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Bilodeau, Pfc. Francis W. | Bonilla, Lt. Felix J. | Breitenbach, Edgar

Bonilla, Lt. Felix J.  

Lieutenant, U.S. Army Signal Corps, Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA)

Interested in art from a young age, Felix José Bonilla y Norat accepted a scholarship to the Child Walker Fine Arts School in Boston (1931-1935). The Puerto Rican government furthered his artistic education through scholarships to the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid (1936), study abroad with Andre Lothe in Paris (1937), and the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence (1938). Bonilla y Norat graduated from the San Marcos Academy with a Bachelor’s degree in mural painting in 1939.

An accomplished Puerto Rican artist, Bonilla y Norat served with the U.S. military from 1941 to 1945. The later part of his service was spent working for the MFAA, however there is not much known about this time period. During World War II he married Jean Beaumont Baker of New Jersey.[1] After the war the couple returned to Puerto Rico where he taught at the University of Puerto Rico (1956 to 1975). He was also an art critic for the San Juan Star (1976 to 1987). During this time, his artistic life flourished as surrealism emerged as his primary style of art throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Bonilla y Norat’s work focused on portraits which were rich with emotional and psychological details combined with hints of symbolism. In the 1970s, Bonilla y Norat painted numerous landscapes and his style became more relaxed, expressionistic and realistic.

Bonilla y Norat also taught many other prominent Puerto Rican artists, including Rafael Colon Morales, Carmelo Fontanez, Miran Rodriquez, Raul Zayas and Daniel Lind Ramos. He died on July 17, 1992 after creating nearly 700 artworks during his sixty-three years of artistic production.

[1] Wedding Announcement, The New York Times, April 11, 1943, page 47.


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