Posts Tagged ‘Spanish photography

23
Apr
22

Exhibition: ‘Adolf Mas. The Eyes of Barcelona’ at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Exhibition dates: 18th February – 8th May, 2022

Curator: Carmen Perrotta

 

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'View of Portal de l'Àngel' 1902

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
View of Portal de l’Àngel
1902
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

At the moment I’m still recovering from my appendicitis operation… slowly, slowly.

While Adolf Mas is certainly not in the league of the great Eugène Atget in terms of his importance to the history of art photography1, nor are his photographs of Barcelona to the standard of the latter’s “records of a rare and subtle perception” – vis a vis Atget’s subtle placement of the camera and his visionary, almost hallucinatory, renditions of Old Paris – the documentary photographs by Mas of the old and new city have a certain, stimulating, viscerality to them (a quality of being related to the physical as opposed to the virtual or imaginary world or reality).

Unlike Atget’s photographs of a deserted Paris, it is wonderful to see Mas’ early photographs of Barcelona grounded in the people who lived in the city: playing games, watching entertainment, waiting for a train and, in groups (mainly children), watching the performance of the photographer with unabashed inquisitiveness. Mas’ city photographs are more reminiscent of the photographs of an earlier era (notably those of the Danish-American social documentary photographer Jacob Riis and those taken by the photographers of the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London directed by Alfred Marks) than those of Atget. They are direct and frontal but still possess a delightful “atmosphere”. Just look at the light in Carrer del Sant Crist de l’Argenteria des del carrer Argenteria (before 1911, below) and Pati de la casa núm. 25 del carrer dels Mercaders (before 1911, below) and tell me this man didn’t know his business.

Just as impressive are Mas’ staged mise-en-scène group portraits such as Ramon Casas painting Júlia and Flora Peraire in the presence of Adolf Mas (1912, below) and Lactation House (1903, below). The formal arrangement of figures is like a piece of music as it rises and falls: chairs to people to easels to screens or, the curve of the adult figures as they spiral in towards the baby on the weighing apparatus. The men have an almost idealistic, Rembrandt-esque feel to them, such as the figures in The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632) … surrounded by Baroque chairs, cupboards of instruments and the mechanics of medicine. And the light, the light!

If ever there were such a thing, I wonder whether Mas died at the right time (1936). Although I don’t know his political values any artist who produces an extraordinary record of the intellectual and artistic circles of his time would surely have been dismayed, had he lived, at the outcome of the Spanish Civil War, with the “long Spanish postwar recovery during the 1940s and 1950s creating a cultural wasteland within the destroyed, hungry and isolated Spain, exacerbated by repression, the ‘purification’ of the educational system and cultural institutions, the purges of books, and widespread censorship. Compared with the preceding period, called the Silver Age (la Edad de Plata), shows one of the clearest contrasts in the cultural history of Spain.”2

It’s such a pity, with 100,000 negatives to play with, that there aren’t other photographs available to publish online. I would have liked to have seen more of this artist’s work.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Atget’s documentary vision proved highly influential, first on the Surrealists, in the 1920s, who found his pictures of deserted streets and stairways, street life, and shop windows beguiling and richly suggestive (these were published in La Révolution surréaliste in 1926, with a fourth, of a crowd gathered to watch an eclipse, on the cover); and then on two generations of American photographers, from Walker Evans to Lee Friedlander … In 1931, four years after Atget’s death, the American photographer Ansel Adams wrote, “The Atget prints are direct and emotionally clean records of a rare and subtle perception, and represent perhaps the earliest expression of true photographic art.”
    Ansel Adams, in The Fortnightly (San Francisco) 1, no. 5 (Nov. 5, 1931), 25 quoted in Natalie Dupêcher. “Eugène Atget,” on the MoMA website 2017 [Online] Cited 23/04/2022.
  2. “Art and culture in Francoist Spain,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 23/04/2022

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Many thankx to Fundación MAPFRE for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Born in Solsona (Lérida) on September 28, 1860, Adolf Mas moved to Barcelona shortly before 1890. He left his hometown and a job as a solicitor for an uncertain future in the big city and initially made a niche for himself in the textile industry. A few years later he frequented the local Els Quatre Gats, where he established relationships with intellectuals and artists of the time. After his training as a photographer, in 1901 he founded his first establishment selling photographic material, which would become, a few years later, the “Estudio de Fotografía A. Mas”, the predecessor of “Archivo Mas”.

Mas established himself as the photographer of reference for architects such as Josep Puig i Cadafalch, who hired him to photograph their buildings as an inventory. The author produced a wide range of reports, most notably images of the Sagrada Familia.

A pioneer of photojournalism in Catalonia at the beginning of the 20th century, his commissioned portraits for illustrated magazines are an extraordinary record of the intellectual circles of the time. From 1910 onwards, his production focused on recording artistic and monumental heritage, especially after being commissioned to compile an iconographic catalogue of Spain in 1915. His work therefore focused on the administration of a powerful archival structure for public consultation which, in 1936, the year of his death, contained approximately 100,000 negatives.

Text from the Fundación MAPFRE website

 

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'The "Xiquets de Valls"' June 29th 1907

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
The “Xiquets de Valls”
June 29th 1907
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Games. Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes' 1906

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Games. Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes
1906
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Arxiu Mas (Mas Archive) 'Neighbourhood of La Barceloneta' 1916

 

Arxiu Mas (Mas Archive)
Neighbourhood of La Barceloneta
1916
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

In collaboration with the Mas Archive of the Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic, Fundacion MAPFRE presents Adolf Mas: The Eyes of Barcelona, a journey through the work of this Catalan photographer, recognised for his major contribution to the field of heritage photography, and a figure of paramount importance for understanding the social transformation of Barcelona during the early 20th century.

Born in Solsona (Lleida) on September 28, 1860, Adolf Mas moved to Barcelona prior to 1890. He left his hometown and his work as a solicitor for an uncertain future in the Condal city, initially making his way in the textile industry. A few years later, he became a regular at the Els Quatre Gats café where he established contacts with the intellectuals and artists of the day. In 1901, after training as a photographer, he founded his first business selling photographic materials, a business that years later would become the “Estudi de Fotografía A. Mas” (the A. Mas Studio of Photography), the predecessor of the “Mas Archive.”

Mas became the main photographer for architects such as Josep Puig i Cadafalch, who commissioned him to photograph his buildings, as if he were compiling an inventory. He also produced a repertoire of other images, of which those of the Sagrada Familia stand out.

A pioneer of photojournalism in Catalonia, he documented a wide range of cultural and current events, as well as the new infrastructures and healthcare initiatives that were flourishing in Barcelona in the early 20th century. His commissioned portraits produced for illustrated magazines are an extraordinary testimony of the intellectual circles of the time.

From 1910 his production was centred on compiling a registry of artistic and monumental heritage, and in 1915 he received a commission to produce an iconographic repertoire of Spain. From this time on his work would focus on the administration of an impressive archival resource which was intended for public consultation; by 1936, the year of his death, it consisted of approximately 100,000 negatives.

“The photographs by Adolf Mas portray Barcelona in the midst of a socio-cultural, artistic, political, and urban transformation. The graphic narrative constructed by the photographer allows us to explore a reality that was rapidly changing, and understanding his photographic legacy is fundamental for the correct interpretation of the dynamics linked to early 20th-century Barcelona.

Adolf Mas is mainly known for the creation and consolidation of the renowned Mas Archive and for being one of the first heritage photographers in Catalonia. However, he is also a more complex photographer. His beginnings as a photojournalist ran in parallel with something akin to artistic photography, which became apparent in his portraits. These were not traditional, and brought his work closer to the artistic circles of the time. Although Mas’s production cannot be included in the movement known as pictorialism, it undoubtedly goes beyond what was being done in other contemporary photographic studios, and it is an aspect of his work that this exhibition highlights.

Over the years, many national and international exhibitions covering a wide range of topics have included works by Adolf Mas and other photographers. However, Adolf Mas. The Eyes of Barcelona is a monographic project that aims to present him in the round, as a photographer and as manager of one of the most important photographic archives in Spain.”

Adolf Mas: The Eyes of Barcelona offers a broad overview of the work of this key figure in Catalan Noucentista photography through 200 photographs and a wide range of documentary material that are divided into four thematic sections and address the main aspects of his career.

The core of the show includes the author’s photographic production centring on the city of Barcelona. Adolf Mas captured the architectural, social and cultural changes in the city through images that combine aspects of documentary recording with the aesthetic concerns of contemporary European artistic movements. Barcelona was a city of contrasts, ranging from the slums on the periphery to the mansions of the Eixample district; and from the luxurious cafés frequented by the bourgeoisie to the shanty towns built by panhandlers in the Barceloneta area.

The exhibition ends with a section dedicated to the campaigns on heritage indexing undertaken by Adolf Mas and the articulation of what has been recognised as the most important photographic archive on Spanish heritage in Europe: the Mas Archive.

Works by artists such as Ramon Casas, Alexandre de Riquer, and Eusebi Arnau produced in the context of Adolf Mas’s photographic studio business will be on display along with the author’s photographs.

The exhibition is part of the program Fundación MAPFRE has established at KBr Barcelona Photo Center in collaboration with Catalan institutions dedicated to preserving Catalonia’s rich photographic heritage. On this occasion, the exhibition has been organised in collaboration with Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic. It has been supported by the Diputació de Barcelona. Arxiu General; the Biblioteca Nacional de Catalunya in Barcelona; the Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat de Barcelona; the Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona, Barcelona City Hall; the MAE-Theater Institute; and the private collection of the Pasans Bertolin Family, who have all generously loaned their works.

Adolf Mas: The Eyes of Barcelona brings together the extraordinary visual landscape and collective memory of early 20th-century Barcelona as seen through the eyes of Adolf Mas, one of the key figures in the history of modern photography in Spain.

Press release from Fundación MAPFRE

 

Pau Audouard Deglaire (Spanish, 1857-1918) 'Adolf Mas touching up an image' c. 1909

 

Pau Audouard Deglaire (Spanish, 1857-1918)
Adolf Mas touching up an image
c. 1909
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

Pau Audouard (1857-1918) was a photographer active in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain at the end of the 19th century.

Adouard was born in Havana, Cuba. He moved with his family to Barcelona in 1879, where he opened a studio. He became one of the most important photographers in Spain in the late 19th century, winning two gold medals for his work from the Real Sociedad Económica Aragonesa in 1886. Two years later, he was appointed official photographer of the 1888 Barcelona World’s Fair. Adouard was a member of the French Société française de photographie from 1879 to 1894. From 1905 to 1915, he lived and worked in the Casa Lleó Morera, built by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Pau Audouard Deglaire (Spanish, 1857-1918) 'Adolf Mas touching up an image' c. 1909 (detail)

 

Pau Audouard Deglaire (Spanish, 1857-1918)
Adolf Mas touching up an image (detail)
c. 1909
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Carrer d'Aragó Station' c. 1903

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Carrer d’Aragó Station
c. 1903
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Carrer d'Aragó Station' c. 1903 (detail)

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Carrer d’Aragó Station (detail)
c. 1903
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Interior of a Tower in the Sagrada Familia' 1905

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Interior of a Tower in the Sagrada Familia
1905
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Sagrada Familia' 1927

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Sagrada Familia
1927
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Arxiu Mas (Mas Archive) 'Barcelona at Night (Passeig de Gràcia)' 1917

 

Arxiu Mas (Mas Archive)
Barcelona at Night (Passeig de Gràcia)
1917
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Carrer de les Donzelles' (Street of the Maidens) c. 1908

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Carrer de les Donzelles (Street of the Maidens)
c. 1908
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Sunset at the Llobregat River' c. 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Sunset at the Llobregat River
c. 1911
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

The exhibition Adolf Mas. Los ojos de Barcelona traces the work of this key figure in Catalan noucentista photography, through 200 photographs and diverse documentary material, divided into four thematic sections that deal with the central aspects of his career.

