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Rafael Coronel was born in 1931 in Zacatecas, Coronel abandoned a career in Architecture in order to dedicate himself to painting. He studied in the National School of Art, U.N.A.M. In 1944 he paints his first self portrait and in 1952 he receives the Art Award of the National Institute of Mexican Youth. During four decades he produces an exceptionally creative work, exhibiting individually and in group in 5 continents, during which time he receives the Córdoba Award for the Best Young Latinamerican Painter in the VIII Biennial in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1965, and the first award given in the I International Biennial of Figurative Painting in Tokio and Osaka, Japan in 1974.

Rafael Coronel is considered one of the most outstanding representatives of the new Mexican Expressionism. In 1978, together with his brother, Pedro Coronel, he is declared a Special Son by the Zacatecas State government and the National Autonomous University of Zacatecas. In 1990, Rafael donates his collection of Mexican art for the creation of the Rafael Coronel Museum which is located in the Ex Convent of San Francisco, Zacatecas.