Federico García Lorca Biography

Biography (History of the World: The 20th Century)

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Article abstract: García Lorca is celebrated as a poet and dramatist who was able to weave traditional and folk elements of Spanish literature and culture into highly imaginative and original works. His poems and dramas are replete with startling metaphors and images that are both personal and universal in their focus on life and death, sexual identity, and the conflicts of fantasy and reality.

Early Life

Federico García Lorca was born in rural Andalusia near the city of Granada. His father, Don Federico García, was a wealthy landowner. His mother, Vicenta Lorca, was a woman of artistic sentiments and a teacher who nurtured young García Lorca’s poetic sensibilities. Indeed, as a child, he entertained relatives and friends with his own puppet show dramas. Encouraged by his mother’s intense religious mysticism, the creative child took great delight in saying Mass for his family as if he were their priest.

By 1909, the family had moved to Granada, where García Lorca’s secondary education would take place. Though he had wanted to study music to become a composer, his practical father wanted his son to pursue a legal career. García Lorca was enrolled in the College of the Sacred Heart to prepare for such study at the University of Granada. At the college he was taught in the traditional Scholastic system of Saint Thomas Aquinas, which sought to merge intellectually the material with the spiritual. The young, thoughtful García Lorca, however, felt the clash between the medieval worldview of harmony portrayed in his formal studies and the modern world of enlightened scientific and social ideas then proliferating in Spain.

Graduating in 1914, García Lorca was enrolled in the University of Granada. While studying law there, he continued to pursue his interests in music and the rest of the liberal arts. By 1916, he was associating at cafés with fellow intellectuals and aesthetes who, like himself, found the everyday world in which they had to live boring, unimaginative, and, to use García Lorca’s own word, “putrefied.” During this period in his life, García Lorca was influenced by the respected musician Manuel de Falla, whose music was often characterized by its modern treatment of Spanish folk themes. He also became a follower of Don Fernando de los Ríos, who helped foster the modern intellectual, artistic, and political mood in Spain that challenged traditional values and authority.

Though he finally completed his law degree in 1923, in 1919 García Lorca moved to Madrid to study at the university there and lived in the Residencia de Estudiantes, a student residence that was a hotbed of radical, new thinking. While in Madrid, remarkable friendships with such literary figures as Menéndez Pidal, José Ortega y Gasset, and Juan Ramón Jiménez inspired in him a commitment to pursue a career as a writer. He also associated with the likes of Luis Buñuel, Pepín Bello, and perhaps most significantly, Salvador Dalí. Furthermore, he became a friend of Gregorio Martínez Sierra, a director of the Eslava Theater, who eventually produced Lorca’s first play.

Life’s Work

García Lorca’s first publication, Impresiones y paisajes (1918), a melancholy collection of lyrics describing his impressions of ancient Spanish life as it resonated in decaying churches and monasteries, and Libro de poemas (1921), poems composed before García Lorca’s Madrid experience, gained little attention outside his intellectual circle of friends. Though Canciones, 1921-1924 (1927; Songs, 1976) demonstrated García Lorca’s genius for merging traditional themes and images of Spain into contemporary modes of poetic expression, it was the publication of Romancero gitano (1928; The Gypsy Ballads of García Lorca, 1951, 1953) that brought him international attention. This book took more than five years to complete, and some have called it his finest single collection of poetry. In these poems, García Lorca incorporates the popular, rurally primitive spirit of Spain with the wildness and passion of his imagination. The gypsy culture provides the backdrop to the poet’s portrayal of the mystery of an alien society surviving in the dominant culture. Furthermore, he explores, with surprising metaphors and unusual word order, the existential and personal themes of dangerously repressed sexual instincts that are ever ready to erupt into the surface life, sometimes in the throes of violence and death. In fact, with haunting, lyrical beauty, the poems explore the full spectrum of sexual experience from the “normal” to the hidden impulses toward incest and homosexuality. The collection rightly brought García Lorca the title of “gypsy poet.”