The central core of the exhibition features the photographs taken by the author in the context of Barcelona. Adolf Mas captures the architectural, social and cultural changes of the city in images that interweave a documentary record with the aesthetic lines of contemporary European artistic tendencies: a Barcelona of contrasts, stratified between the barraca shacks in the suburbs and the mansions of the Eixample, between the luxurious cafés in the centre for the pleasure of the bourgeoisie and the shantytowns built by beggars in Barceloneta.

The exhibition is part of the program that Fundación MAPFRE has initiated in Barcelona in collaboration with Catalan institutions that house a rich photographic heritage. On this occasion, the exhibition has been organised in collaboration with the Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic. We have also benefited from the generosity of the Diputació de Barcelona. Arxiu General; Biblioteca de Catalunya. Barcelona; the Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat de Barcelona; the Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona. Barcelona City Hall; the MAE-Institut del Teatre; and the Familia Pasans Bertolin private collection, who have altruistically lent their works.

 

Four key features

 

Archivo Mas

Created by Adolf Mas in 1900 for the purpose of inventorying the iconographic catalog of Catalonia and, subsequently, the whole of Spain, this is the most important photographic archive in Europe on Spanish heritage. A monumental work developed over more than thirty years in which an avant-garde idea, conceived originally for commercial purposes, materialised without losing sight of the importance of documenting and disseminating a shared cultural heritage. After the Spanish Civil War, the Archivo Mas was acquired by Teresa Amatller in 1941, and is now part of the holdings of the Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic.

 

Els Quatre Gats

On June 12, 1897, Els Quatre Gats, designed by a young Josep Puig i Cadafalch, opened its doors on the first floor of the Casa Martí on Carrer Montsió in Barcelona. A famous café that was modelled after Le Chat Noir in Paris, as intended by its founders: Ramon Casas, Pere Romeu, Santiago Rusiñol and Miquel Utrillo. Over the six year period that it was active, the celebrated café was a landmark in Catalan modernism. A catalyst of ideas and trends in Barcelona’s artistic and intellectual scene, the place was frequented by figures such as Antoni Gaudí, Isidre Nonell and Pablo Picasso. Adolf Mas documented its interior from 1900 onwards and forged important links with the artists associated with the establishment, in particular with Ramon Casas, whose friendship would continue over the years.

 

Artistic competition on old Barcelona

In 1908, the construction of the future Via Laietana, foreseen by the great urban reform implemented by the “Pla Cerdà” plan, led to the demolition of a densely populated area in Barcelona’s old town. The city council, at the request of the Barcelona artists’ union, organised a competition to document the architectural heritage destined to be torn down. The initiative was very successful and 38 series of drawings and photographs were submitted. Adolf Mas was one of the most decorated artists. His images, reminiscent of Eugène Atget’s photographs of Old Paris, show the presence of people who humanise the architectural vistas, in a clear attempt to dignify the history of those buildings, as well as their inhabitants, in the face of their imminent disappearance.

 

Photographs of spectacle

Within the framework of his activity as a portraitist, Mas developed a range of works specifically linked to the show business sector. Examples of this activity include the reports made between 1914 and 1915 dedicated to two iconic figures of the time: the dancer Tórtola Valencia (1882-1955) and the soprano María Barrientos (1884-1946). The spectacular nature of the images in these series, in which technical execution and the charisma of the artists themselves are undoubtedly fundamental, is highlighted by a striking chromaticism that references an interest in the exotic.

Text from Fundación MAPFRE

 

Estudi de Fotografia A. Mas. 'Ramon Casas painting Júlia and Flora Peraire in the presence of Adolf Mas' 1912

 

Estudi de Fotografia A. Mas
Ramon Casas painting Júlia and Flora Peraire in the presence of Adolf Mas
1912
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

Ramon Casas i Carbó (Catalan pronunciation: [rəˈmoŋ ˈkazəs]; 4 January 1866 – 29 February 1932) was a Catalan artist. Living through a turbulent time in the history of his native Barcelona, he was known as a portraitist, sketching and painting the intellectual, economic, and political elite of Barcelona, Paris, Madrid, and beyond. He was also known for his paintings of crowd scenes ranging from the audience at a bullfight to the assembly for an execution to rioters in the Barcelona streets (El garrot). Also a graphic designer, his posters and postcards helped to define the Catalan art movement known as modernisme.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Estudi de Fotografia A. Mas. 'Ramon Casas painting Júlia and Flora Peraire in the presence of Adolf Mas' 1912 (detail)

 

Estudi de Fotografia A. Mas
Ramon Casas painting Júlia and Flora Peraire in the presence of Adolf Mas (detail)
1912
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Lactation House' 1903

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Lactation House
1903
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Lactation House' 1903 (detail)

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Lactation House (detail)
1903
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Nuns and children from the Sanatori Marítim de Sant Josep in the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta' 1913

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Nuns and children from the Sanatori Marítim de Sant Josep in the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta
1913
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Nuns and children from the Sanatori Marítim de Sant Josep in the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta' 1913 (detail)

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Nuns and children from the Sanatori Marítim de Sant Josep in the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta (detail)
1913
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Relining of "La Batalla de Tetuan" by Marià Fortuny in one of the halls of the Diputació Provicial' 1914

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Relining of “La Batalla de Tetuan” by Marià Fortuny in one of the halls of the Diputació Provicial
1914
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

Marià Josep Maria Bernat Fortuny i Marsal (Catalan pronunciation: [məɾiˈa ʒuˈzɛb məˈɾi.ə βəɾˈnat fuɾˈtuɲ i məɾˈsal]; Spanish: Mariano José María Bernardo Fortuny y Marsal; June 11, 1838 – November 21, 1874), known more simply as Marià Fortuny or Mariano Fortuny, was the leading Spanish painter of his day, with an international reputation. His brief career encompassed works on a variety of subjects common in the art of the period, including the Romantic fascination with Orientalist themes, historicist genre painting, military painting of Spanish colonial expansion, as well as a prescient loosening of brush-stroke and colour. …

 

Legacy

Fortuny paintings are colorful, with a vivacious iridescent brushstroke that at times recalls the softness of Rococo painting but also anticipates impressionist brushwork. Richard Muther states:

his marvellously sensitive eye … discerned the stalls of Moorish carpet-sellers, with little figures swarming, and the rich display of woven stuffs of the East; the weary attitude of old Arabs sitting in the sun; the sombre, brooding faces of strange snake-charmers and magicians. This is no Parisian East… every one here speaks Arabic.

.
Fortuny often painted scenes where contemporary life had still not shaken off the epaulets and decorations of ancient traditions such as the “Burial of a matador” and couples signing marriage contracts (La Vicaria). Each has the dazzle of bric-a-brac ornament, but as in his painting of the Judgement of the Model, that painterly decorative air of Rococo and Romanticism was fading into academicism and left to confront the naked reality of the represented object. He inherited Goya’s eye for the paradox of ceremony and reality.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Marià Fortuny Marsal (Spanish, 1838–1874) 'La Batalla de Tetuan' Between 1862 and 1864

 

Marià Fortuny Marsal (Spanish, 1838–1874)
La Batalla de Tetuan
Between 1862 and 1864
Oil on canvas
300cm (118.1 in) x 972cm (10.6 yd)
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Relining of "La Batalla de Tetuan" by Marià Fortuny in one of the halls of the Diputació Provicial' 1914 (detail)

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Relining of “La Batalla de Tetuan” by Marià Fortuny in one of the halls of the Diputació Provicial (detail)
1914
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Arxiu Mas (Mas Archive) 'Work Room and Library at the Mas Archive' 1927

 

Arxiu Mas (Mas Archive)
Work Room and Library at the Mas Archive
1927
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

Adolf Mas: The Eyes of Barcelona

When ADOLF MAS GINESTÀ (1860-1936) – solicitor by obligation and photographer by vocation – journeyed through the streets of Barcelona in around 1900, the city’s walls had already disappeared decades ago and its urban layout was being enriched by the effervescence of Modernism. The city was changing and the people of Barcelona were witnessing the establishment of new social infrastructures.

At that time, camera in hand, Mas captured in his photographs a profound and simultaneously dynamic vision of a city that had just shed its provincial reputation. His eyes became a vehicle through which to approach this new reality. The illustrated press found its way into people’s homes, and so did the photographer’s reportages. His photographs provided insight into a new urban, social, and institutional reality by portraying current and public events, as well as the city’s new infrastructures. The paths he traced between the broad arteries of the Eixample district and the narrow alleys of the city’s old quarter – sometimes awaiting their imminent demolition – configured a collective memory of early 20th century Barcelona.

But Mas’s photographic work went beyond urban reportage. The relationships he established with important architects and art historians of the time led to his specialisation in the subject of heritage. In 1907 his participation in the mission set up by the Institut d’Estudis Catalans with the objective of documenting Pyrenean artistic heritage signified a turning point for his career and for his business; indeed his business would go on to become the main photographic archive in Europe specialising in Spanish heritage.

Carmen Perrotta, curator of the exhibition

 

Adolf Mas Ginestà was one of the key figures in the field of Catalan photography in the early 20th century. Born into a wealthy family from Solsona (Lleida), he renounced a stable job as a solicitor in order to move to Barcelona, the city where he trained as a photographer. He must have arrived in the city before 1890, because that year he married Apolonia Castañeda de Ortega (1866-1954), a young seamstress from Itero de la Vega (Palencia) with whom he had two children: Pelai (1891-1954) and Màrius (1896-1902).

Although evidence exists of his activity as a photographer during the last decade of the 19th century, it was not until the early 20th century that his first reportages were published in the press. In 1901, as the director of Helius, he combined his role as manager of the business with that of a photojournalist. From 1905 Helius, a newly renamed commercial enterprise, would become known as Etablissements “MASS” (also Estudi de Fotografia A. Mas, Estudio de Fotografia A. Mas and Photographic Studio A. Mas). In the decade of 1910 further restructuring of the business would lead to the consolidation of the Mas Archive as we know it today. In 1924 the business moved its commercial headquarters located on Carrer del Rosselló to Carrer de la Freneria, leaving the recently renovated Eixample district behind and taking over a space in the old quarter that had once belonged to two important figures in Catalan art nouveau, Alexandre de Riquer and Miquel Utrillo.

Mas’s ties to the cultural and artistic circles of the time were reflected in his photographic repertoires – which ranged from artists’ studios to portraits of the musicians, poets and intellectuals of the time – and also in the graphic and advertising materials produced for the business from its early beginnings as Helius until its final years as the Mas Archive. Ramon Casas, a friend of the photographer and a great exponent of Catalan art nouveau, was one of the renowned artists Mas commissioned to produce emblematic logos for the business.

The famous café Els Quatre Gats (1897-1903), located on the ground floor of Casa Martí on Carrer del Montsió and designed by Josep Puig I Cadafalch, was an important catalyst in Mas’s relationship with the artistic trends linked to Barcelona. A drawing by Ricard Opisso from 1900 is proof that Adolf Mas was a regular visitor at the café, possibly since it first opened. His familiarity with the cultural circles linked to the establishment undoubtedly allowed him to come into contact with the great figures of the time, such as Santiago Rusiñol and Ramon Casas. The reportages he produced in the company of the most important artists of his generation give a perspective on the interiors of the main studios operating at the time, from the studio of Lluís Masriera to that of Manuel Cano de Castro, and from the studio of Salvador Alarma to that of Félix Urgellés de Tovar.

The elite of early 20th century Catalan society – painters, architects, sculptors, musicians, dancers, singers, intellectuals, collectors and politicians, among others – posed in front of Mas’s camera at some point during their time in the limelight. These images were mostly unpublished portraits and allow an even more precise understanding of Mas’s position in contemporary artistic circles, while also revealing a previously unknown aspect – one that was far from the kind of documentary photography with which he is generally associated. Although he cannot be directly linked to pictorialism, his portraits were reminiscent of an aesthetic search and his use of formal devices such as blurring, contrasts in lighting, and the representation of introspective states of mind sets them apart from the structure of conventional portraiture; in this way they are similar to the artistic movement known as pictorialism which clearly influenced Mas. The interplay of light and shadow, and the use of extreme close-ups on the subjects’ faces, give the portraits a strength and intensity and in some cases a resemblance to phantasmagoric apparitions.

