Raised in the lively cultural atmosphere of his home on Ayacucho Street in Buenos Aires, where music, artworks and erudite conversation were part of his everyday world, Rafael enjoyed a privileged childhood and adolescence, as he acknowleged himself. In the elegant four-floor house of Parisian style hung paintings by Signac, Luca Giordano, Alice, Romero de Torres, Zubiaurre, Victorica, Butler, Quirós, Xul Solar, Figari, Pettoruti and Fader, among others.
He was tutored in painting from an early age and won a prize at a children's painting contest when he was five. With time, his well-trained eye incorporated the observation of the great classics in the museums of the world and in the art books he bought with almost fanatical constancy throughout his life. To this background we can add his talent as a writer and his oratorial capacity, qualities which resulted in his becoming one of the most important art critics of his country before he was thirty. By the time he was forty, he was known worldwide.
The importance of his work as a critic was not only due to such concrete results as the first prizes awarded to the artists he had chosen for the Venice and Sao Paolo Biennales, but also to the impluse his critiques meant to emerging artists, the encouragement he provided to those either unknown or forgotten who doubted of their own talent or faltered before the indifference of the public, the information he gave his readers awakening their curiosity and guiding their sensibility, the constant preaching of quality as the necessary condition in any work of art to be considered as such.
From his first publications on art in newspaper Mundo Argentino (1955) until his last article in daily La Nación (2005), from his first book on art (Barragán, Buenos Aires, Galería Rubbers, 1960) until his last (Leopoldo Torres Agüero, Fragments Editions, 1999), he invited the reader to share his enthusiasm for what he considered valuable and to avoid what he believed to be spurious, mediocre or harmful for the human soul.
It is important to note that in addition to the value of their contents, the literary style of his art critiques make them artworks in themselves.
Some examples of art critique
"Greco", Alberto Greco, Seis serigrafías, MAM, 1960
Miguel Ocampo, publicado en La Nación, 1987
Eduardo Mac Entyre, jerarquía universal, publicado en La Nación, 1993
Luis Barragán, del libro de poesía Amor 33, 1958
Leopoldo Presas, del libro de poesía Amor 33, 1958