Antoni Tàpies

Barcelona, 1923 – 2012

A Spanish paInter, engraver and sculptor, Antoni Tapies was born on 13th December 1923 in Barcelona. He is considered to be one of the most important artists of the second half of the 20th century, and one of the most significant inventors of informalism. After having suffered a lung disease, his beginnings in painting were self taught, copying works of Van Gogh and Picasso.

In 1948, together with Brossa, Cuixart, Joan Pons, J.J. Tharrats and the philosopher Arnau Puig, he founded “Dau al Set”, a group which published a magazine with the same name, and whose movement was related with Dadaism and surrealism. In 1949 he metJoan Prats and Joan Miró and in 1950, he opened his first exhibition in Barcelona. He then exhibited in the XXVI Bienal of Venice, and later on obtained the Grand Prize for Painting at the Bienal of Sao Paulo. At the beginning of the decade of the fifties, having got over his surrealist stage, his work slowly profiles towards abstraction.

In 1952, both ways live together and in 1953, the first glimpses of tactile elements appear which add on to what is purely visual. In October of that year, he opens his exhibition in the Marta Jackson Gallery in New York. Nonetheless, it is not until 1955 that the example of materials foreign to the practice of painting – such as sands, cement, woods, and fabrics – convert themselves into the main actors in his work, creating the aesthetics that characterize him. Also he does absolutely abstract pieces with no known visual references, and in others he introduces signs, calligraphies and numbers. The material and the dadistic procedure of the object found convert themselves into the absolute protagonist which generates something aesthetic, and not the other way round. Through this, Tàpies discovers a new world, the poetic intimacy of the matter, day to day and poor, distanced from the concept of what is aesthetic of a formal closed proposal. Tàpies is the artifice, together with the Italian Alberto Burri and the Frenchmen Jean Dubuffet, of the creation of a new artistic path in which plastic values are based equally on what is visual and on the tactile qualities of the materials employed.

Within the informalism, Tàpies situated the so-called “matter painting” also known as “brute art”, characterizing it through the use of mixed techniques of heterogeneous materials, many times discarded or recycled, mixed with the traditional art materials, searching for a new language of artistic expression. The main exponents of the matter painting were, beside Tàpies himself, the Frenchmen Fautrier and Dubuffet, the Italians Burri and Lucio Fontana, the Spaniard Manolo Millares and the German, Anselm Kiefer.

The matter informalism was as from the 50s the main means of expression of Tàpies on which, with distinct peculiarities, he worked until his death.

In 1984 is created in Barcelona the Tàpies Foundation, sited in the old building of the architect Domènech y Montaner. Amongst the numerous national and international recognitions that he treasured were being the Academic of Fine Arts of Berlin (1982) and honorary member of the Kunstierhans of Vienna (1989 which is the oldest art foundation in Europe. He also was a member of the French Fine Arts Academy (1994). He received prizes from UNESCO and the Gold Medal for Fine Arts (1981), as well as the Premium Imperiale of Painting of the Japonese Association of Art (1990) In 1990, he was also name Honarary Academic of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando and was awarded the Prince of Asturias prize for art, as well as the Praemium Imperiale for painting.

Antoni Tàpies passed away on 6th February, 2012 in his home in Barcelona.

Exhibited Works

  • “Roig i negre 1”, aquatint and carborundum with relief, 1985.
  • “Berlin suite”, lithographs, 1974.
  • “Autoretrat”, aquatinte, 1923-2012.