The first reportages by Adolf Mas were set in Barcelona, a city that from a social, cultural and urban planning perspective was undergoing a radical change. Assignments produced for illustrated magazines such as Los Deportes, Álbum Salón, Ilustració Catalana, Femina and Ilustración Artística, among others, led to the substantial growth of Mas’s photographic repository. His collaboration with the publishers Editorial López, at the time managed by Antoni López i Benturas, resulted in his reportages being circulated in the main journalistic outlets of the day. Mas began to make his way in photojournalism and was one of the first photojournalists of his generation in Catalonia.

Among his first repertoires are those of the main sporting events that took place in the early 20th century, such as the celebrations of the Spanish Gymnastics Federation (1900); the grand political events linked to the Liga Regionalista, among others; and a wide range of recreational events like the Fiesta de las Palomas, organised by the Real Sociedad Colombófila de Cataluña (1904), and the traditional Batalla de Flores (1907).

Mas also participated in the documentation of ambitious urban projects like the construction of Via Layetana, and took part in the Old Barcelona artistic competition (1908).

In 1909 his camera bore witness to the dramatic event of the Semana Trágica. In addition to his documentation of the destruction suffered by ecclesiastical heritage, there were other images related to a wide range of motifs such as his portrayal of the Compañía Barcelonesa de Electricidad, which he photographed after the building had been raided. Within the framework of his production, it is also important to note Mas’s documentation of the avant-garde infrastructures that were being implemented by a number of institutions at this time. These included social initiatives promoted by the Diputació de Barcelona and led to a turning point in welfare practices. Early 20th century Barcelona cannot be properly understood without the photographic repertoires of Adolf Mas: his wide-ranging body of work not only encompasses images of recreational, political, and religious events, but also documents Spain’s cultural heritage.

 

Perfumería Ideal and Bar Torino

Perfumería Ideal (established by Teodoro Sánchez Illá at number 642 Gran Vía de les Corts Catalanes) and bar Torino (founded at number 18 Passeig de Gràcia by Faminio Mezzalama, the representative of Martini & Rossi vermouth in Barcelona) [see photograph below] were the finalists of the first annual competition for urban buildings and businesses awarded by Barcelona City Hall in 1902, in the new category for best decorated business opened that year. Both were included in the Anuario estadístico de la ciudad de Barcelona (1903), which highlighted Perfumería Ideal’s “ostentatious richness […] boasting its grandiose construction and splendid decorations” while Bar Torino’s “flattering simplicity and its fine and aristocratic elegance […] surpass anything seen before.” Ultimately, the latter – which was the work of Ricard Capmany, Antoni Gaudí, Pere Falqués, Josep Puig I Cadafalch, Eusebi Arnau, and Ricard Urgell, among others – became the winner of the competition.

 

Photography and Press

Photography became fully integrated into the Spanish press from the 1890s, when the great illustrated magazines – such as Blanco y Negro, which stands out for its track record – began to appear. At the turn of the century, the growing demand for photographic repertoires by newspapers, magazines, and large editorial projects, which illustrated their pages with photographs, consolidated the profession of the photojournalist. It was during the first three decades of the century that Spanish photojournalism achieved a high degree of professionalism, and photographic techniques advanced considerably. Text and photography began to be regarded as an informative unicum and Noucentista reporters were faced with readers who were eager to consume eloquent and immediate images capable of relaying information while remaining clear and understandable. The binary relationship between press and photography allowed public figures to enter readers’ homes enabling their deferred participation in the most contemporary current affairs.

 

The legacy of Adolf Mas goes beyond his work as a photographer. In order to fully understand his oeuvre one must look at the photographic repository and business model he established, which was unlike any other at that time. The innovative nature of this enterprise, on which Mas spent nearly twenty years, was based on a hybrid formula offering both the sale of photographic materials and the possibility of consulting the collections on-site, following the model of a public archive. Anyone interested in consulting the photographic materials at the archives could do so in dedicated rooms by means of “graphic cards”. These were presented in the form of postcards printed directly onto photographic paper which showed an image of the subject on the front and provided basic information on the location and characteristics of the subject on the back. The system was unique in Europe and Mas took advantage of the 1925 VI Congrès International de Photographie in Paris to reveal it to an international audience.

At this point Mas’s business had already moved toward a specialisation in heritage photography. Its participation in the expedition organised by the Institut d’Estudis Catalans with the object of documenting Pyrenean heritage would be another turning point. In 1915 Adolf Mas was commissioned to compile an iconographic repertoire of Spain for what would become the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition. The scope of the project led him to expand the number of staff photographers as his son Pelai, who had been officially working alongside his father since 1907, was no long able to cover all the business’s production requirements.

The success of the Mas Archive, which survives today as part of the repository at the Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic, must be understood as the result of the work of its founder Adolf Mas, his wife Apolonia, and their son Pelai. It is also important to highlight the work of archive staff, a team comprising apprentices, archivists, typists, photographers, officers and lab directors.

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Bar Torino' 1905

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Bar Torino
1905
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Bar Torino' 1905 (detail)

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Bar Torino (detail)
1905
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Montserrat Blanc' c. 1909

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Montserrat Blanc
c. 1909
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Palau de la Música Catalana' 1908

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Palau de la Música Catalana
1908
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Photograph for an automobile catalog. Barral Brothers Workshop' 1909

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Photograph for an automobile catalog. Barral Brothers Workshop
1909
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'María Barrientos. Opera "Carmen"' 1915

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
María Barrientos. Opera “Carmen”
1915
© MAE-Institut del Teatre

 

 

María Alejandra Barrientos Llopis (4 March 1884 – 8 August 1946) was a Spanish opera singer, a light coloratura soprano.

Barrientos was born in Barcelona on 4 March 1884. She received a thorough musical education (piano and violin) at the Municipal Conservatory of Barcelona, before turning to vocal studies with Francisco Bonet. She made her debut at the Teatro Novedades in Barcelona, as Ines in L’Africaine, on March 10, 1898, aged only 15, quickly followed by the role of Marguerite de Valois in Les Huguenots.

She was immediately invited to all the major opera houses of Europe, singing in Italy, Germany, England, France, to great acclaim. It is however in South America, especially at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, that she enjoyed her greatest triumphs. Her career was temporarily interrupted in 1907 by her marriage and the birth of a son, the union did not prove a happy one and she returned to the stage in 1909.

Barrientos made her Metropolitan Opera debut on January 31, 1916, in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor with Giovanni Martinelli as Edgardo, Pasquale Amato as Enrico, and Gaetano Bavagnoli conducting. She remained committed to that house through 1920 where her other roles included Adina in L’elisir d’amore, Amina in La sonnambula, Elvira in I puritani, Gilda in Rigoletto, Rosina in The Barber of Seville, and the title roles in Lakmé and Mireille. She notably portrayed The Queen of Shemakha in Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel for the opera’s United States premiere on March 6, 1918. Her Met career came to an end on May 1, 1920 with a tour performance of L’elisir d’amore opposite Enrico Caruso.

Barrientos continued appearing on stage in standard coloratura roles until 1924. She then restricted herself to recitals, and became an admired interpreter of French and Spanish songs.

Barrientos was a singer with a voice of almost instrumental limpidity. She made a valuable set of recordings for Fonotipia Records and Columbia Records. She retired to the south-west of France, where she became an enthusiastic bridge player. She died at Ciboure on 8 August 1946.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Tórtola Valencia. The Dance "La Bayadère"' 1914

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Tórtola Valencia. The Dance “La Bayadère”
1914
© MAE-Institut del Teatre

 

 

Carmen Tórtola Valencia

Carmen Tórtola Valencia (June 18, 1882 – February 13, 1955) was a Spanish early modern dancer, choreographer, costume designer, and painter, who generally performed barefoot. Tórtola Valencia is said to have been the inspiration for Rubén Darío’s poem, La bailarina de los pies desnudos (“The Barefoot Dancer”).

 

Biography

Born in Seville to a Catalan father (Florenç Tórtola Ferrer, d. 1891) and Andalusian mother (Georgina Valencia Valenzuela, d. 1894), she was three years old when her family emigrated to London. In his book Tortola Valencia and Her Times (1982), Odelot Sobrac, one of her early biographers, said Tórtola Valencia developed a style that expressed emotion through movement and that she was inspired by Isadora Duncan. A member of Generación del 13, her costumes are part of the collection of Centre de Documentació i Museu de les Arts Escèniques. Her Spanish modernismo style enabled a career as a solo concert dance artist who performed classic, Oriental, and Spanish pieces. She made her debut at the Gaiety Theatre in London (1908), appearing at the Berlin Wintergarten theatre and the Folies Bergère of Paris in the same year. She performed in Nuremberg and London in 1909. One of the people she taught was the Anglo-Indian dancer Olive Craddock aka Roshanara. In 1911, she made her Spanish debut at the Romea Theatre of Madrid. She was at the Ateneo de Madrid in 1913.

 

The feminist

Tórtola Valencia was also a “pioneer Spanish feminist of the 20th century”. Being gay and having leftist ideas, Tórtola Valencia was jailed at the end of the Spanish Civil War. In 1928, she met Magret Angeles-Vila and they were inseparable thereafter. She danced for the last time in 1930 in Quito. She began painting in Barcelona where she died in 1955 and is buried at Poblenou Cemetery.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

La Bayadère

La Bayadère (“the temple dancer”) (ru. «Баядерка», Bayaderka) is a ballet, originally staged in four acts and seven tableaux by French choreographer Marius Petipa to the music of Ludwig Minkus. The ballet was staged especially for the benefit performance of the Russian Prima ballerina Ekaterina Vazem, who created the principal role of Nikiya. La Bayadère was first presented by the Imperial Ballet at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, on 4 February [O.S. 23 January] 1877. From the first performance the ballet was universally hailed by contemporary critics as one of the choreographer Petipa’s supreme masterpieces, particularly the scene from the ballet known as The Kingdom of the Shades, which became one of the most celebrated pieces in all of classical ballet. By the turn-of-the 20th century, The Kingdom of the Shades scene was regularly extracted from the full-length work as an independent showpiece, and it has remained so to the present day.

Nearly all modern versions of La Bayadère are derived from the Kirov Ballet’s production of 1941, which was a severely redacted edition staged by Vakhtang Chabukiani and Vladimir Ponomarev in Leningrad in 1941. Natalia Makarova’s 1980 production of La Bayadère for American Ballet Theatre was the first full-length production to find a permanent place in the repertories of western ballet troupes, having been staged by several theatres throughout the world. Makarova’s version is itself derived from Chabukiani and Ponomarev’s 1941 redaction for the Mariinsky Theatre.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880-1964) '(Portrait of Adolfo Mas, Barcelona)' June 17, 1935

 

Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880-1964)
(Portrait of Adolfo Mas, Barcelona)
June 17, 1935
Gelatin silver print
Library of Congress

 

Jacob Riis (Danish-American, 1849-1914) 'Bandit's Roost at 59½ Mulberry Street' 1888

 

Jacob Riis (1849-1914)
Bandits’ Roost, 59 1/2 Mulberry Street
1888
Gelatin silver print, printed 1958
Museum of Modern Art
Public domain

 

 

Jacob August Riis (May 3, 1849 – May 26, 1914) was a Danish-American social reformer, “muckraking” journalist and social documentary photographer. He contributed significantly to the cause of urban reform in America at the turn of the twentieth century. He is known for using his photographic and journalistic talents to help the impoverished in New York City; those impoverished New Yorkers were the subject of most of his prolific writings and photography. He endorsed the implementation of “model tenements” in New York with the help of humanitarian Lawrence Veiller. Additionally, as one of the most famous proponents of the newly practicable casual photography, he is considered one of the fathers of photography due to his very early adoption of flash in photography.

While living in New York, Riis experienced poverty and became a police reporter writing about the quality of life in the slums. He attempted to alleviate the bad living conditions of poor people by exposing their living conditions to the middle and upper classes.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Alfred Bool (British, 1844-1926) and John Bool (British, 1850-1933) 'The entrance to the Oxford Arms' 1875

 

Alfred Bool (British, 1844-1926) and John Bool (British, 1850-1933)
The entrance to the Oxford Arms
1875
Carbon print
Yale Center for British Art

 

 

The first photograph released by the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London.

