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This forgotten Córdoba artist constituted the key to the renaissance of Talavera ceramic in the beginning of the XXth century. He founded the School of Ceramic of Madrid, directed it and taught there. He is responsible for one of the capital’s distinguishing features: its commercial tiles.

Enrique Guijo was born in Córdoba in 1871, son of a carpenter who died when he was only 14. This forced him to quit school and then work. Chance took him to the Triana ceramists where he had the first encounter with the trade in which he would later be an expert.

Along with his wife and his newly born daughter, Guijo settled in Madrid (Travesía de la Parada 7) in 1898, by then he was already an expert ceramist. Soon he begun working with  Francisco Álvarez Osorio, Ignacio Calvo y Narciso Sentenach, with whom he put together a kiln.

In 1907, advised by his friend Daniel Zuloaga, also a ceramist, Enrique Guijo traveled to Talavera with the sole idea of reproducing old Talavera ceramic works. He carried out tests in the pottery of “El Carmen” where Ruiz de Luna Rojas, photographer and ceramic painter, worked. The negative from Emilio Niveiro, director of the pottery of “El Carmen”, to hold the fabrication of ceramic using the old Talavera technique resulted in Juan Ruiz de Luna Rojas, Platón Páramo, Juan Ramón Ginestal and Enrique Guijo Navarro creating a society to that end. They named the pottery “Nuestra Señora del Pardo” (Our Lady of el Pardo), Saint of Talavera, as the grand opening took place the same day in which Our Lady of el Pardo is celebrated: the 8th of September (1908). That day begun the renaissance of the Talavera ceramic. It was a time of beginnings and first achievements that lasted until 1915, year in which Guijo would go back to Madrid.

The times of splendor of the Talavera ceramic, long forgotten by 1907, had reached its peak with tile work of the El Escorial Monastery commissioned by Felipe II (Philip II). Enrique is nowadays considered the great restorer of Talavera ceramic.

After the dissolution of the society he formed in Talavera with Ruiz de Luna, Guijo worked a few years in a establishment in Mayor street as subsidiary for Ruiz de Luna and, then, in 1920 opened his own pottery in Carabanchel, where, among others, worked the exquisite apprentice Alfonso Romero Mesa. Romero and Guijo made the famous ceramic works of the old Villa Rosa, in Santa Ana square, around 1928. The following year Romero would start his own pottery.

Along with Alfonso Romero, Juan Ruiz de Luna y Rajel, all of them born in Andalucía, he decorated many commercial establishments in the early XXth century. They even worked together in the famous tile of “Los Gabrieles” Tavern, opened in 1920 and considered by many as the “Sistine Chapel” of commercial tiles. The place had for a long time the honor of being a meeting point for the aristocrats and the bourgeois. Inside we find Enrique Guijo’s mural of the skeletons’ rumba, inspired by the work of Jerez painter Carlos González Rajel.

Other important work by Enrique Guijo was the facade of the Bakery House in Plaza Mayor that he made in 1914 and that was later, in 1992, replaced by Carlos Franco’s work. He also did ceramic advertisements in the metro station of Chamberí, the Egg shop and the Juanse Pharmacy in the popular neighborhood of Malasaña. Guijo also took work from Mariano Benlliure and Joaquín Sorolla.

In 1926 he was appointed curator in the Municipal Museum of Madrid, to which the artist had previously donated its ceramic works, key and foundation for the section dedicated to pottery in this museum. The director then was his dear friend Manuel Machado who said about Guijo:

“Enrique Gujio, a Renaissance soul, curious about all arts, never renouncing to ceramic nor the fascinating and yet terrible viper that is always the kiln, went away to explore and expanded his art into other applied and luxury arts: architectonic decoration, furniture, ébániste, artistic forging... ”

Although both Madrid and Talavera town-halls had long ago approved to name a street after this great and ignored artist, to this day Enrique Guijo is nowhere to be found among their streets. Enrique died forgotten and almost blind in 1945, though, academics don’t quite agree on the exact year of his death.

“Los Gabrieles”, Madrid.
Juanse Pharmacy. Malasaña. Madrid.
Commercial tiles at the metro station of Chamberí
Enrique Guijo’s pottery catalog.
Cover of that catalog.

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