MADRID – One of Spain’s most cherished cartoonists who through his images chronicled the country’s transition from a European backwater to one of the continent’s most modern and vibrant democracy died on Thursday in a Madrid hospital aged 78, his family said.
Antonio Fraguas de Pablo, better known by his pen name, “Forges,” began his career as an observer of Spanish life early, aged just 14, while working for state television TVE.
“Forges, the cartoonist who best portrayed the last half century of Spain’s history has died in the early hours of Thursday in Madrid victim of pancreatic cancer, according to his family,” said the country’s leading newspaper El Pais, where the artist had published a large part of his work.
Throughout his professional career, mainly during Spain’s political transition, his trademark cartoon characters moved seamlessly across the spectrum of Spain’s mainstream newspapers; with his first images appearing in 1964 on the pages of the Franco-era Pueblo newspaper.
Forges became better known for his vignettes at the daily Informaciones (1967-79) and finally rose to nationwide status during Spain’s road to democracy in Diario 16 (1981-1989) and El Mundo (1989-1995) newspapers before moving to El Pais where he remained 23 years until his untimely death.
El Pais highlighted his “ability to depict with the tenderness and irony of his early cartoons, the evolution of a society that passed from Franco’s regime to the hyper-technological world of his late period.”
Apart from his mainstream media daily cartoons, he contributed in weekly and satirical magazines; published dozens of cartoon compilations, wrote books, scripted feature-films, television series and even became a radio personality.
He published “roughly 80,000 cartoons,” in the late author’s words.
De Pablo was born in Madrid, on Jan. 17, 1942, the second of nine brothers from a Galician father and a Catalonian mother.
His father was both a journalist and a cartoonist and when the budding illustrator told him he too “seriously wanted to become a cartoonist” his parent’s advice was “to be original” so his cartoons “could be recognizable 15 meters (yards) away,” thus giving birth to the trademark thick-black outlined dialogue balloons of his cartoons.
He also gave his unique personal take on daily events without forfeiting a succinct social criticism.
His countless awards and recognitions include Spain’s National Journalism Award (2013) and the gold medal Work Award (2007), or the Beaux Arts gold medal award (2011).
Other awards included the Sant Jordi Cross (1998) and the Spanish Journalist’s Union’s Freedom of Expression Award (1979).
His incisive and intelligent sense of humor thrived on Spanish society’s contradictory and sometimes absurd realities, but his characters expressed themselves with equal amounts of humanity and talent along with their creator’s deep sense of dignity.
In 1967 he married journalist Pilar Garrido Cendoya and had four children.
In 1997 he became Dean of Humor at the University of Alcala de Henares before becoming Doctor Honoris Causa.
He was an honorary member of the Catalonian College of Journalists and in 2014, Spain’s National Library and the Post Office included his artwork in a commemorative stamp issue devoted to graphic humor.