Eduardo Chillida (Spanish, 1924–2002) is regarded one of the most important Spanish sculptors of the 20th century. Chillida first became famous for his monumental abstract steel works, many of which are now public sculptures. These works include the series El peine del viento (The comb of the wind), installed in front of the UNESCO office in Paris in 1968, and at the bay in the Basque region of his hometown in 1976, or his 2000 sculpture Berlin, placed facing the chancellery in the Germany capital as a symbol of German reunification. Chillida was born in San Sebastían, in the Spanish section of the Basque region set between Spain and France.
After studying architecture in Madrid, he began creating sculptures in 1947. He lived in Paris for three years before moving back to Hernani, near his hometown San Sebastían. There, he first worked with clay and plaster, but soon concentrated on sculpting using steel and granite, the materials with which he could best “form the empty space, provoking the vacuum and embrac[ing] the horizon,” as he once commented. While Chillida received widespread international attention, he went unnoticed in Spain for many years. He had solo shows and retrospectives in France, the United States, and Germany in the 1950s, and participated at the documenta exhibition in Kassel three times. In 1958, he won the international prize for sculpture at the Venice Bienniale, and in 1960 was awarded the Japanese Praemium Imperiale, before holding a large retrospective in Madrid in 1977. Much of Chillida’s work is inspired by his Basque upbringing, and many of his sculptures have titles in the Basque language, Euskera. A large body of his work may now be seen in San Sebastián. In 2000, Chillida opened his own museum in Hernani, fulfilling a lifelong dream. He died two years later, at 78 years old; the museum still actively displays his work today.