Antoni Tàpies dies in Barcelona aged 88

The Catalan artist was considered one of the world’s main painters and sculptors in the 20th century. Antoni Tàpies, whose works are on show in contemporary art museums all over the world, was one of the main representatives of the Art Informel and Symbolism movements. Family sources confirmed Tàpies’ death in his Barcelona home, after a long illness.


February 7, 2012 12:16 AM

Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan painter and sculptor Antoni Tàpies died on Monday in his home in Barcelona aged 88. Tàpies, born in the Catalan capital on December 13th 1923, was considered one of the world’s most relevant artists in the 20th century, with his works of art displayed in contemporary art museums all over the world. He was one of the greatest masters of avant-garde art from the Post-War period and one of the main representatives of the Art Informel movement. Tàpies’ work has been controversial and not always well understood. He has had his very own language, had broad international recognition and was originally influenced by Surrealism and Dadaism. It evolved into informal art and a specific and unique treatment of matter. He was one of the first artists to work with mixed media, and he innovated adding raw materials and recycled objects to his work. Tàpies transformed raw materials -such as marble dust and resin- and objects –such as beds or socks- into paintings and sculptures through earthy colours and calligraphy symbols. Tàpies was born into a Barcelona bourgeois and ‘Catalanist’ family. He was a self-made artist, influenced in his teenage years by the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. After the Second World War, he spent some time in Paris, where the cultural movements of the French capital influenced him. Furthermore, the critic Michel Tapié (not related to him besides the name similitude) discovered and promoted Tàpies work. However, it was in New York where Tàpies held his first international exhibition. Despite broad international recognition, the artist was always connected with Catalan culture and his home city, where he opened his own museum and research centre, the Fundació Antoni Tàpies. Antoni Tàpies received many awards, at international and national level. He received the Wolf Foundation Prize in 1981 and the Gold Medal of the Catalan Government in 1983.

Antoni Tàpies was born in Barcelona on December 13th 1923. From a young age he was interested in books. Furthermore, he became an avid reader after a severe and long-lasting pulmonary disease when he was 18. It was at that time when Tàpies started his artistic work. He grew a greater interest in drawing and painting, putting his law studies aside. In the 1940s he organised his first exhibitions, which already gained the attention of critics. He was influenced by the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War and the atomic bombings in Japan.

From the beginning Tàpies was interested in soil, dust, matter, atoms, and particles, which he formally portrays in his works, through abstract and experimental new techniques and media. Tàpies created his own language and style called ‘pintura matèrica’ (material panting), which was a very important part of his work. It was in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s that Tàpies developed his own language and style, based on symbols such as the cross, calligraphy and repulsive concepts or recycled objects. He was one of the first artists to include raw materials such as sand, marble dust and resins or recycled objects such as socks, screws, old shoes or broken wood furniture in his compositions. The result is a work that has several messages, a reality represented in different ways, from different perspectives and with different materials, symbols and objects. It was not always understood by the general public but captivated art critics and had broad international recognition.

The Catalan artist attempted to stir personal feelings in the viewer of his paintings, transforming the viewer’s interior through the exhibition of matter, an expression of universality and small objects. Tàpies was also influenced by medieval mysticism and by Oriental cultures, building his own “philosophy” in his own words. In fact, Tàpies was also an occasional writer, with several books on art theory, and with more unknown precious and synthetic poetic texts.

Tàpies was committed to his country and culture. In the late 1960s and early 1970s his anti-Franco activity increased. His work from that time has a clear political dimension. He condemned Franco’s fascist military dictatorship. Coinciding with Europe’s ‘Arte Povera’ and the United States’ Post-Minimalism, Tàpies intensified his work with recycled objects at that time.

In the early 1980s, once democracy was restored in Spain, Tàpies’ interest to work on canvas grew. He used foam rubber and spray-painting, as well as varnish. He also created objects and sculptures with sand and bronze. At the end of the 1980s, his focus for Oriental cultures intensified. He also combined it with an interest in physics, reflecting on matter and the formation of the universe, emphasising his idea of constant change. The last works of his life are more focused on pain, both physical and spiritual, being an intrinsic part of life. They also have an element of self-reflection, relating to Tàpies’ life and personal experiences and feelings.