Benito Quinquela Martín was an Argentine self-taught painter, one of the most popular in the country and abroad.
From very humble origin, his port paintings show the rawness of daily life in the port of La Boca.
Art was characterized because it used the spatula as its main working instrument instead of the traditional brush.
Born in March 1890, his birth name was Benito Juan Martín, and he was the son of an unknown mother who left him at the Casa de los Expósitos, where the homeless children remained.
Seven years later he was adopted by the Chinchella family, who owned a coal shop.
As a child he had to drop out of school to help his family by carrying bags in the harbor and working in the family coal shop.
At the age of 14 he studied drawing at a modest evening academy and in 1907 he enrolled in the Pezzini Stiatessi Academy of Music, which operated at the Union Society of La Boca. There he studied painting with Alfredo Lazzari, an Italian painter of academic background under the influence of macchiaiolismo.
Together with his master he toured the banks of the Riachuelo and Maciel Island, practicing outdoor painting.
In 1909, during a brief stay in Cordoba, he met the painter Walter de Navazio and painted his series of landscapes. Back in Buenos Aires he decided to devote himself fully to painting, installing his first workshop at the top of the family business.
Quinquela Martín participated in the First Recusados Salon of 1914, presenting Quinta on Maciel Island and Rincón del arroyo Maciel, works signed with his original surname: Chinchella.
His paintings were very well received by critics. Around 1916 he met Pío Collivadino, then Director of the National Academy of Fine Arts (ANBA), a decisive support for the painter's career.
Two years later, he held his first show and from that moment he had growing exhibitions.
President Marcelo T. de Alvear gave the painter his collaboration, and in 1928 he acquired one of his works to give to the Prince of Wales, who was visiting the country.
After moving to a new workshop, he traveled abroad and exhibited in different countries. Back in Buenos Aires he frequented the group Gente de Arte y Letras Impulso, based in the Café Tortoni.
He showed his works in several exhibitions held at home and abroad. He managed to sell several of his creations and so many others donated them. With the economic benefit obtained by these sales he carried out several solidarity works in La Boca.
In the 1930s, he wanted to give back to the neighborhood some of what he had given him. In 1933 he donated land that he had bought for the National Council of Education to build a public school, but set two conditions.
He asked for one of the floors to run a school and in the other two a museum of Argentine artists and the workshop-home of Quinquela.
His other condition was to decorate the place with murals.
In 1936 the Pedro de Mendoza school was inaugurated and in 1938, the Museum of Argentine Artists, today The Benito Quinquela Martín Museum of Fine Arts.
Later he was donating other spaces for the Ribera Theatre, a kindergarten and lactarium and, finally, a Hospital of Child Dentistry to be erected.
By the 1950s the neighborhood had declined in the face of growth in other ports and convents (colorful buildings used as collective dwellings) disappeared.
Moved by nostalgia and his love of art organized an outdoor exhibition space for different artists and craftsmen and in stretch of abandoned railway he built a street-fair with colorful convents: he called it CAMINITO in reference to Juan de Juan de's famous tango God Filiberto.
The painter of La Boca died on January 28, 1977 in the city that saw him born.