Born in 1924 in Ermita, Manila in the Philippines, Zóbel studied medicine in Manila but in 1942 a spinal deficiency left him bedridden for a year, so he turned to sketching to pass the time.

In 1946, he left for Harvard to study history and literature, still continuing to paint. Zóbel returned to the Philippines where he made a significant impact on Filipino modern art. He made friends with several Filipino modernist artists and began collecting their work, curating exhibitions of their art in order to bring Filipino modern art to the mainstream.

Fernando Zóbel Image via Fernando Zóbel
Image via

In 1953, Zóbel held his first one-man exhibition at the Philippine Art Gallery. The following year, he had an exhibition at Boston's Swetzoff and had enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design. At the school, he saw a show of Mark Rothko's work, which inspired Zóbel to paint in an abstract form. He later returned to the Philippines where he studied Japanese and Chinese art and calligraphy.

One of the artist's most recognised works is his Saetas series, for which he famously used a a surgical syringe to eject fine lines of paint onto his works.

As well as the legacy he felt in the Philippines, Zóbel founded the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español in Cuenca, Spain in 1963. In 1980, Zóbel donated the collection to the Fundación Juan March in order to combine both of the museum's collections.

Zóbel helped the careers of Spanish modernist painters such as Antonio Lorenzo, Eusebio Sempere, Martín Chirino López, Antonio Saura. For his contributions to Spanish art, in 1983, King Juan Carlos of Spain bestowed upon Zóbel the Medalla de Oro al Mérito en las Bellas Artes.

In 2003, a retrospective of Zóbel's work was shown in Spain, whilst in 2006 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Merit by the Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for his contributions to the arts. In May of 2008, his piece entitled Noche Clara sold in Hong Kong at Christie's for PHP 6 000 000, setting the record for the most expensive Philippine artwork. This record has been broken since, when in 2013, a work of his sold at Sotheby's for 8 200 000 HKD ($1 060 000.)

Check out more realized prices for Zóbel on Barnebys here.

Fernando Zóbel,Hot sun, cool fire, 1972 Fernando Zóbel,Hot sun, cool fire, 1972

On the March 16 and 17, Spanish auction house Spanish Duran's sale will feature Hot sun, cool fire by Zóbel. The piece is signed and dated May 1972, as well as having an inscription which reads: "To Roberto in his new study." The piece has a starting price of €27 500. Search the full catalog on Barnebys here.