By the 1930’s, while continuing to suffer emotional strife and bouts of depression, García Lorca turned his creative talents to the drama. With Bodas de sangre (1933; Blood Wedding, 1939), Yerma (1934; English translation, 1941), and later La casa de Bernarda Alba (1945; The House of Bernarda Alba, 1947), he created a dramatic trilogy that portrays characters struggling with their instinctual passions as well as their interlocking fates. Yerma, for example,...

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Federico García Lorca Biography (Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Federico García Lorca was born in 1898 in a small Andalusian village about fifteen miles from Granada. His father was a prosperous landowner and his mother a sometime teacher. All four of their children grew up in comfortable circumstances with the advantages of a good formal education and the prolonged leisure to pursue the delights of music and literature. Indeed, García Lorca’s interest in the theater was apparent from a very early age in the puppet-theater shows that he designed and directed to entertain the household. In 1909, the family moved to Granada, where García Lorca went to school and attended university. The move was significant: The rich and varied cultural life there fired the young García Lorca’s ambition to write, while the city itself provided him with the subject matter of some of his most important works. Moreover, at the conservatory in Granada, García Lorca’s considerable musical ability brought him to the attention of Manuel de Falla. Their long friendship and occasional professional collaboration was based on a mutual interest in traditional Spanish music and folklore. In 1919, García Lorca left for Madrid and began a ten-year stay at the Residencia de Estudiantes that proved of great consequence to his artistic career. There, García Lorca kept company with the senior Spanish residents, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Gregorio Martínez Sierra, Antonio Machado; made friends with Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel; and enjoyed the frequent visits of famous European contemporaries of the stature of H. G. Wells, François Mauriac, Igor Stravinsky, Paul Valéry, and Albert Einstein. Above all, García Lorca found at the Residencia an audience that listened with intellectual acuity and sensitive appreciation to...

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Federico García Lorca Biography (Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Other Literary Forms

The publisher Aguilar of Madrid issued a one-volume edition of Federico García Lorca’s works, compiled and annotated by Arturo del Hoyo, with a prologue by Jorge Guillén and an epilogue by Vicente Aleixandre. In addition to the poetry, it includes García Lorca’s plays, of which the tragic rural trilogy Bodas de sangre (pr. 1933, pb. 1935; Blood Wedding, 1939), Yerma (pr. 1934; English translation, 1941), and La casa de Bernarda Alba (wr. 1936; pr., pb. 1945; The House of Bernarda Alba, 1947) are world famous and represent García Lorca’s best achievement as a poet become director-playwright. In order to portray all the facets of García Lorca’s artistic personality, the Aguilar edition also includes his first play, El maleficio de la mariposa (pr. 1920, pb. 1957; The Butterfly’s Evil Spell, 1963); an example of his puppet plays, Los títeres de Cachiporra: La tragicomedia de don Cristóbal y la señá Rosita (wr. 1928, pr. 1937; The Tragicomedy of Don Cristóbal and Doña Rosita, 1955); selections from Impresiones y paisajes (1918; impressions and landscapes), García Lorca’s first published prose works, in which his genius is already evident in the melancholic, impressionistic style used to describe his feelings and reactions to the Spanish landscape and Spanish life; several short prose pieces and dialogues; a number of lectures and speeches; a variety of representative letters to friends; texts of newspaper interviews; poems from the poet’s book of suites; fifteen of his songs; and twenty-five of his drawings.

Although the Aguilar edition reflects a consummate artist, still missing from its pages are a number of other works: a five-act play, El público (fragment, wr. 1930, pb. 1976; The Audience, 1958), and the first part of a dramatic biblical trilogy titled “La destrucción de Sódoma” (wr. 1936; the destruction of Sodom), on which García Lorca was working at the time of his death. Lost are “Los sueños de mi prima Aurelia” (the dreams of my cousin Aurelia) and “La niña que riega la albahaca y el príncipe pregunton” (the girl who waters the sweet basil flower and the inquisitive prince), a puppet play presented in Granada on January 5, 1923. “El sacrificio de Ifigenia” (Iphigenia’s sacrifice) and “La hermosa” (the beauty) are titles of two plays whose existence cannot be substantiated.