 

Alfred and John Bool were a pair of British brothers who photographed 19th century London. Alfred Henry Bool (1844-1926) and John James Bool (1850-1933) were both born in London. They opened a photo studio together in Pimlico in the 1860s, and John Bool worked there until 1918.

In 1875 the brothers were hired by Alfred Marks, the director of the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London, and would go on to photograph historic buildings including the Oxford Arms Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, the Smithfield area, Temple Bar, Gray’s Inn, St. Bartholomew’s and the Cloth Fair. The album prints were made by the brothers in the company of Henry Dixon.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

[Alfred] Marks was well-positioned for such nostalgia. He was an antiquarian scholar, and his father had been a coach builder, which may explain his particular attachment to the Oxford Arms. When he heard the building was to be demolished, Marks raised money from a few friends. He hired Alfred and John Bool, a father-son photography team best known for their landscapes, to take photos of the Arms. He then started looking for others who felt the same way he did, and might want to buy the work. “Should any readers … interested in London antiquities desire to join the subscription, I shall be happy to hear from them,” he announced in the London Times.

The Society launched “one of the first efforts” to use photography to document endangered buildings, says Foote. It was also special in that its photos were meant to be collected, like fine art. All were printed in carbon – an expensive process – to ensure they wouldn’t fade.

The first photograph set, released in 1875, consisted of six different views of the Oxford Arms, including the entrance, the yard, and the galleries. The second, which came a year later, focused on old houses and inns near Wynch Street and Drury Lane. In 1878, Marks doubled his production speed, going from six photos per year to 12. Three years later, he began writing up short texts about the buildings, printing them out, and issuing them to subscribers along with the photographs.

“The project became much bigger than he originally intended,” says Chitra Ramalingam, the Assistant Curator of Photography at the Yale Center for British Art, which exhibited SPROL’s photographs in 2016. Still, Marks ran the show, choosing which buildings to focus on, and particular details to highlight. (Despite its name, there’s no evidence the Society ever met up in real life, or had any true members besides Marks.) …

Marks gave such scrupulous instructions to the Bools – as well as to Henry and Thomas James Dixon, who he hired to replace them in 1879 – that each photograph was effectively “a collaboration between Marks and the photographer,” says Ramalingam. …

Marks disbanded his Society in 1886, 11 years after he’d started it. By this point, he had released 120 photographs, in 12 sets, and had enjoyed a certain amount of commercial success, selling over 100 subscriptions. “It is not suggested that the subject has been exhausted,” he wrote at the time, “but it is hoped that the work may be regarded as fairly complete within the lines at first marked out.”

Cara Giaimo. “The Victorian Photographic Society That Tried to Preserve ‘Old London’,” on the Atlas Obscura website June 13, 2018 [Online] Cited 23/04/2022

 

Further photographs

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Carrer de l'Arc de Sant Francesc' (Street of the Arch of St. Francis) Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Carrer de l’Arc de Sant Francesc (Street of the Arch of St. Francis)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
10.5 x 8cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Carrer Tarascó' (Tarascó Street) Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Carrer Tarascó (Tarascó Street)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
12 x 5.6cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Entrades als carrers Graciamat i Sant Crist de la Tapineria' Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Entrades als carrers Graciamat i Sant Crist de la Tapineria
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
11.5 x 8.1 cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Carrer del Sant Crist de l'Argenteria des del carrer Argenteria' (Street of the Sant Crist de l'Argenteria from Argenteria street) Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Carrer del Sant Crist de l’Argenteria des del carrer Argenteria
(Street of the Sant Crist de l’Argenteria from Argenteria street)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
16.1 x 8.5cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Pati de la casa núm. 25 del carrer dels Mercaders' (Patio of the house no. 25 of the Street of the Merchants) Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Pati de la casa núm. 25 del carrer dels Mercaders
(Patio of house no. 25 of the Street of the Merchants)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
9.9 x 8.6cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Interior del pati de la casa núm. 6 de la Riera de Sant Joan' (Interior of the patio of house no. 6 of the Riera of Saint Joan) Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Interior del pati de la casa núm. 6 de la Riera de Sant Joan
(Interior of the patio of house no. 6 of the Riera of Saint Joan)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
11.7 x 8.3cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Plaça Nova (plaça de l'Àngel) i entrades als carrers de la Princesa i de la Bòria' (Nova Square (Square of the Angel) with the entrance to the Street of the Princess and the Boria) Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Plaça Nova (plaça de l’Àngel) i entrades als carrers de la Princesa i de la Bòria
(Nova Square (Square of the Angel) with the entrance to the Street of the Princess and the Boria)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
11.7 x 8.3cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Sense títol (Plaça en obres)' (Untitled (Place under construction)) About 1908-1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Sense títol (Plaça en obres) (Untitled (Place under construction))
About 1908-1911
Gelatin silver print
17.3 x 12.2cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

The banner says “the bakery moves to the same street no. 27”

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Untitled (Street)' Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Untitled (Street)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
17.3 x 12.1cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Santa Maria del Mar' Nd

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Santa Maria del Mar
Nd
Albumen print
28 x 21cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

 

FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE – KBr Photography Center
Avenida Litoral, 30 – 08005 Barcelona
Phone: +34 93 272 31 80

Opening hours:
Mondays (except holidays): Closed.
Tuesday to Sundays (and holidays): 11am – 8pm

Fundación Mapfre website

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10
May
15

Exhibition: ‘Nicolás Muller (1913-2000). Traces of exile’ at the Château de Tours

Exhibition dates: 22nd November 2014 – 31st May 2015

Curator: Chema Cones, a freelance curator

 

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Carénage du navire. Canaries' 1964

 

Nicolás Muller (1913-2000)
Carénage du navire. Canaries [Fairing the ship. Canary Islands]
1964
© Nicolás Muller

 

 

 

Another artist whom I knew very little about before researching for this posting. Another human being who survived the maelstrom of the Second World War by the skin of his teeth – obtaining a visa for Tangiers which, at the time, was the destination for thousands of Jews fleeing from Central Europe.

After seven years in Tangier – “Tangier, in December 1939, was an international city, almost a paradise in the middle of a world war-crazed … My stinging eyes, hands and my whole being to want to walk everywhere taking pictures” – he moved to Madrid, in order to go back to working as a photojournalist, to explore the regions of Spain, and to publish books of his work. This seems a strange country of choice to move to after the freedom of Tangiers, especially with the Fascist dictatorship of General Franco in full swing until 1975. I wonder what were his reasons behind this choice? Muller obviously loved the Spanish landscape and its people and you can track his journeys across the Iberian Peninsula by looking up the places of his photographs on a map of the region. He travelled everywhere, from North to South, from West to East. Apparently, he was an active member of Spain’s underground intelligentsia, but why would you go to a country if you had to be covert about your intelligence? Was he in exile from Hungary or France, or from himself?

The strongest photographs in this posting are the images from Tangiers, although I would love to see more of his portrait work (the image of Susana, 1937, below is a cracker). Unfortunately there are very few of his portrait photographs online. The best of his work has an elegant simplicity with a wonderful control of people, space and light.

 

Addendum November 2017

I received a wonderful and unexpected email from Dania Muller, whose grandfather was Nicolás Muller. Dania explains the “enigma” of Nicolás settling in Spain:

He was asked by the intellectuals who weren’t dismissed by Franco, Spain’s dictator at the time, to exhibit in Madrid. He was living in Tangier at the time. And so he went to Madrid to expose his work… only to encounter a beautiful lady who he felt a strong attraction too, and told his friend that he would marry her. She was my grandma, they fell in love and eventually he moved to Spain, had four kids and took in the Spanish way of life, where he lived peacefully and happily.”

Dania Muller email to Marcus Bunyan 25/11/2017.

.
What a joyous, happy ending! Dania is sending me a book on her grandfather’s work and I hope to do another posting in the near future.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Château de Tours for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Country House. Madrid' 1950

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Country House, Madrid
1950
© Nicolás Muller

 

 

“La fotografía en España en el año 47 ofrecía un aspecto bastante original: por un lado Ortiz Echagüe, el venerado maestro que hacía sus libros y sus fotografías como si fueran pinturas o grabados preciosos y por otra parte… Campúa, el fotógrafo del Caudillo, Jalón Ángel, Kaulak en la calle Alcalá y Geynes que junto Amer Ventosa copaban las fotografías de ata sociedad.

Por lo demás la fotografía no estaba valorada en nada o en casi nada, mostrando una perspectiva desoladora.”

.
“Photography in Spain in 1947 offered a rather original appearance: first Ortiz Echague, the revered teacher who had his books and his photographs as if they were paintings or beautiful prints and elsewhere … Campúa, photographer of the Caudillo, Jalon Ángel, Kaulak in Alcala Street and Geynes and Amer Ventosa together photographs were permeating society.

Otherwise the picture was not worth anything or almost nothing, showing a bleak outlook.”

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Marché de nattes de paille' Tanger, Maroc, 1944

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Marché de nattes de paille [Straw mats at the market]
Tangier, Morocco, 1944
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Danseuse' Larache, Maroc, 1942

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Danseuse [Dancer]
Larache, Maroc, 1942
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Portrait of Susana' 1937

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Portrait of Susana
1937
© Nicolás Muller

 

 

“En mis retratos, si hubiera algo de interés, no será por el retratista, sino por parte del retratado. Me gustaba hacer retratos para conocer al personaje.”

“In my portraits, there was something of interest, it is not for the portrait, but for the sitter. I liked doing portraits to know the character.”

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Bajo la Lluvia' Portugal, 1939

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Bajo la Lluvia [In the Rain]
Portugal, 1939
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Descargando sal' Oporto, Portugal, 1939

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Descargando sal [Unloading salt]
Oporto, Portugal, 1939
© Nicolás Muller

 

 

“In Porto I liked the harbour full of bustle, with its vivid colours … women with heavy downloading caryatids necks baskets of salt and coal. Other women, always with baskets on their heads, downloading large bales of dried cod, and among both men lying or sitting in the sun, watching the clouds, playing cards …”

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Chinchón II' Madrid, 1950

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Chinchón II
Madrid, 1950
Chinchón II

 

 

Although little known in France, Nicolás Muller (Orosháza, Hungary, 1913 – Andrín, Spain, 2000) was one of the leading exponents of Hungarian social photography. Like many of his compatriots – Eva Besnyö, Brassaï, Robert Capa, André Kertész and Kati Horna – he spent much of his life in exile: born into a bourgeois Jewish family, he left Hungary shortly after the Anschluss in 1938, spending time in Paris, Portugal and Morocco before finally setting in Spain. This experience, and the situations and people he encountered along the way, did much to shape Muller’s work.

Like many of his fellow Hungarian photographers at the time, in the 1930s Muller worked in a humanist, documentary vein, evincing a strong sense of sympathy for the world of labour and the most modest members of society. His interest in the working man’s experience would remain a hallmark of his photographs. As the social and political contexts changed, he photographed agricultural labourers and dockers in the ports of Marseille and Porto, then children and street vendors in Tangiers, and life in the countryside. Later, he photographed cultural and social figures in Madrid.

The exhibition at the Château de Tours – the first show in France dedicated exclusively to this photographer – brings together a hundred images and documents from the archives kept by his daughter Ana Muller. This chronologically presented selection made by curator Chema Conesa follows the career and travels of this alert, curious photographer from 1935 to 1981.

Nicolás Muller was given his first camera at the age of thirteen, and immediately began to explore its capacity to express a certain idea of the world and of human beings. He maintained this passion for photography when studying law and politics at the Szeged University. His camera, and the feeling that he could use it to convey the adventure of living, were the formative constants of his life and art.

“I learned that photography can be a weapon, an authentic document of reality. […] I became an engaged person, an engaged photographer.”

During his four years at university he would also explore the Hungarian plains, whether on foot, by train or by bike, photographing men and women, the interiors of houses, scenes of rural life and the workers building the dykes on the River Tisza.

His early work is dominated by this rural aspect of Hungary – a country that had lost a significant fraction of its territory under the Treaty of Versailles (1920). It is also influenced by the avant-garde aesthetic of the day, with its diagonal perspectives and high- and low-angle shots.

When Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938 (the Anschluss), Hungary aligned itself with the fascist regime and Muller decided to continue his photographic career elsewhere. He came to Paris, where he was in touch with other Hungarian photographers such as Brassaï, Robert Capa and André Kertész. He found work with periodicals such as Match, France Magazine and Regards, which published his photographs of working life in Hungary and Marseille. This theme continued to occupy him during his short stay in General Salazar’s Portugal, until he was imprisoned and then expelled.

Through his father, who had stayed in Hungary and had close links with Rotary Club International, Muller managed to obtain a visa for Tangiers – which, at the time, was the destination for thousands of Jews fleeing from Central Europe. The city roused him to a state of almost febrile creativity. “My eyes, my hands and my whole being are itching to go everywhere, to take photographs wherever I can.” His tireless portrayal of Tangiers also shows him learning to deal with a new challenge: intense light.

In Tangiers Muller contributed photographs to a number of books, such as Tanger por el Jalifa and Estampas marroquis, and did reportage work on the towns of the “Spanish Zone” commissioned by the Spanish High Commission in Morocco. After seven years in Tangiers – “the happiest years of my life” – Muller decided to move to Madrid in order to go back to working as a photojournalist, to explore the regions of Spain, and to publish books of his work.

As the reputation of his studio grew, so he frequented the writers, philosophers and poets who met at the legendary Café Gijón and around the Revista d’Occidente. An active member of Spain’s underground intelligentsia, he also made portraits of artist and writer friends, including Pío Baroja, Camilo José Cela, Eugeni d’Ors and Ramón Pérez de Ayala, and of figures such as the pianist Ataúlfo Argenta and the torero Manolete (Muller’s photo captures him not long before his death).

Nicolás Muller retired at the age of 68 and moved to Andrín (Asturias), where he died in 2000.”

Press release from the Château de Tours website

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Castro Urdiales (Santander)' 1968

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Castro Urdiales (Santander)
1968
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Aiguisage de la faux. Hongrie' 1935

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Aiguisage de la faux. Hongrie [Sharpening the scythe. Hungary]
1935
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'San Cristóbal de Entreviñas' Zamora, 1957

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
San Cristóbal de Entreviñas
Zamora, 1957
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller

 

 

And in Spain, Muller, he found the picture of the war, depressed by the legacy of the war and destroyed by repression and losses, a strange climate where lived traditions and religion country, big cities and the inland villages, children and widows of war. In our country, there were few references of the new documentary that took place in the rest of Europe, not to say that they are almost non-existent except in the case of Jose Ortiz Echague. You could say that with Catalá Roca, Muller is one of the most important photographers of the era in which he portrayed the society of Spain…

His social photography is part of this new documentary, from a very specific perspective, where the photographer has to be absent from the picture, it must be maintained as an external agent. Under this premise, Nicolas Muller, is a hunter of moments immortalised through his camera. He observed from the outside, does not seek to intervene in the context, it seeks to be faithful to the situation, the purity of the image and emotions. The artist is absent on the scene and that allows you to create a picture where the main protagonists are the people who participate in the moment. The exhibition held in 1947 for the West Magazine which expresses the new artistic concepts which would give photography in the context of modernity. For this exhibition portrayed famous people of Spanish society, mostly intellectuals and cultural figures as Azorín, Ortega y Gasset, Menendez Pidal, Marañón or John Doe … With this starting point, Nicolas Muller discovers the Spanish geography and unleashes the photographic socialism, traveling through villages and cities. In this series, the photographer welcomes environments, customs and influences of the inhabitants of the places where he spent days or months…

If a photographer wants to be the chronicler of the time in which he lives you have to convey reality and not an image that changes or imagines himself.”

Text translated from “Nicolás Muller, Social Photography in the War,” on the Madriz website, 15th January 2014. No longer available online.

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Séville' 1951

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Séville
1951
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Semana Santa (Cuenca)' 1950

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Semana Santa (Cuenca) [Easter (Cuenca)]
1950
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Tatoo' Bordeaux, France, 1938

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Tatoo
Bordeaux, France, 1938
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Arcos de la Frontera (Cádiz)' 1957

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Arcos de la Frontera (Cádiz)
1957
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Three men' Marseilles, France, 1938

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Tres hombres [Three men]
Marseilles, France, 1938
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Le Lévrier et la modèle' Tanger, Maroc, 1940

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Le Lévrier et la modèle [The Greyhound and model]
Tangier, Morocco, 1940
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Fête du Mouloud I' Tanger, Maroc, 1942

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Fête du Mouloud I – Al Mawlid I [Mouloud festival I]
Tangier, Morocco, 1942
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Fête du Mouloud II' Tanger, Maroc, 1942

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Fête du Mouloud II [Mouloud festival II]
Tangier, Morocco, 1942
© Nicolás Muller

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Tangier, Morocco' 1942

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Tánger, Marruecos [Tangier, Morocco]
1942
© Nicolás Muller

 

 

“Tangier, in December 1939, was an international city, almost a paradise in the middle of a world war-crazed … My stinging eyes, hands and my whole being to want to walk everywhere taking pictures.”

 

Nicolás Muller. 'Casares' Malaga, 1967

 

Nicolás Muller (Spanish born Hungary, 1913-2000)
Casares
Malaga, 1967
© Nicolás Muller

 

 

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27
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘photobooks. Spain 1905-1977’ at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia, Madrid

Exhibition dates: 27th May 2014 – 5th January 2015

Artists: Francesc Català-Roca, Colita (Isabel Steva Hernández), Joan Colom, Salvador Costa, Ramón Masats, Xavier Miserachs, Francisco Ontañón, José Ortiz Echagüe Puertas, Leopoldo Pomés, Alfonso Sánchez Portela

Curatorship: Horacio Fernández

 

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'photobooks. Spain 1905-1977' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition photobooks. Spain 1905-1977 at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia

 

 

This is one of those eclectic exhibitions that this site likes to promote. What a fascinating subject, something that I knew nothing about. The posting is especially for my colleague Professor Martinez Alfredo-Exposito, Head of the School of Languages and Linguistics at The University of Melbourne.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'photobooks. Spain 1905-1977' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'photobooks. Spain 1905-1977' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'photobooks. Spain 1905-1977' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition photobooks. Spain 1905-1977 at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia

 

Álvaro Bartolomé, Joaquín del Palacio. Momentos. Madrid: edición del autor, 1944

 

Álvaro Bartolomé, Joaquín del Palacio
Momentos
Madrid: edición del autor
1944

 

Enrique Palazuelo. S/T. Nuevas escenas matritenses, ca. 1957 / copia póstuma, 2013. Copia de exposición

 

Enrique Palazuelo
Sans Titre. Nuevas escenas matritenses
c. 1957 / copia póstuma, 2013
Copia de exposición

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'Llegada a Barcelona' (Arriving at Barcelona) 1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
Llegada a Barcelona (Arriving at Barcelona)
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
34.8 x 47.5cm

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'La Vía Layetana entre las calles Junqueras y Condal' 1950 / copia póstuma, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
La Vía Layetana entre las calles Junqueras y Condal
1950 / copia póstuma, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
36.9 x 45.3cm

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'La Vía Layetana, Barcelona' (The Via Layetana, Barcelona), 1950

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
La Vía Layetana, Barcelona (The Via Layetana, Barcelona)
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'Monumento a Colón' (Columbus Monument) 1949 / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
Monumento a Colón (Columbus Monument)
1949 / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
With frame: 114 x 88cm

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'Calle Muntaner' (Muntaner Street) 1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
Calle Muntaner (Muntaner Street)
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
47.5 x 32.8cm

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'Las Ramblas con lluvia' (The Ramblas in the Rain) 1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
Las Ramblas con lluvia (The Ramblas in the Rain)
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
47.7 x 37.5cm

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'Vestíbulo de la tienda, Barcelona' (Shop Vestibule, Barcelona) 1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
Vestíbulo de la tienda, Barcelona (Shop Vestibule, Barcelona)
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'El hombre del saco' (The Bogeyman) 1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
El hombre del saco (The Bogeyman)
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
47.8 x 35.7cm

 

 

The Exhibition photobooks. Spain 1905-1977 presents a journey through the history of the photobook in Spain, setting off at the beginning of the 20th century and ending in the mid seventies, via a selection from the Museo Reina Sofía Collection, contextualised and accompanied by an assortment of complementary material.

For a long time the aesthetic consideration of photography has been limited to individual images that are able to work in a similar way to paintings or etchings, a blueprint developed by historians and museum curators alike to assemble a canon of ‘masterpieces’ for studios or exhibitions. Yet this model is not the only one, and many photographers cannot synthesise their work in a single image, devising it instead in a series. Both models give rise to two coherent histories of photography: one comprised of photos to hang on walls, with a limited number of copies and on sale at art galleries; the other in book form, possibly with a reissue, available in bookstores. By and large, photographers prefer the last option: “pictures on walls and photos in books” (Cartier-Bresson).

A photobook is a publication made up of photographs ordered as a set of images, with plots and complex meanings, and the medium used by some of the most pre-eminent photographers to produce their greatest work; a tried-and-tested model to present, communicate and read photos. Photobooks are becoming more widely recognised as the best medium for presenting series of photographs.

As far as Spain is concerned, the history of photo books is determined by the avatars of its own national history, for instance the Civil War and the transition to democracy, the focus of some of the finest work produced. In addition to propaganda, changes to the image and social role of peasants and, above all, women, are also prominent issues that are explored. The relationship between literature and photography is another characteristic of Spanish photobooks, which also include works in closer proximity to the international history of the format, such as publications on urban matters.

The study of photobooks is leading to a reinterpretation of the history of photography in diverse countries, as well as in Spain. Along with well-known photographers (the likes of José Ortiz Echagüe, Alfonso, Francesc Català-Roca, Ramón Masats, Xavier Miserachs, Francisco Ontañón and Colita), the exhibition features a considerable number of practically unknown frontline artists who in their day actually published first-rate photography collections, as is the case with photographers like Antonio Cánovas, the collective work of Misiones Pedagógicas (Teaching Missions), José Compte, Enrique Palazuelo, Luis Acosta Moro and Salvador Costa.

Curated by Horacio Fernández, the exhibition photobooks. Spain 1905-1977 is in collaboration with Acción Cultural Española (AC/E) to present part of the line of investigation and acquisition carried out by the Museo Reina Sofía concerning photobooks. The exhibition, which coincides with the PHE2014 festival, is concluded with the publication of a catalogue raisonné, jointly published by the Museo Reina Sofía, AC/E and RM.

Text from the Museo Reina Sofía website

 

Enrique Palazuelo (fotografías) y Camilo José Cela (texto). Nuevas escenas matritenses. Madrid, Alfaguara, 1965-66

 

Enrique Palazuelo (fotografías) y Camilo José Cela (texto)
Nuevas escenas matritenses
Madrid, Alfaguara
1965-66

 

Colita (fotografías) y Maria Aurèlia Capmany (texto). Antifémina. Madrid, Editorial Nacional, 1977

 

Colita (fotografías) y Maria Aurèlia Capmany (texto)
Antifémina
Madrid, Editorial Nacional
1977

 

Colita (Isabel Steva Hernández). 'Novios gitanos. Barcelona' (Gypsy Couple. Barcelona) 1962 / Later print, 2011

 

Colita (Isabel Steva Hernández)
Novios gitanos. Barcelona (Gypsy Couple. Barcelona)
1962 / Later print, 2011
Gold-toned chlorobromide print on paper
17.9 x 18cm

 

Joan Colom. 'Raval' 1958 (circa) / Vintage print

 

Joan Colom
Raval
1958 (circa) / Vintage print
Gelatin silver print on paper
23.5 x 11cm

 

 

Joan Colom published his series on Barcelona’s Chinatown in the magazine AFAL (1962) with an autobiography: “Age: 40. Profession: Accountant. Hobbies: Apart from photography, obviously, none.” Of his method, Colom said: “I have decided to only work with subjects that I have predetermined.” Oriol Maspons adds the technical details: “Everything was taken using a Leica M2, shot from the hip without framing or focusing. A real photographer’s work. More than a year on the same subject.” The series had been exhibited with some success (and controversy) at the Sala Aixelá in Barcelona the previous year, under the title El carrer (The Street). In 1964 it was finally published by Lumen in one of the finest photo-books in their Palabra e Imagen collection, “Izas, rabizas y colipoterras”, designed by Oscar Tusquets and Cristian Cirici. Camilo José Cela contributed a text based around Colom’s (surreptitious but captionless) photos that was full of broad, cruel humour, pitilessly mocking the women, photographed by Colom and judged by Cela. Somewhat ahead of her time, one of the women actually sued the photographer, the only result of which was the photo-book’s withdrawal from bookshops, and Colom’s retirement from photography for years. From the 1980s onwards public obscurity became public recognition, which has continued to grow.

