Coqué Martínez Collection
Some of the most memorable paintings in the College art collection were a gift from artist Coqué Martínez.
José María Martínez Castillo, pseudonym Coqué Martínez, was one of 3800 children evacuated out of Bilbao, Spain by Dame Leah Manning in 1937. Leah Manning (née Elizabeth Leah Perrett) came to Homerton in 1909 to train as a teacher, and spent much of her career campaigning for people’s rights. During the Spanish Civil War, Manning worked as a nurse on the front line in Guernica, and in 1937 supervised the evacuation of over 4000 children and 200 adults from the Basque region, one of whom was Martínez.
Coqué Martínez’ talent for drawing and painting was visible even before his evacuation aged 11, and he was able to follow his passion at Croydon College, England. From here he was able to start his career as a painter, sculptor and poet. Many exhibitions of his work have been held throughout his life, and his paintings feature amongst the most distinguished private collections in the world. In February 2008, just before he fell ill, his work was included in a collective exhibition with other celebrated painters: Dalia Guzmán Reyes and Herminio Martínez Verguizas, which took place in the Centro Social de Mayores ‘Miguel de Cervantes’, in London.
In 2011, Homerton received ten of his paintings, including a self-portrait, now in the Macaulay room; Desert Idyll, in the Leah Manning Meeting Room; and a collection of three paintings entitled Jungle Symposium which now features as a striking addition to the corridor leading to the Drawing Room. The collection was accepted by the College as a permanent memorial to the Basque children of 1937 and in thanks for the work of Dame Leah Manning.