Paul Daniggelis

SOLER Y MANONELLES, URBICI JOSÉ FRANCISCO (1890–1953). Urbici Soler, sculptor, was born in Farrán, Lérida, Spain, on June 21, 1890. He was an apprentice sculptor at age ten. He subsequently studied with Pedro Carbonell and at night at the famed Casa Lonja in Barcelona. Having won an apprentice competition at fourteen, his Cabeza de Estudio was accepted in 1907 for the important Fifth International Exposition of Fine Arts. Soler broke with contemporaries in 1913 by accepting a scholarship to study with the classical master Adolph von Hildebrand in Munich, Bavaria. Rigorous training led to his first monumental sculpture, Princess María de la Paz (1918). After World War I Soler moved on to Vienna, Budapest, Paris, and home to Spain. After a slow start in Madrid, portraits, monuments, his first religious sculpture, and a portrait of singer Charlotte Dahmen Chao (1925) won him recognition. A contract to decorate public buildings in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1925 led to a successful five-year statuary enterprise. During this time, Soler received a commission from the Spanish government to sculpt portrait busts of the native types of Latin America. He began this series in Temuco, Chile, among the Araucanians, then moved on to Peru, Ecuador, and Panama. Soler exhibited his collection of portrait busts at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco in 1931. The first (1931) of his Diego Rivera portraits was finished in sandstone but did not sell. Disappointed, he went to Mexico City to resume his studies of Tarascans, Mixtecs, Zapotecs, and Aztecs. The resultant collection of studies, The World, is Soler's most important work. Portraits of Mexican president Abelardo Rodríguez (1932) and of the poet Enrique González Martínez (1934) follow. Civil War in Spain prevented Soler's return home, and in 1937 he reluctantly accepted a commission for the monumental sculpture Cristo Rey, situated on the mountain peak Sierra de Cristo Rey near El Paso, Texas. Though delays and diminished funds limited the project, the forty-foot-high cruciform figure, dedicated on October 17, 1940, was destined to become Soler's most popular work. He subsequently moved to New Orleans, California, New York, and in 1943 back to South America. Two unsuccessful marriages scarred him. His fine hard-wood carved crucifix, El Cristo Moreno (1943), is from this period of difficulty. Expecting to resume work on Cristo Rey, Soler returned to El Paso in 1944, but the project was ultimately abandoned, and he resigned himself to teaching at the Texas School of Mines (now the University of Texas at El Paso). He is remembered as a gifted teacher.

A few important works remained for Soler: dual portraits with Tom Lea (Thomas Calloway Lea III), 1946; the Araucanian Fresia (1946) carved in hardwood; and the last of modern pieces, Mater Dolorosa (1950). Soler became a United States citizen in 1949 and never returned to his homeland. His dual portrait sessions with Peter Hurd in 1952 were aborted. Soler died in the home he built at the foot of his beloved Cristo Rey on January 15, 1953. The Texas Historical Commission honored the sculptor with a marker at his gravesite in Evergreen Cemetery, El Paso, dedicated on July 14, 1984.

Patricia D. Hendricks and Becky D. Reese, A Century of Sculpture in Texas, 1889–1989 (Huntington Art Gallery, University of Texas at Austin, 1989). Carl Hertzog, "Two Artists in Two Mediums," Southwest Review 32 (Winter 1947). Bud Newman, "Urbici Soler As I Knew Him," Nova, December 1972.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Paul Daniggelis, "SOLER Y MANONELLES, URBICI JOSE FRANCISCO," accessed February 18, 2020,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...