Horacio Fernández

 

Joan Colom. 'No Title' 1958 / Vintage print

 

Joan Colom (Barcelona, Spain, 1921)
No Title
1958 / Vintage print
From the series El carrer (The Street)
Gelatin silver print on paper
27 x 21cm

 

Joan Colom (Barcelona, Spain, 1921) 'No Title' 1958

 

Joan Colom (Barcelona, Spain, 1921)
No Title
1958 / Vintage print
From the series El carrer (The Street)
Gelatin silver print on paper
23.2 x 16.2cm

 

Joan Colom (Barcelona, Spain, 1921) 'No Title' 1958

 

Joan Colom (Barcelona, Spain, 1921)
No Title
1958 / Vintage print
From the series El carrer (The Street)
Gelatin silver print on paper
23.2 x 16.2cm

 

 

photobooks. Spain 1905-1977 is a history of Spanish photography through a selection of its best photobooks, many of them little known. The exhibition, organised by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Acción Cultural Española (AC/E), is the result of a line of acquisitions and research undertaken by the Museum’s Department of Collections with the collaboration of Horacio Fernández, curator of the exhibition.

This exhibition offers a new perspective on Spanish photography during its most important period through the work of photographers like Luis Acosta Moro, AlfonsoJalón Ángel, Antonio Cánovas, Robert Capa, Francesc Català-Roca, Colita, Joan Colom, José Compte, Salvador Costa, Ramón Masats, Xavier Miserachs, Misiones Pedagógicas, Fernando Nuño, Francisco Ontañón, José Ortiz Echagüe, Joaquín del Palacio, Enrique Palazuelo and Leopoldo Pomés.

photobooks. Spain 1905-1977 shows works published in Spain between 1905 and 1977 – in different styles, in limited or mass editions, printed using refined techniques or on inexpensive paper, for all audiences or for minorities. They are about people, things, behaviours, and ideas. photobooks were few and far between at the start of the twentieth century, increased in number during the war, and reached their height of development in the sixties. They subsequently grew scarce, only to make a triumphal comeback in the new century, represented in the Museum’s Library in the show Books that are Photos, Photos that are Books. Together they make up a specialised collection that is unique in its kind and embodies the Museo Reina Sofia’s commitment to all aspects of photographic images.

The works on display, most of which are little known, provide a fresh insight into Spanish photography. photobooks probes the broad and suggestive relationships between photography, publishing, design and literature, popular art and culture, history and politics, and public and private life. In the pages of these works is a plural history of the profound transformation of Spanish society. Thanks to the collective work of photographers, publishers, designers and writers, the themes presented in photobooks include the image of woman, seen from perspectives as different as the submission to patriarchal culture in the works of Cánovas and Compte and the militant feminism of Colita. Another major topic is the representation of the Spanish Civil War from both sides, with books like Madrid, which deals with the victims of the bombings during the siege of the capital, contrasting with Jalón Ángel’s portraits of soldiers on the side of the uprising. The war is followed by the sadness and harshness of the dictatorship, shown in photobooks by Joaquín del Palacio and Alfonso.

The relationship between photography and literature emerges throughout the exhibition, starting with the book by Cánovas mentioned above. From the period of the Civil War, special attention is merited by the photobooks of Antonio Machado, Miguel Hernández and Arturo Barea. In the sixties, the Lumen publishing house brought out the Palabra e Imagen (Word and Image) collection, designed by Oscar Tusquets, with extraordinary contributions by writers like Aldecoa, Cela, Delibes, Vargas Llosa and Caballero Bonald, and photographers like Masats, Maspons, Miserachs and Colita. One outstanding work in this section is Nuevas escenas matritenses (New Scenes of Madrid), with photos by Enrique Palazuelo.

Urban culture is also present in the photobooks of Alfonso, Català- Roca, Miserachs and Ontañón. Mention should be made too of the books on the end of the dictatorship by Nuño and the Diorama and Foto FAD teams, which show the gradual disappearance of the old identifying features of Spanish society under the influence of tourism and the global economy.

Apart from displaying some photographs autonomously, the show also features systems that allow visitors to view the plural content of each work exhibited, since it is in the work as a whole, as a coherent sequence of images, that the true entity of the photobook resides.

 

The first Spanish photobooks

“What a history painter would have painted I photographed,” wrote Antonio Cánovas of ¡Quién supiera escribir!… (If Only I Knew How to Write!…), his adaptation of a poem by Ramón de Campoamor about women’s dependence in a patriarchal world. Using actors and sets, Cánovas recreated a group of tableaux vivants or living pictures subtitled like films, which were as novel as photobooks in 1905. The photographic poem came out in two editions: one in postcards, which was a great commercial success; and a limited edition printed using the technique of the finest twentieth-century photobooks, photogravure.

José Ortiz Echagüe’s photobook Spanische Köpfe, later published as España, tipos y trajes (Spain: Types and Costumes), is the first instalment of an extensive photographic project to document folk culture by seeking out tradition. His aim was to preserve ways of life that were dying out; to show situations from the past: “In wandering through the little villages, I talk to the people, select models one by one, start the difficult task of dressing them in the typical garb.” The result was photographs that were chiefly aesthetic, close to the paintings of Sorolla or Zuloaga, but also political, as they visualised concepts (people, race, collective identity…) used by different ideologies.

With the Misiones Pedagógicas (Educational Missions), the Second Republic set out to bring urban life closer to the rural world through culture. The ‘missionaries’ were university students who took the theatre, music, art, and the cinema to villages. Some of them, such as José Val del Omar and Guillermo Fernández, photographed the audiences, capturing shots that are devoid of local character. Instead of seeking references to the past, they hint at a better future represented by the people’s curious gazes: the photographs chosen for the photobook Patronato de Misiones Pedagógicas (Educational Missions Trust) are intended to disseminate democratic values and confidence in progress.

 

Both sides of the Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War was photogenic. Dozens of photographers engaged in documenting it. Media all over the world published images of the war, which were used by the both sides to convey their own virtues and the atrocities committed by their opponents.

The collective photobook Madrid is a visual account of the consequences of a siege: destruction, homeless people, the exodus of refugees. The effects of the bombings on the civilian population are captured in montages and photographs by Luis Lladó, Robert Capa, Hans Namuth, Chim, and Margaret Michaelis, among others. The faces of the child victims should be stressed – some appalling forensic photographs that were widely used in Republican propaganda and have been mentioned by Arturo Barea, Virginia Woolf, and Susan Sontag, among other writers.

A type of cultural propaganda characteristic of the Republican side was the publication of books combining words and pictures. Several came out during the war, among them Madrid baluarte de nuestra guerra de independencia (Madrid Bulwark of Our War of Independence), with texts by Antonio Machado; Miguel Hernández’s book of poems Viento del pueblo (Winds of the People); and Arturo Barea’s collection of stories titled Valor y miedo (Courage and Fear). All three feature photographs whose authorship is not credited, though we now know that they were taken by photographers such as Walter Reuter or designers such as Mauricio Amster.

The cult of personality was a salient feature of the Nationalist side’s propaganda. In 1939 the rebel military were presented as serious and efficient technicians in Jalón Ángel’s Forjadores de imperio (Empire Builders), a triumphal parade by no means epically portrayed and much less generous with the defeated. This collection of portraits of the men who had won a war was published in a luxury version designed to hang in public offices and in a popular version in postcard form for mass distribution.

The conservative values of the new fascist regime were conveyed in photographs. In Mujeres de la Falange (Women of the Falange, a collection of photographs by José Compte published in luxury magazines and as humble postcards) woman as mother, subordinate to man and an outsider to society and employment, was a compulsory role model, the only exception being that dictated by war itself, which required her to perform “heavy work with feminine grace for when the men return…”

 

The postwar years

The hardship of the postwar years is conveyed in a few photobooks that managed to slip past the censors. Literature with photos continued to be published in books such as Momentos (Moments), whose poems would be less sad without the ruins, deserted villages, and bare trees found in the photographs of Joaquín del Palacio (Kindel). Rincones del Viejo Madrid (Corners of Old Madrid), a collection of night shots by Alfonso, is an expressionist photobook printed in the opaque tones of the finest photogravure work. Alfonso portrays the capital as yet another victim – a frozen and sinister backdrop as dead as its missing inhabitants.

The book of poems titled Les fenêtres (The Windows) features many closed windows that also resemble abstract paintings in Leopoldo Pomés’s photos, which bring to mind a confined, stifling place. But in spite of everything, life carries on, as shown by the photos in Barcelona, the city of Francesc Català-Roca, who believed that “what words describe photography places on view”: images found in the street, as alive as the people in the photos, in a pleasant urban photobook.

 

The 60’s: the golden decade of Spanish photography

Palabra e Imagen (Word and Image) was the creation of publisher Esther Tusquets and designer Oscar Tusquets. It was advertised by the Lumen publishing house as “a collection that is different from everything that has been done so far.” Its books “are not art books, they are not photography books, they are not literary works,” but “a new concept.” They all have a theme “and the writers, the photographer and those who plan and produce the book work on it as a team.” The aim was to present “an idea” using different means: “not just words but also the photography, the composition, the type of lettering, and the colour of the paper can be used to express it.”

Palabra e Imagen was Spain’s main contribution to the history of photobooks. For fifteen years it was a laboratory for experimenting with different ways of publishing a collective work produced by writers, designers, photographers, and editors that attached equal importance to visual and textual readings – word and image.

The photographs are by Jaime Buesa, F. Català-Roca, Colita, Joan Colom, Julio Cortázar, Dick Frisell, Antonio Gálvez, Paolo Gasparini, Sergio Larrain, César Malet, Ramón Masats, Oriol Maspons, Xavier Miserachs, Francisco Ontañón, and Julio Ubiña. Prominent among the graphic designers, in addition to the collection’s creator Oscar Tusquets, are Mariona Aguirre, José Bonet, Lluís Clotet, Toni Miserachs, and Enric Satué. Finally, the authors of the texts include writers such as Rafael Alberti, Ignacio Aldecoa, Carlos Barral, Juan Benet, José María Caballero Bonald, Alejo Carpentier, Cavafis, Camilo José Cela, Julio Cortázar, Miguel Delibes, Federico García Lorca, Alfonso Grosso, Ana María Matute, Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz, Julián Ríos, and Mario Vargas Llosa.

Important photo-essays were published in the sixties, such as Los Sanfermines (The San Fermín Festivities) by Ramón Masats and Barcelona blanc i negre (Barcelona Black and White) by Xavier Miserachs, both of them masters of documentary photography. The first book was hailed as “the most personal photographic work that has been produced in Spain.” It is a “story told in pictures” that shows the expressive possibilities of the photobook and to what extent “a still photograph is not sufficient for a photographer who pursues a narration.” The second is a stroll through the streets of Barcelona in search of its inhabitants, and is more interested in life than in history. It is a “book to look at” that attempts a difficult combination of the subjective humanist photography of the previous decade and the new international urban photography based on the model established by William Klein, a “highly original way of hinting at cities” without succumbing to commonplaces or picturesqueness.

Also by Miserachs is Costa Brava Show, a photobook based on the mass phenomenon of tourism and featuring black-and-white photos on subjects such as young people enjoying themselves, sexual liberation, and the consequences of economic progress: chaotic town planning, corruption, and loss of authenticity. An equally critical intention underlies the photobook Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid), which is documentary in content and experimental in form – both the text and the pictures. Francisco Ontañón’s distant, stark photographs are kind to the common folk and critical of the privileged classes, but always humorous.

