El Puerto de Santa María, Spain , 1902-1999
Rafael Alberti was born in 1902 into a family of Italian origin. His father, Vicente Alberti, was a representative for Osborne wines and was often not present as Rafael was growing up. The young Alberti studied at a Jesuit school in Puerto de Santa Maria until 1917, when he moved to Madrid with his family.
In the Spanish capital, he decided to follow his dream of becoming a painter and he went on to exhibit a series of avant-garde works at the Salón de Otoño and the Ateneo de Madrid. His father died in 1920 and Rafael’s grief led him to start writing poetry: thus, the poet Alberti was born. Due to respiratory problems, he moved from the city to the Guadarrama mountains. There, he finished writing the poems that would make up his first collection: Marinero en Tierra (Sailor on Dry Land) (1924), for which he was awarded a national poetry prize.
He soon returned to the capital and frequented the Residencia de Estudiantes, a meeting point for several young poets of the time. There he met Federico García Lorca, Jorge Guillén and Vicente Aleixandre, among other artists who made up the famous Generation of 1927. During that period, Rafael Alberti devoted himself to writing poetry following his success with Marinero en Tierra (1924). He met Maruja Mallo, a painter with whom he was involved until 1930, and who awakened romantic nuances and a picturesque visuality in Alberti's lyrical work. Later, he met María Teresa León with whom he eloped. Alberti and León founded the revolutionary magazine Octubre, giving expression to the literary youth. During the years leading up to the Spanish Civil War, the author was in a state of existential inquiry due to his fragile health, his financial hardship and his lack of religious faith. This period gave rise to his collection of poems Sobre los Ángeles (1929) (Concerning the Angels).
In 1936, the Spanish Civil War broke out and Rafael Alberti opposed fascism by being part of the Alliance of Anti-Fascist Intellectuals along with Luis Buñuel, Luis Cernuda and others. He also protected Spain's cultural heritage from wartime destruction by helping in the evacuation of cultural collections from the Prado Museum in Madrid.
When the Republicans were defeated, Alberti and Teresa León opted for exile in Paris, a stay that was short-lived because of the French authorities' doubts about their communist connections. In 1940, the artists moved to Latin America.
In 1963, Rafael Alberti and María Teresa León moved to Rome where the poet began to write his work Roma, peligro para caminantes (Rome: a danger for walkers) (1968) and where he would later return to finish his writings. In 1977, back in Spain, he was elected deputy for Cadiz in the constituent Congress of the Spanish parliament on the Communist Party Ticket, a position from which he soon stepped down. He received the Cervantes Prize in 1983 and the Rome Prize for Literature (1991), having previously been awarded the Lenin Peace Prize (1965).
In 1994, the Rafael Alberti Foundation was opened in El Puerto de Santa María and was chaired by the poet himself until his passing in 1999. As a cultural institution, its aim is to preserve the work of Rafael Alberti, promote related research and disseminate his work, as well as that of the other poets of Spain's Generation of 1927.
After Alberti's death in 1999, the Rafael Alberti Foundation was chaired by his widow, María Asunción Mateo (whom her married in 1990, two years after the death of his first wife, María Teresa León).