Illustrated exhibition celebrates 100 years of Catalan masterpiece

The collection of 28 modernist art pieces is based on a classic, reimagined by high school students

Two people observe the 'L'Auca de Rusiñol' exhibit in Sitges on November 24 2017 (by Gemma Sánchez)
Two people observe the 'L'Auca de Rusiñol' exhibit in Sitges on November 24 2017 (by Gemma Sánchez) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

November 27, 2017 01:38 PM

Long before the comic or the graphic novel, Catalonia had the illustrated narrative auca. Then, there’s the innovative fusion between the novel and the illustration, exemplified by Santiago Rusiñol’s L’auca del senyor Esteve. It was soon followed by a theatrical rendition in 1917, and, since then, has become one of the most celebrated particularities in Catalan culture. Now, exactly 100 years after the play’s debut, this inventive narrative is being remembered in an exhibition until December 17, with 28 illustrations reimagined by high schoolers.

Based on the life of Rusiñol himself, the narrative follows the auca format and is named L’auca de Rusiñol. The modernist illustrations in the collection were re-edited by students between the ages of 16 and 18 at the Joan Ramon Benaprès high school in Sitges, a seaside town to the South of Barcelona. Indeed, part of the plot focuses on Rusiñol’s relationship to the coastal town, as well as how he became involved with the art form itself.

Life lessons to be learned

To do so, the exhibition features 28 modernist illustrations. The teacher who coordinates the project, Andreu Bosch, explained how the experience helped students “interiorize” Rusiñol’s story, “but also to see what lessons they can take from his life and work to the present.”

Bosch laughingly observed that Santiago Rusiñol’s story is everywhere for Sitges locals, but that the project helped his students “get a higher understanding” of the work. Indeed, before carrying out the illustration work, the assignment was to read the original novel and to discuss what the underlying message is in L’auca del senyor Esteve, such as the universal dilemma of choosing between a career that’s stable, and one you enjoy.

Andreu Bosch observed that his students are indeed at a time in their life when they will have to face this decision very soon. “They have to be aware of what their interests are, and that in their life, they’ll have to make very important decisions, which will, over many years, have their consequences,” noted the teacher.

Students could “become specialized”

As well as helping with the student’s personal trajectory, the project also helped the young artists advance illustration techniques. Art teacher Andreu Ferrer explained how originally, students wanted to draw inspiration from “internet tutorials,” but, after thorough research, was able to “become specialized.”

The final work is a collection of 28 illustrations that follow the life of Santiago Rusiñol, from when he met Ramon Casas, the novel’s illustrator, and their time spent together in Paris, to later come to Sitges and open his studio and museum Cau Ferrat.