Nuevas escenas matritenses (New Scenes of Madrid) is a collection of 63 urban tales written by Camilo José Cela based on street photographs by Enrique Palazuelo that show an “incredible Madrid, where time stood still, oblivious and forgotten.” Published in several formats (from low to high culture: popular weekly and literary review; in normal and bibliophile editions), it tells stories invented from documentary photographs – a literary procedure that has been dubbed the ‘Celian picture-story.’ The photos make possible “hearing with new ears, seeing with different eyes what we believed to have been seen and heard forever.”

Luis Acosta Moro believed that the book of the future would be “a poem of short words and great pictures” of the kind embodied by his photobook Cabeza de muñeca (Doll’s Head), a symbolic work that alludes, among other themes, to the Civil War and the image of women. The publisher regarded it as a new type of book, a “film-novel-artistic essay.” The main subject is the model featured in all the pictures, sometimes dancing (or wrestling) with the photobook’s absolute author, who was responsible for everything: photographs, design, and text.

 

The 70’s: the last auteur photobooks

Los últimos días de Franco (The Last Days of Franco) is a photobook that is unique in both form and content: the funeral rites of the dictator. Live history is fleeting and the propaganda chiefs needed an official history capable of preserving “the living warmth of memories.” To achieve this, Fernando Nuño photographed videos. The result was a photobook consisting of television images that were second-hand but equally or more documentary than the original reports. “As they have been reproduced from video, [the photos] have the quality of a living document,” explains the book, a visual account that is completed with a second volume titled Los primeros días del Rey (The First Days of the King).

The second half of the seventies witnessed the transition to democracy, a highly politicised period in Spain. Two photobooks, Pintadas del referendum (Graffiti on the Referendum) and Pintades Pintadas (Graffiti), compile the propaganda of the day, in this case in the form of street graffiti – a subject also dealt with in French and Portuguese publications. The aim is to preserve the graffiti “as a necessary testament to and document of the vicissitudes of a people in pursuit of their future.” The authors are two short-lived groups of photographers, Equipo Diorama of Madrid and the Barcelona based Foto Fad.

The photobook Punk is pioneering in its portrayal of an international popular culture phenomenon. In Salvador Costa’s photographs taken from “close up and above the subject,” the scene is less important than the audience featured in the shots of ultramodern people, clothing, and rituals captured by the photographer, who was lucky enough to find a publisher capable of discovering more than just another short-lived fad in his photos.

Photographer Colita and writer Maria Aurèlia Capmany, collaborators on the Vindicación feminista magazine, are the authors of Antifémina (Antifemale), a photobook that set out to portray a type of woman “no one wants to look at” but who “is genuine and real, who is not twenty years old, who is not pretty.” To achieve this, Colita selected photos from her archives on themes such as old age, marriage, work, religion, prostitution, the body, marginalisation, advertising, fashion, and the practice of making flirtatious remarks at women. Antifémina is a visual and political essay, a manifesto in favour of women but against ‘femininity,’ which is always “related to the passive role of women.”

 

CATALOGUE

A catalogue on this exhibition has been published by the Museo Reina Sofía, Acción Cultural Española (AC/E) and RM. This books includes a text written by the curator and Javier Ortiz-Echagüe, photographies of all the artworks shown and complete and individual information about each photobook by different specialized authors (Horacio Fernández, Javier Ortiz-Echagüe, Concha Calvo, Rocío Robles, Mafalda Rodríguez, Angélica Soleiman and Laura Terré).”

Press release from the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia website

 

José Ortiz Echagüe Puertas. 'Sermón en la aldea' (Village Sermon) 1903

 

José Ortiz Echagüe Puertas (Guadalajara, Spain, 1886 – Madrid, Spain, 1980)
Sermón en la aldea (Village Sermon)
1903
Carbondir on laid paper
40.5 x 38.7 cm

 

 

One of José Ortiz Echagüe’s objectives is to achieve “the strange feeling of travelling to a different time.” He comes very close in one of his earliest photographs, Sermón en la aldea (Village Sermon), taken at the parish church of Viguera, a village in La Rioja, using a Photosphere 9 x 12 camera. With artistic photographs, what really matters is the quality of the copies, which in this case are numerous and have varying dates. Ortiz Echagüe made them himself in a laboratory using a personal variant on the technique known as direct carbon, developed under the name of “Carbondir”: a fine pigment print method which is complicated, slow and absolutely artisanal, that results in velvety blacks and clouds of pointillist faded half-colours. The specifics of the carbon direct method mean that Ortiz Echagüe’s prints approach the quality of chalcography, one of the aspirations of less imaginative artistic photography. However, these prints get further from photography the closer they get to engravings. As early as 1923 a review was criticising the disappearance of “what there originally may have been of photography” in his prints, and the artist’s excesses as he “scraped, eliminated, rubbed, smudged, lightened and darkened it.”

Horacio Fernández

 

José Ortiz Echagüe. 'Puertas Lagarteranas' (Women of Lagartera) 1920-1923 (circa)

 

José Ortiz Echagüe Puertas (Guadalajara, Spain, 1886 – Madrid, Spain, 1980)
Puertas Lagarteranas (Women of Lagartera)
1920-1923 (circa)
Carbondir on laid paper
49.8 x 33.1 cm

 

 

In 1929 José Ortiz Echagüe’s first photo-book came out in Berlin, Spanische Köpfe (Spanish Heads), published in Madrid in 1930 as Tipos y Trajes de España (Characters and Costumes of Spain), a title which, by 1971, would reach twelve editions. The photos needed to be set up, as the author wrote in 1925: “As I walk around the little villages, I talk to the people, I choose the models and then, one by one, I start the job of dressing them in traditional costumes. Having overcome the models’ objections to dressing up in their ancestors’ clothes, I get them together in a setting that I have chosen beforehand, which might be a typical square, the little church or a nearby hillside, from which one can see the village with its majestic castle which is included to create a wonderful backdrop. The sun has just come out, or is about to go down: its rays light the characters perfectly.” Ortiz Echagüe’s references are paintings by Ignacio Zuloaga and Joaquín Sorolla, particularly the Visión de España (Vision of Spain) series from New York’s Hispanic Society of America. Sorolla’s aim was to observe “without symbolisms or literature, the psychology of every region.” Ortiz Echagüe, on the other hand, is content to “perpetuate in graphic documents unalterable by time’s passage, all that Spanish attire has been and continues to be.” Lagartera, a village in the province of Toledo famous for its crafts, was one of his favourite places for photography, particularly with its unusual festival clothing, which the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset does not believe to be native. In the prologue to Tipos y trajes, he writes: “Lagartera attire is common to almost all Europe: with slight differences, it can be found across the whole of the central and Northern part of the continent.”

Horacio Fernández

 

José Ortiz Echagüe Puertas (Guadalajara, Spain, 1886 - Madrid, Spain, 1980) 'Lagarteranas en misa' (Women of Lagartera at Mass) 1920-1923 (circa)

 

José Ortiz Echagüe Puertas (Guadalajara, Spain, 1886 – Madrid, Spain, 1980)
Lagarteranas en misa (Women of Lagartera at Mass)
1920-1923 (circa)
Carbondir on laid paper
46.9 x 33.4cm

 

Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, Spain, 1937 - Badalona, Barcelona, Spain, 1998) 'No Title' 1964 (circa)

 

Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, Spain, 1937 – Badalona, Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
No Title
1964 (circa) / Vintage print
From the series Costa Brava Show
Gelatin silver print on paper
21.4 x 30.3 cm

 

 

Costa Brava Show (1966) is a photo-book by the photographer Xavier Miserachs, also the author of Barcelona. Blanc i negre (1964), another urban photo-book that travels paths opened up by William Klein. Miserachs claims that in Costa Brava Show “the incorporation of Pop Art elements is obvious, because this is an aesthetic movement that absolutely fascinated me.” And it is true that the subject matter really could not be more perfect for Pop Art: firstly, there is what Manuel Vázquez Montalbán describes as “the paradise of leisure”, secondly “the party (that) is the most baroque display of that leisure time” and finally a “peculiar eroticism”, noted by Josep Pla, who wrote introduction and claims that the photographs are “the best ever taken of what is known as the Costa Brava.” Basically, this is mass tourism as experienced and presented by Miserachs with excellent humour in 155 colour and black and white photographs, covering all the clichés and presaging the globalisation awaiting us all.

Horacio Fernández

 

Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, Spain, 1937 - Badalona, Barcelona, Spain, 1998) 'No Title' 1965 (circa)

 

Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, Spain, 1937 – Badalona, Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
No Title
1965 (circa) / Vintage print
From the series Costa Brava Show
Gelatin silver print on paper

 

Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, Spain, 1937 - Badalona, Barcelona, Spain, 1998) 'No Title' 1964 (circa)

 

Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, Spain, 1937 – Badalona, Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
No Title
1964 (circa) / Vintage print
From the series Costa Brava Show
Gelatin silver print on paper
17.9 x 21.4cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'La actual M-30 (Madrid)' (The M-30 Ring Road Today [Madrid]) 1963 (May) / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
La actual M-30 (Madrid) (The M-30 Ring Road Today [Madrid])
1963 (May) / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fiber-based paper
24.7 x 37.1cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'Sans Titre (Madrid)' (No Title [Madrid]) 1963 (May) / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
Sans Titre (Madrid) (No Title [Madrid])
1963 (May) / Posthumous print, 2013
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fibre-based paper
25.6 x 38.4cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'Sans Titre (Madrid)' (No Title [Madrid]) 1964-65 / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
Sans Titre (Madrid) (No Title [Madrid])
1964-65 / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fibre-based paper
25.4 x 38.2cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'Sans Titre (Madrid)' (No Title [Madrid]) 1964-65 / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
Sans Titre (Madrid) (No Title [Madrid])
1964-65 / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fibre-based paper
25.7 x 38.4cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'Sans Titre (Madrid)' (No Title [Madrid]) 1964 / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
Sans Titre (Madrid) (No Title [Madrid])
1964 / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fibre-based paper
25.6 x 38.5cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) '600 en Casa de Campo con familia (Madrid)' (Outing to Casa de Campo in the 600, with Family [Madrid]) 1963 (May) / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
600 en Casa de Campo con familia (Madrid) (Outing to Casa de Campo in the 600, with Family [Madrid])
1964-65 / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fibre-based paper
25.5 x 37.7cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'Parque Sindical (Madrid)' (Parque Sindical Sports Area [Madrid]) 1964 / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
Parque Sindical (Madrid) (Parque Sindical Sports Area [Madrid])
1964 / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fibre-based paper
25.5 x 38.1cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'Entierro (Madrid)' (Burial [Madrid]) 1967 / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
Entierro (Madrid) (Burial [Madrid])
1967 / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fibre-based paper
25.5 x 38.1cm

 

VV.AA. Madrid. Barcelona, Industries Graphiques Seix i Barral, 1937

 

VV.AA.
Madrid
Barcelona, Industries Graphiques Seix i Barral
1937

 

Ramón Masats Tartera. 'Neutral corner' / Esquina neutral 1962 / copia de época

 

Ramón Masats Tartera
Neutral corner / Esquina neutral
1962 / copia de época

 

Mario Vargas Llosa, Xavier Miserachs. 'Los cachorros' Barcelona: Lumen, colección Palabra e Imagen 1967

 

Mario Vargas Llosa, Xavier Miserachs
Los cachorros
Barcelona: Lumen, colección Palabra e Imagen
1967

 

Salvador Costa i Valls. 'Sans Titre' (from the series 'Punk') 1977

 

Salvador Costa i Valls
Sans Titre (from the series Punk)
1977

 

Salvador Costa i Valls. 'Punk' Barcelona: Producciones Editoriales, colección Especial Star Book 1977

 

Salvador Costa i Valls
Punk
Barcelona: Producciones Editoriales, colección Especial Star Book
1977

 

 

Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia
Calle Santa Isabel, 52
28012 Madrid

Opening hours:
Monday 10.00am – 8.00pm
Tuesday Closed, including holidays
Wednesday – Saturday 10.00am – 8.00pm
Sunday 10.00am – 2.30pm

Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia website

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20
Feb
11

Exhibition: ‘Joan Fontcuberta: Landscapes without Memory’ at Foam Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 26th November 2010 – 27th February 2010

 

Joan Fontcuberta. 'Orogenesis Derain' 2004

 

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, b. 1955)
Orogenesis Derain
2004
© Joan Fontcuberta

 

 

It might be useful to know the meaning and application of the word ‘orogenesis’ in relation to the work of Fontcuberta.

