Eduardo Txillida Juantegi in Basque, (Donosti, 10 January 1924 – Donosti, 19 August 2002) was a Basque sculptor notable for his monumental abstract works.
Chillida had been the goalkeeper for Real Sociedad, San Sebastian’s football team, where his knee was so seriously injured that he had five surgeries, ending a promising football career. He then studied architecture at the University of Madrid from 1943 to 1946. In 1947 he abandoned architecture for art, and the next year he moved to Paris, where he set up his first studio and began working in plaster and clay. He never finished his degree and instead began to take private art lessons. He lived in Paris from 1948 to 50 and at Villaines-sous-Bois from 1950 to 1955. In 1955 Chillida returned to the San Sebastián area, first to the nearby village of Hernani and in 1959 to the city of his birth, where he remained.
Chillida’s earliest sculptures concentrated on the human form (mostly torsos and busts); his later works tended to be more massive and more abstract, and included many monumental public works. Chillida himself tended to reject the label of “abstract”, preferring instead to call himself a “realist sculptor”. Upon returning to the Basque Country in 1951, Chillida soon abandoned the plaster he used in his Paris works. Living near Hernani, he began to work in forged iron with the help of the local blacksmith, and soon set up a forge in his studio. From 1954 until 1966, Chillida worked on a series entitled Anvil of Dreams, in which he used wood for the first time as a base from which the metal forms rise up in explosive rhythmic curves. He began to make sculpture in alabaster 1965. Rather than turn over a maquette of a sculpture to fabricators, as many modern artists do, Chillida worked closely with the men in the foundry. He then usually added an alloy that caused the metal to take on a brilliant rust color as it oxidizes.
From quite early on, Chillida’s sculpture found public recognition, and, in 1954, he produced the four doors for the basilica of Arantzazu, where works by other leading Basque sculptors – Jorge Oteiza, Agustin Ibarrola and Nestor Basterretxea – were also being installed. By the early 1970s, his steel sculptures had been installed in front of the Unesco headquarters in Paris, the ThyssenKrupp building in Düsseldorf, and in a courtyard at the World Bank offices in Washington
At their best his works, although massive and monumental, suggest movement and tension. For example, the largest of his works in the United States, De Musica is an 81-ton steel sculpture featuring two pillars with arms that reach out but do not touch. Much of Chillida’s work is inspired by his Basque upbringing, and many of his sculptures’ titles are in the Basque language..
Chillida also conceived a distinguished oeuvre of etchings, lithographs and woodcuts since 1959, including illustrations for Jorge Guillén’s Más Allá (1973) and various other books.