This remarkable 20th century painter and sculptor was born in Porlamar, state of Nueva Esparta, on October 4th, 1905. He passed away in Caracas on July 7th, 1982. According to some historians of Venezuelan art, Narváez’s work radically transformed the way sculpture is viewed in this country. He was the son of José Lorenzo Narváez, cabinetmaker and master builder, and Vicenta Emilia Rivera, native of Porlamar.
His formal study of painting started during the 1920s, at the Fine Arts Academy of Caracas. In 1928 he travels to Paris to study at the Académie Julian, where he got in touch with the artistic movement of Montparnasse. Some painters of the so-called School of Paris who influenced Narváez at this time were: Raoul Dufy; Chaime Soutine for the violence of his forms and the way he conveys his plastic message; Amadeo Modigliani for the linear purity of his vast planes; Moses Kisling for the sensuality of curves and matter and the way to work the object to render it attractive, warm and humane.
Back in Venezuela in 1931, Narváez finds that his proposal breaks with the aesthetic schemes predominant at the time. However, Narváez refused to make any concessions whatsoever, creating for the first time in his country a sculptural language of his own, linked to deep national roots, exalting and appraising the ethnic elements of its beauty. Little by little, his stance earned a generalized recognition of his work.
In 1934, he was commissioned the construction of the fountain at Carabobo Park in Caracas; between 1937 and 1939, recommended by architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva, he carried out several reliefs for the façades of the Museums of Fine Arts and Natural Sciences of Caracas. In 1939 he traveled to New York to work in the decoration of the Venezuelan Pavilion for the World Fair in that city. In 1943, he carried out one of his most emblematic works: Las Toninas; a fountain located in the O’Leary Square in the recently built urban complex of El Silencio. In 1948, he was granted the National Prize for Painting at the 9th Venezuelan Official Art Salon. Between 1949 and 1952 he carried out several works for the Ciudad Universitaria of Caracas, including the frescoes for the chapel of the university.
In 1952 he finished the equestrian statue of General Rafael Urdaneta located in La Candelaria square of Caracas. A year later he was appointed director of the School of Pictorial and Applied Arts of Caracas. In 1954, he represented Venezuela at the Venice Biennial in Italy. Definitely, Narváez opened an entirely new way to look at sculpture in Venezuela. He was the first Venezuelan sculptor to break with all the existing academic rules. He also pioneered the use of the rich variety of national woods and the first to make large-scale projects with native stones, particularly from Cumarebo and Araya.
In 1979 he represented Venezuela along with Héctor Poleo in the 2nd International Meeting of Contemporary Art at the Grand Palais in Paris. The same year was the inauguration of the Francisco Narváez Museum of Contemporary Art in Porlamar, with a sample of donations by the artist (35 sculptures, 11 paintings and several serigraphs). In 1981 he finished the monumental Gran Volumen sculpture for the Amuay refinery of the LAGOVEN petroleum corporation, and in 1982 he concluded one of his last works, Armonía de Volúmenes y Espacio, for the Caracas Subway Company.