 

Orogeny refers to forces and events leading to a severe structural deformation of the Earth’s crust due to the engagement of tectonic plates. Response to such engagement results in the formation of long tracts of highly deformed rock called orogens or orogenic belts. The word “orogeny” comes from the Greek (oros for “mountain” plus genesis for “creation” or “origin”), and it is the primary mechanism by which mountains are built on continents. Orogens develop while a continental plate is crumpled and thickened to form mountain ranges, and involve a great range of geological processes collectively called orogenesis

An orogenic event may be studied as (a) a tectonic structural event, (b) as a geographical event, and (c) a chronological event. Orogenic events (a) cause distinctive structural phenomena related to tectonic activity, (b) affect rocks and crust in particular regions, and (c) happen within a specific period of time.” (Wikipedia)

 

In his post-landscape, post-memory worlds constructed by computer technologies there are mediated memories present – of the original paintings, shifting and reinterpreted by the computer and of place interpreted by the original artist – that form a simulated memory of double amnesia. Orogensis is a perfect title for these works as they map such a double memory over time in an future anterior (the death of the past (this has been) and the present (this will have be), pace Barthes); the word and the works also closely align to the word erogenous for these images stimulate the senses and heighten our appreciation and personal memory of the constructed environment. And how beautiful they are!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Foam Fotografiemuseum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Joan Fontcuberta. 'Orogenesis Kandinsky' 2004

 

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, b. 1955)
Orogenesis Kandinsky
2004
© Joan Fontcuberta

 

Joan Fontcuberta. 'Orogenesis Pollock' 2002

 

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, b. 1955)
Orogenesis Pollock
2002
© Joan Fontcuberta

 

 

For the project Landscapes without Memory Catalan artist Joan Fontcuberta (b. 1955, Barcelona) used software developed by the US Air Force. It translates two-dimensional cartographic data into a simulated three-dimensional image. Instead of feeding maps into the software, in Landscapes without Memory Fontcuberta inserts painted landscapes: from Gauguin to Van Gogh, from Cezanne to Turner and Constable. The software translates them into new, virtual landscapes that Fontcuberta calls ‘post-landscapes’. They form a no-man’s land between the virtual and the real, between truth and illusion.

Ever since the medium was first invented, photography’s relationship with the real world has been as perplexing as it is fascinating. Far more than a medium such as paint, photography was supposed to have a certain level of truth. In recent decades in particular the idea has taken root that truth and reality are ambiguous concepts in photography. The unprecedented digital revolution has brought the potential for manipulation into focus. How much more reliable is the photographic image of the real world? Who and what can we still believe? This juxtaposition of illusion and reality lies at the heart of Spanish artist Joan Fontcuberta’s oeuvre. At the same time, he also refers to the connection between science and truth. Like photography (itself a product of science), we see science as a way of expanding our knowledge of the real world using rational, objective, verifiable methods. Science has a certain authority: what science proves is true. Fontcuberta turns the myth of scientific authority around and manages to persuade the public in many of his projects of the veracity of a purely fictitious narrative – simply by expressing himself in the language of science.

In recent years, Fontcuberta has been especially fascinated by the influence of the digital revolution on the way we communicate and on our use of image. Landscapes without Memory is one such project. He begins here by subjectively interpreting and portraying a landscape, and then using software to interpret and translate the artificial object. The result is a new reality which Foncuberta calls ‘technologically-defined contemporary hallucinations’.

This exhibition is part of the Life Like platform, a project launched by Foam, EYE Film Institute of the Netherlands and Van Gogh Museum to draw attention to the realist art movement. The three museums join forces from 8 October 2010 to 16 January 2011 to throw light on the different aspects of this multi-disciplinary movement.

Press release from the Foam website

 

Joan Fontcuberta. 'Orogenesis Le Gray' 2004

 

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, b. 1955)
Orogenesis Le Gray
2004
© Joan Fontcuberta

 

Joan Fontcuberta. 'Orogenesis Turner' 2003

 

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, b. 1955)
Orogenesis Turner
2003
© Joan Fontcuberta

 

Joan Fontcuberta. 'Orogenesis Weston' 2004

 

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, b. 1955)
Orogenesis Weston
2004
© Joan Fontcuberta

 

 

Foam Fotografiemuseum
Keizersgracht 609
1017 DS Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Phone: +31 (0)20 551 6500

Opening hours:
Mon – Wed 10 am – 6 pm
Thu – Fri 10 am – 9 pm
Sat – Sun 10 am – 6 pm

Foam website

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08
Feb
09

Exhibition: ‘Villa Edur. Eduardo Sourrouille’ at Artium, Basque Centre-Museum of Contemporary Art

Exhibition dates: 17th January – 19th April 2009

 

Eduardo Sourrouille. 'Self-portrait with impetuous friend' 2008

 

Eduardo Sourrouille
Self-portrait with impetuous friend
2008

 

 

Artium, Basque Centre-Museum of Contemporary Art, presents the exhibition Villa Edur. Eduardo Sourrouille (North Gallery, from January 17 to April 19), an intimate self-portrait of this Basque artist based on more than 170 photographs taken in recent years. Sourrouille (Basauri, Bizkaia, 1970) proposes a metaphorical visit to the private rooms of his life, from the most superficial to the most intimate, to explore all aspects of the relationship with others and with oneself. Based on three different series of technically exquisite photographs, the author displays a world in which affection and the need to love and to feel loved predominates, in which there are ever-present allusions to questions such as sexual identity, the demands of friendship and recognition of links with others.

Villa Edur, the title of the first major one-man show of the work of Eduardo Sourrouille in a Museum, is taken from the maternal home of Eduardo Sourrouille, “the first legacy I received from her, the most valuable of all her bequests: besides being a home, it is an ongoing project, a driving force in my life and a reflection of my artistic career.” As in a home, the exhibition allows the visitors to explore a number of different rooms, each more intimate than the previous one, in which the artist receives visitors, who are converted into a host and guests.

Thus, in the exhibition, as in his house, “the host receives his guests at the entrance, where newcomers have access to proof of all the visitors that preceded them.” And in this way, the visitor sees two different series of portraits in the first room, Of the folder, people who visited my house and Of the folder, people who visited my house: room for… In the first Gallery, the artist presents different portraits of couples, consisting of himself with the different people with whom he has had some kind of relationship, be this emotional, family, friendship or any other kind. In this case, the photographs come very close to studio portraits, with carefully prepared, static poses, with hardly any atrezzo.

Each of these photographs is matched in the exhibition with another belonging to the second gallery of images, in which Sourrouille repeats the figures but in this case with a more accentuated theatricality, with a set design that may make the spectator imagine anecdotes or stories that occur in the encounter. The room, dominated by a more than one hundred photographs, reveals an entire “network of relationships, in which friendship, affection, love, fascination, desire, etc. (sometimes mixed up), have a place. The number of people including his father and other relatives, a large number of friends, artists such as Miguel Ángel Gaüeca, Manu Arregui and Ignacio Goitia, have been present here and have left their mark, and as the entire exhibition is imbued with games and humour, fictional figures such as Doña Rogelia are also included.

From this broad entrance, densely inhabited by figures “whose ghost lives on”, the artist invites first to step into his sitting room, the place in his house that “offers a precise image of what its owner is and would like to be.” In this space, Eduardo Sourrouille presents thirty self-portraits that “show of the people who have coexisted in me” and who “embody in the symbolic manner the different aspects of love and friendship, that can be found in me, as in any other individual.” With this aim in mind, Sourrouille presents in this exhibition space the Selfportrait with a friend series, thirty images in which the artist photographs himself with different animals, ironic portraits in which the human being appears to adopt certain characteristics of the animal.

There remain two more rooms in this house, the most private of all, where “intimate secret processes” take place. Sourrouille once again portrays himself with his father in the environment where the legacy is transmitted by means of simple rites, before going on to “the most secret room of all (…) in which the intimate world of each person is developed, in other words, what one does not necessarily confess but what one, nevertheless, has decided to experience.” Here, the spectator confronts a video entitled If you could see him through my eyes, in which the sheets are lowered slowly to discover the artist accompanied by two wild boar.

Text from Artdailly.org website

 

Eduardo Sourrouille. Villa Edur from Artium

 

Eduardo Sourrouille. 'Salon para Gaydjteam' 2008

 

Eduardo Sourrouille
Salon para Gaydjteam
2008

 

 

“The house I depict in Villa Edur is my home, as it was (is) my mother’s home. It is the first legacy I received from her, the most valuable of all her bequests: besides being a home, it is an ongoing project, the driving force in my life and a reflection of my artistic career.

1

In my house, the host receives his guests at the entrance, where newcomers find proof of all the visitors that preceded them. Everything takes place in this zealously staged space, and so each decorative element is selected with the very same care. Objects, costumes and scenery make up, both individually and jointly, a system of symbols alluding to the nature of its own contents.

One by one, the portrait of the person in question confronts his situation within the context that was created for him and which, at the same time, he himself contributed to defining, and whose ghost still lives on. Each portrait determines both a singular identity and the kind of relationship in which at least two individuals interact and this, in turn, is the reflection of a specific experience. Each relationship leaves a visible and definitive mark on the other, like the dent in an aluminium vessel, which reasserts the experience and provides solace (provisionally) as it is the proof of our materiality. The inescapable need to make these marks involves the creation of an entire network of relationships in which friendship, affection, love, fascination, desire, etc. (sometimes mixed up), have a place.

Next to the door, raised on her solid, light shelf, my mother observes us and invites us in.

2

A door leads to the sitting room, a multifunctional and ultimately magical space, an environment in which everything that can be shown to visitors (plus part of what cannot be shown) is put on display. Definitively, the sitting room always offers a precise image of who its owner is and would like to be, of what he deliberately reveals to others and what he cannot prevent from being perceived through the cracks in his subconscious.

For this reason, the sitting room offers visitors a gallery of thirty self-portraits that show them the different people who coexist in me, what they can expect and the extent of the range of choices permitted. From a conceptual viewpoint and in a symbolic manner, these portraits embody different aspects of love and friendship that can be found in me, as in any other individual.

3

Beyond the sitting room lie the private rooms in which intimate, secret processes take place, ceremonies that create individuals and subsequently shape them, mould them and endorse them for the world. In one of these, I share the space with my father because this room is where his offspring receive their legacy through atavistic and recurrent rites – so simple that they scarcely cause pain. In another room, I (at last) dare to make the call I have learnt, the one that I use to invoke the Other, even though in some ways the person I seek is myself. There is anguish and confusion in that call, but also the desire to establish constructive communication, as I also offer myself to the Other so that he might leave his mark on me.

4

The intimate world of each person, in other words, what one does not necessarily confess but what one, nevertheless, has decided to experience, is developed in the most secret room of all. It is also the space reserved for the beauty that one finds by one’s own means – as it has not been revealed by any of one’s elders – and which therefore will be treasured as the exclusive property of its discoverer.

I live in Villa Edur because all the relationships that crystallise around me also reside there. Every individual harbours a space that he uses as a scenario to display his relationships, his family, lovers, friends, and for life, everything that is deposited with the passing of time, following the structure of his stage machinery. That is the space that is often called home.”

Ianko López Ortiz de Artiñano for Eduardo Sourrouille

Text from the Artium website

 

Eduardo Sourrouille. 'Panolis' 2008

 

Eduardo Sourrouille
Panolis
2008

 

Eduardo Sourrouille.' Double self-portrait' 2008

 

Eduardo Sourrouille
Double self-portrait
2008

 

Eduardo Sourrouille. 'Self-portrait with a proud friend' 2008

Eduardo Sourrouille
Self-portrait with a proud friend
2008

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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