Reportedly, García Lorca also collected a group of poems titled “Sonetos del amor oscuro” (sonnets of dark love), the title suggesting to certain critics the poet’s preference for intimate masculine relationships. Until the 1960’s, most of the works evaluating García Lorca centered on the events of his life and death and were only interspersed with snatches of literary criticism. Since his death, thematic and stylistic studies by such noted scholars as Rafael Martínez Nadal, Gustavo Correa, Arturo Barea, Rupert C. Allen, and Richard L. Predmore have served to illuminate García Lorca’s symbolic and metaphorical world.

Achievements

The typically Spanish character of his plays and poetry, enhanced by rich and daring lyrical expression, have made Federico García Lorca one of the most universally recognized poets of the twentieth century. His tragic death in 1936 at the hands of the Falange, the Spanish Fascist Party, in the flower of his manhood and literary creativity, merely served to further his fame.

The first milestone of García Lorca’s short but intense career was the publication of The Gypsy Ballads of García Lorca, which solidly established his reputation as a fine poet in the popular vein. His dark, brooding, foreboding ballads of Gypsy passion and death captured the imagination and hearts of Spaniards and foreigners, Andalusians and Galicians, illiterate farmers and college professors. Critics saw in García Lorca’s poems the culmination of centuries of a rich and diverse Spanish lyric tradition. For example, Edwin Honig has noted that García Lorca’s poetry took its inspiration from such diverse sources as the medieval Arabic-Andalusian art of amorous poetry; the early popular ballad; the Renaissance synthesis in Spain of classical traditions, as exemplified by the “conceptist” poetry of Luis de Góngora y Argote; and the cante jondo, or “deep song,” of the Andalusian Gypsy.

Living in an era of vigorous cultural and literary activity, called by many Spain’s second golden age, García Lorca clearly maintained his individuality. His innate charm and wit, his strong and passionate presence, his duende, or “soul,” as a performer of Andalusian songs and ballads, and his captivating readings of his own poetry and plays drew the applause and friendship of equally talented writers and artists, such as Rafael Alberti, Pedro Salinas, Jorge Guillén, Vicente Aleixandre, Salvador Dalí, and Luis Buñuel.

The poet reached the peak of his popular success in the late 1920’s. Both his Songs and The Gypsy Ballads of García Lorca were published to great critical acclaim. In the same period, he delivered two memorable lectures, the first at the cante jondo festival organized jointly with composer Manuel de Falla in Granada, and the second at the festival in honor of Góngora’s tercentenary. His play Mariana Pineda (pr. 1927, pb. 1928; English translation, 1950) was produced in Barcelona, and the following year he founded and published the literary journal Gallo. Despite these achievements, however, García Lorca suffered a grave spiritual crisis, to which he alludes in his correspondence but never really clarifies. This crisis led him to reevaluate his artistic output and turn to new experiences and modes of expression.

The result of García Lorca’s soul-searching can be seen in his later works, especially Poet in New York and Lament for the Death of a Bullfighter. In the former, García Lorca fully unleashes his imagination in arabesques of metaphor which on first reading appear incomprehensible. Poet in New York is a difficult and frequently obscure work that has been viewed as a direct contrast to his earlier poetry. Yet, as Predmore has so painstakingly demonstrated, these poems extend rather than depart from García Lorca’s established preference for ambiguous and antithetical symbolism.

The two threads that run throughout García Lorca’s work are the themes of love and death: They lend a poetic logic and stability to what may otherwise appear chaotic and indecipherable. A study of these themes in García Lorca’s poetry and plays reveals a gradual evolution from tragic premonition and foreboding, through vital passion repressed and frustrated by outside forces, to bitter resignation and death. Throughout his life, García Lorca’s constant companion and friend was death. The poet Antonio Machado described this intimacy with death in his lament for García Lorca:

He was seen walking with Her, alone,
unafraid of her scythe.
. . . . . . . .
Today as yesterday, gypsy, my Death,
how good to be with you, alone
in these winds of Granada, of my Granada.

