The arrival to Europe and the beginning of his career internationalization.
C laudio Bravo still felt dissatisfied and began to listen to his patrons in Concepción and elsewhere who urged him to go to Europe.
He was finally convinced that a radical change was necessary and was determined to make Paris his new home. In 1961 he left Chile (he has returned only very few times since) for Europe by ship, travelling on the Americo Vespucci. The crossing was a painful experience. The ship encountered violent storms and virtually everyone on board became extremely sea sick including Bravo. He was undoubtedly relieved when land was first sighted at the Straits of Gibraltar. Tangier, later to be the artist's home, was the first view of land the suffering passengers had. Due to the difficult crossing, Bravo was determined to disembark at the first possible port, Barcelona.
Claudio Bravo and his "White Package", in one of his exhibitions.
The general atmosphere as well as the language of Spain was naturally hospitable to a young South American painter and Bravo decided not to continue his journey to France. “Soon I went to Madrid where I felt com­pletely at home. I'd brought quite a bit of money with me from Chile. I'd sold my airplane and was by myself. I first rented a small apartment in a rather fashionable district of Madrid called the barrio de Salamanca.

I now own an apartment there—it seems as if I often return to places where I have been in the past. Anyway, I felt that in my new flat on the calle Conde de Aranda. I could work and invite people to visit. Everything happened very fast. At the end of that first year, I was doing the portraits of mem­bers of Madrid's high society. This was in 1961. I was twenty-four. Everyone treated me well. Spaniards are very affectionate with young people—especially if they're polite and good looking, which I was.” He quickly made an almost instant success as a portraitist, a success he would continue to enjoy for the next ten years. He painted a number of important political, literary and social figures with the same non-traditional yet pleasing likenesses that he had done of his sitters in Chile. At the same time he maintained contact with many young Spanish painters, often meeting them at the Cafe Gijón, still one of the city's principal literary and artistic cafés on the Paseo de Recoletos. His hours not spent there or doing portraits were occupied with visits to the Prado. Of all the artists he saw and copied there, the work of Velázquez impressed him the most (especially the portraits) for the subtle color and sense of palpable space.
Bravo sees in the work a continuation of the Italian tradition with which he feels so intimately linked. "There's so much Spanish/Italian influence in my work. Spanish painting is so related to that of Italy.

Bravo's light is a southern, Mediterranean light. He was able to find this in Spain. Throughout the 1960's he continued to prosper as a society portraitist in Madrid. “I must have done over 300 of them. I was asked so often and couldn't say no.” The Fortuny gallery organized the first exhibition of its works in 1963, followed by other two, in 1965 on Edurne gallery and in 1967 again in the gallery Fortuny.

In the 60's Bravo explored the possibilities of still lifes with packages and wrapped papers. On the image, Phantoms of Supermarket, 1965, one of his most celebrated works.
Toward the end of this decade he began to experiment with other subjects, creating series of monumental still lifes of hanging clothes, motorcycle helmets and other such objects. Bravo also began to do his famous series of wrapped packages. It was with these that he was introduced to a wider international clientele including two collectors from the United States, Frank Purnell and Melvin Blake, who enthusiastically bought several of these pictures and brought them back to New York. Bravo had spent some time in New York in the 1960's doing figures and still lifes.

The initial idea that inspired that subject was Mark Rothko's paint­ings of large fields of color, and partly through certain works that Antoni Tàpies, and another more mundane stimulus: “Three of my sisters had come to stay with me from Chile. One day one of them came home with a number of packages and placed them on a table. I was fascinated by their forms and I painted them. I went on painting wrapped packages in many different ways, investigat­ing the abstract possibilities of the forms while still creating recognizable objects.”
In 1968 Bravo received an interesting invitation. For the opening of the Sheraton Hotel in Manila, a large group of international celebrities had been invited to the Philippines. Among the guests was Bravo. Puzzled at his inclusion in the company of political and social figures, he later learned that he had been invited at the behest of the First Lady, Imelda Marcos, who wanted Bravo to do her portrait. Bravo obliged and soon found himself busy doing those of other members of the high social circles of Manila and other parts of the country.

One of the most exciting things for Bravo about his stay in the Orient was the color of the landscape and the clothing of the people in these islands. He stayed for six months both working and travelling extensively. He had a large exhibition at the Luz Gallery in Manila at which he exhibited over fifty works. On the night of the opening "I was given a great party at the presiden­tial palace. There were hundreds of people and fifty soldiers with trumpets to welcome the guests."

When Bravo returned to Madrid he was 28 years old. He was a success with the Spanish public and had also had his first exhibition in New York at the Staempfli Gallery on Madison Avenue, from November 10th to December 5th, 1970. There were twenty of the package paintings plus one picture of the artist, nude, emerging from a package, and it was his first success with the wrapped packages paintings from portraiture. That this series was in part created in the United States and first shown in New York was even more appropriate than Bravo may have imagined. Bravo also exhibited at the same gallery in 1972, 1974 and 1978. Also it multiplied their participations in collective exhibitions: Documenta 5, in Kassel, on February 2nd, as well as other thematic exhibitions that they responded to the public's growing interest for the new realism.

During the following year he began to make serious plans to leave Madrid and seek the solitude he needed for more serious painting. He went for a brief period to Marbella, in the south of Spain, but found that the demands of social life there were, if anything, more strenuous than those in Madrid. He finally decided, in 1972, at the age of 36, to give up his career in Spain altogether for a new life in Morocco. In that year he moved to Tangier.
[Next: Part IV: Morocco: Oriental Mysticism]