Francisco NarvÃ¡ez began his education at his father’s workshop and continued it at the Academia de Bellas Artes in Caracas (1922-1928) and the AcadÃ©mie Julian in Paris (1928-1931). Returning to Caracas, he began to search for a sculptural form that could integrate Venezuelan subjects and modern expression, thus placing himself as a leading figure of the criollista movement. His were characterized by vernacular motifs and sensuality of form and volume. Several of them were designed for public places, including the fountains at the Parque Carabobo (1933) and the Plaza O’ Leary (Las Toninas, 1943) in Caracas, as well as the great wood statues he produced for the Worldâ€™s Fair (1939) in New York, today they are displayed at the Liceo FermÃn Toro and the Liceo AndrÃ©s Bello, in Caracas. In 1941, NarvÃ¡ez received the Premio Nacional de Escultura, and, in 1948, the Premio Nacional de Pintura. His established him as a leader of modernism in Venezuela. Beginning in 1949, he participated in Carlos Raul Villanuevaâ€™s project at the Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas. The monumental stone statue El atleta, located in the Olympic Stadium, 1951, marked the culmination of this creative period.
NarvÃ¡ez embarked on a new direction known as â€œnew forms,â€ represented at the Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas by the bronze sculpture called La Cultura (1954) and in the works included in the exhibition Formas nuevas y Raices (Sala Mendoza, Caracas, 1956-1957). Anecdotal contentent tended to disappear while the human figure became more streamlined and the precision of its depiction diminished although vague references to its anatomy persist as his works approached organic abstraction. It was not, however, a linear evolution. NarvÃ¡ez approached and moved away time and time again from the abstract form, and in the most ambiguous territories, he produced the masterpieces of the period, among them the sculpture Figura AcÃ©fala (1966).
In the series Ochavados, presented at the exhibition Maderas y piedras ochavadas (Sala Mendoza, 1970), the figure was represented in a simple way and the material gained importance. Convinced that the action of carving and the use of certain materials created their own speech, NarvÃ¡ez adopted abstraction. Thus began his work called “volumes,â€ in which he used large blocks of heavy material that took on the appearance of ancestral monoliths. At this time, he also reproduced in bronze some of his abstract stone and wood pieces. As the media changed the works became something akin to conceptual art. His last great sculptures for public spaces were El Gran Volumen/ EnergÃa (Amuay, 1981) and ArmonÃa de volÃºmenes y espacios (EstaciÃ³n La Hoyada, Metro de Caracas, 1982).
In 2005, on the occasion of the centenary of NarvÃ¡ezâ€™s birth, the GalerÃa de Arte Nacional de Caracas presented an exhibition dedicated to the first stage of his career, titled Francisco NarvÃ¡ez. FiguraciÃ³n y expresiÃ³n (1930-1950). En el centenario de su nacimiento.