García Lorca’s gift of imagination, his genius for metaphor and volatile imagery, and his innate sense of the tragic human condition make him one of the outstanding poets of the twentieth century. With his execution in Granada in 1936 at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the frustrated personas of his poetry and plays, who so often ended their lives in senseless tragedy, materialized in his own person. In García Lorca, life became art and art became life. Combining the experience of two cultures, he addressed in both, the Andalusian and the American man’s primal needs and fears within his own interior world.

Biography

Federico García Lorca was born on June 5, 1898, in Fuentevaqueros, in the province of Granada. His father, Don Federico García Rodríguez, was a well-to-do landowner, a solid rural citizen of good reputation. After his first wife died, Don Federico married Doña Vicenta Lorca Romero, an admired schoolteacher and a musician. García Lorca was very fond of his mother and believed that he inherited his intelligence and artistic bent from her and his passionate nature from his father. It was in the countryside of Granada that García Lorca’s poetic sensibility took root, nourished by the meadows, the fields, the wild animals, the livestock, and the people of that land. His formative years were centered in the village, where he attended Mass with his mother and absorbed and committed to memory the colorful talk, the folktales, and the folk songs of the vega (fertile lowland) which would later find a rebirth in the metaphorical language of his poetry and plays.

In 1909, his family moved to Granada, and García Lorca enrolled in the College of the Sacred Heart to prepare for the university. This was the second crucial stage in his artistic development: Granada’s historical and literary associations further enriched his cultural inheritance from the vega and modified it by adding an intellectual element. García Lorca wanted to be a musician and composer, but his father wanted him to study law. In 1915, he matriculated at the University of Granada, but he never was able to adapt completely to the regimentation of university studies, failing three courses, one of them in literature. During the same period, he continued his serious study of piano and composition with Don Antonio Segura. García Lorca frequented the cafés of Granada and became popular for his wit. In 1916 and 1917, García Lorca traveled throughout Castile, Léon, and Galicia with one of his professors from the university, who also encouraged him to write his first book, Impresiones y paisajes. He also came into contact with important people in the arts, among them Manuel de Falla, who shared García Lorca’s interest in traditional folk themes, and Fernando de los Ríos, an important leader in educational and social reforms, who persuaded García Lorca’s father to send his son to the University of Madrid.

In 1919, García Lorca arrived in Madrid, where he was to spend the next ten years at the famous Residencia de Estudiantes, in the company of Rafael Alberti, Jorge Guillén, Pedro Salinas, Gerardo Diego, Dámaso Alonso, Luis Cernuda, and Vicente Aleixandre. There García Lorca published his first collection of poems, Libro de poemas, and became involved with the philosophical and literary currents then in vogue. In 1922, García Lorca returned to Granada to conduct with Manuel de Falla a “Festival of Cante Jondo.”

The years from 1924 to 1928 were successful but troubled ones for García Lorca, marked by moments of elation followed by depression. During these years, García Lorca developed a close friendship with Salvador Dalí and spent several summers with the Dalí family at Cadaqués. He published his second book of poems, Songs, in 1927 and in that same year saw the premiere of Mariana Pineda in Barcelona and Madrid. In December of 1927, García Lorca participated in the famous Góngora tricentennial anniversary celebrations in Seville, where he delivered one of his most famous lectures, “The Poetic Image in Don Luis de Góngora.” Gradually, García Lorca’s fame spread, and his The Gypsy Ballads of García Lorca became the most widely read book of poems to appear in Spain since the publication of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer’s Rimas in 1871. During the period from May to December of 1928, García Lorca suffered an emotional crisis which prompted him to leave Spain to accompany Fernando de los Ríos to New York. After spending nine months in the United States, a stay that included a visit to Vermont, García Lorca returned to Spain by way of Cuba with renewed interest and energy for his work. The clearest product of this visit was Poet in New York, one of his greatest books of poems, published four years after his death.

Upon his return to Madrid in 1930, García Lorca turned his focus increasingly to the dramatic. In 1932, under the auspices of the Republic’s Ministry of Education, García Lorca founded La Barraca, a university theater whose aim was to bring the best classical plays to the provinces. In the same period, he saw the successful staging of Blood Wedding and El amor de don Perlimplín con Belisa en su...

