Salcedo, Pontevedra, 1919. Born of a Spanish mother and Uruguayan father, both his grandmothers were Creoles, from Uruguay and Cuba.
He lived his childhood in Salcedo and Raxo. When he was 7 years old he moved to America; his father settled down in the Pampas in Argentina. When he was 10 the family came back to Galicia. Nóvoa studied his baccalaureate at Leon XIII College in Vilagarcía de Arousa. He was about to start studying Law at the University of Santiago de Compostela when Franco staged his coup d’état.
In 1938 he emigrated to Uruguay. He worked in industry and started studying at the Faculty of Architecture. He then changed to Law and studied the first three years of the degree.
In 1942 he started his relationship with pottery.
That same year Nóvoa founded the Apex journal with two friends, C. Maggi and M. Flores. He published short stories in this and other magazines. Among others, Torres García, Juan Carlos Onetti and Juana de Ibarborou collaborated – these people were decisive in his academic training, above all the former, who had a decisive influence on him.
In 1947 he married Celia Meneses. They settled in Buenos Aires, where Nóvoa carried on with his industrial activities. Their children José Ramón and Sabela were born in 1949 and 1950.
At that time Nóvoa started painting. He met Luis Seoane through Ramón Valenzuela, who encouraged him in his vocation. Seoane helped him organise his first individual exhibition at the Velázquez gallery in 1953. He also collaborated with the magazine entitled Galicia emigrante.
In 1957 he went back to Montevideo, worked in journalism and made political sketches. He held diverse exhibitions.
In 1960, he painted three murals in the Danart building. Jorge Oteiza came to Montevideo the same year, became a close friend of Nóvoa and supported him in his evolution from figurative to abstract painting.
In 1961, he went to Paris for the first time. In 1962, he went back to Uruguay. He started work on the Cerro Mural in Montevideo, which was considerably large. It took three years to paint the mural. In this period he also painted the murals and made the sculpture in Arapey in Salto.
While he was working on the Cerro Mural he travelled to the Biennial of Sao Paulo, where he discovered the work of Rothko, Burri and Fontana. He came into contact with art critic Michel Tapie, who went to Montevideo, saw Nóvoa’s work and encouraged him to move to Paris.
In 1965, he moved definitively to Paris. He established close contact with Latin American scholars and artists, with some of whom he later set up the Espacio Latinoamericano in 1981.
He held a series of exhibitions in Europe and America.
In 1971, he spent some time in Italy where he made the Venus de Alessano sculpture.
In 1973 he produced a series of tapestries in collaboration with Susana Carlson.
In 1974, he held his first exhibition at the Eduard Loeb gallery in Paris, where he exhibited regularly until Loeb’s death in 1983.
In 1976 he made a sculpture for the Lyceum in Carmaux, France.
In 1979, a fire destroyed his workshop on Rue de Faubourg Saint Antoine in Paris. The fire destroyed an estimated 2,000 pieces, and a significant personal collection of works by other artists.
He set up at the Fondation Nationale des Arts Plastiques workshop in Nogent-sur-Marne.
In 1982, he painted two murals for the Direction de l’Equipament, in Albi, France.
In 1983, he had a workshop/house built in Armenteira, Galicia, Spain, where from that time on he spent part of the year.
He married Susana Carlson in 1986.
He made a large weathering steel sculpture for the Olympic Park in Seul in 1988.
In 1989, the Regional Government of Galicia commissioned a mural painting for the quarry of Santa Margarita in A Coruña, which was partially finished.
In 1996, he took part in the 24th Pontevedra Biennial with a significant monograph exhibition.
The Regional Government of Galicia awarded him the Castelao medal in 1993.
In 1997, he held two large retrospective exhibitions at the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporáneo in Santiago de Compostela, and at the Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales in Montevideo.
He was awarded the City of Pontevedra Prize in 1997.
In 1998, the Mayor of Santiago de Compostela commissioned a monumental sculpture for the park of Santo Domingo de Bonaval. The sculpture consisted of three pieces of granite, each weighing 10 tons, located in a cromlech space made up of 12 blocks of the same material.
In 1999, La Maison de l’Amerique Latine held a retrospective exhibition of his work in Paris.
He won the Critics’ Prize of Galicia in 2002.
In 2003, he held an exhibition at the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid, entitled ‘Works for a decade’. Caixanova then took the exhibition to Vigo, Ourense and Pontevedra.
In 2005 he made a monumental sculpture called ‘Pousadoiro das letras’ for the University Campus of Vigo.
The Centro Cultural de España in Montevideo, Uruguay, organised a large exhibition in 2008 entitled ‘Novoa en el Río de la Plata – 1938-1965′.
23 February 2012 – Leopoldo Novoa died in Nogent sur Marne, France.
2012-2013. Tribute exhibitions entitled ‘Leopoldo Novoa Alen do tempo’, organised by Novacaixagalicia, in Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña. Fondation Nationale des Arts Graphiques et Plastiques, Maison Nationale des Artistes, Nogent sur Marne.
2016. Exhibition “Presenza do matérico” at Galería de Arte Montenegro, in Vigo (España).
© 2013 Leopoldo Nóvoa