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Federico García Lorca Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The son of a well-to-do landholder, Federico García Rodriguez, and a former schoolteacher, Vicenta Lorca, Federico García Lorca (gahr-SEE-ah LAWR-kah) was born in the small village of Fuentevaqueros, Spain, near the Andalusian city of Granada on June 5, 1898. Legend has it that García Lorca was a slow walker and talker, but his mother and brother remembered that he was normal in his development. He did, however, display at an early age a vivid imagination and a strong creative flair. He was fond of staging puppet shows written and costumed by him for an audience composed of the family servants. He also liked to play the role of priest at impromptu masses. These childhood interests foretold his success as a playwright, director,...

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Federico García Lorca Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Partly, at least, because of his death at the hands of the Falangists in the early days of the Spanish Civil War but more importantly because of his literary achievements, Federico García Lorca (gahr-SEE-ah LAWR-kah) has come to be regarded as one of the most outstanding Spanish poets of the modern period. He was educated at the University of Granada, where he studied law and literature. By 1919 he had settled in Madrid, and by 1927 had become well known as a poet through his Libro de poemas (book of poems) and Songs. In 1929 he spent a year in New York, where he became intrigued by Harlem and the life of African Americans there, an experience that greatly affected some of his later work. Upon returning to Spain,...

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Federico García Lorca Biography (Drama for Students)

Federico García Lorca Published by Gale Cengage

Federico García Lorca was born on June 5,1898, in the small town of Fuente Vaqueros, near the city of Granada, in Spain. He grew up in comfortable and pleasant circumstances, cultivating his tastes and talents for music (piano) and writing. By 1909 his family had moved to Granada, and by 1914 Lorca was enrolled in the University of Granada studying the liberal arts and law. He published a first book of collected articles and essays in 1918.

This first book whetted Lorca's appetite for more ambitious literary forays. In 1919, Lorca moved to the Residence of University Students in Madrid, where he believed he would encounter and benefit from a greater concentration of cultural activity than Granada, at the time, could offer. In Madrid, Lorca became acquainted with and established close, lifelong associations with Salvador Dalí, the surrealist artist, and Manuel de Falla, the orchestral composer, amongst others.

While Lorca wrote some dramatic pieces in his early writing years, he began his literary career most notably as a poet. However, while he was writing this poetry, he was also involved in a theatrical group of which he was the director. It was in the late 1920s that Lorca began to concentrate on drama. His famous trilogy of rural plays, of which Blood Wedding is one, was written between 1933-1936. Two of them were also staged during these years. (This trilogy includes Yerma and The House of Bernarda Alba.)

Lorca's short life was busy and full. He wrote a great deal, he was feted and admired, and he traveled extensively (for example, to the United States, Cuba, and South America). While Lorca's public life is well documented, biographers are less certain about precise details concerning Lorca's private life. The reason for this is that Lorca was gay, and the frank disclosure of such a fact during his time would have substantially endangered his career and social position.

Lorca was assassinated in 1936 just outside of Granada. The Spain of the early 1930s was a country uneasily negotiating the shift from monarchical, parliamentary traditionalism to full democracy and cultural liberalism. The political and social situation in Spain was as beleaguered and chaotic as that which characterized European politics and society, in general, at the time. The continent as a whole was struggling with the effects of lingering post-WW I economic depression as well as the rise of fascism in Italy, Germany, and Spain. The fascist army general Francisco Franco was gaining support in Spain, primarily from those who feared substantive change in either cultural or political terms. It was supporters of right-wing leaders such as Franco who saw Lorca and others as threats to the traditionalism and dictatorial society and law they wished to impose upon the Spanish nation. Lorca was arrested on August 16, 1936, and shot on either August 18th or 19th.

Federico García Lorca Biography (Poetry for Students)

In 1898, Lorca was born in an Andalusian village near Granada, Spain, to a landowning farmer and a village schoolmistress. He lived in this...

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