Youth and education


Born in Barcelona on the 13 December, son of Josep Tàpies Mestres and Maria Puig Guerra. During his early childhood, Tàpies lived in a cultural and social environment marked to a considerable extent by his father’s friendship with leading figures in Catalan public life and in the Catalanist republicanism of the time and by the intense civic and political activity of his maternal grandfather.

Primary schooling in various Barcelona schools (Colegio de las monjas de Loreto, Escuela alemana and Escuelas Pías).

Begins secondary school. First contact with contemporary art by way of various Catalan publications and, most importantly, the special Christmas issue of the magazine D’ací i d’allà, edited by Josep Lluís Sert and Joan Prats, with texts by Zervos, Foix and Gasch, among others, and reproductions of works by Picasso, Braque, Gris, Léger, Mondrian, Brancusi, Kandinsky, Duchamp, Arp, Miró, etc.

During the Spanish Civil War he continues his studies at the Liceu Pràctic in Barcelona and for a few months is a frequent visitor to the government offices of the Generalitat de Catalunya, where his father works as a legal advisor. Takes up drawing and painting, self-taught. The outcome of the war – defeat of the legitimate democratic government of the Second Republic and beginning of the Franco dictatorship – is to make a profound impression on many aspects of his life and artistic career.

His schooling – first at the Instituto Menéndez y Pelayo and then at the Escuelas Pías once again – is frequently interrupted on account of his delicate health.

Lung disease and lengthy convalescence in Puig d’Olena sanatorium and subsequently in Puigcerdà and La Garriga. Draws and makes copies of Van Gogh and Picasso. He is interested in the history of philosophy. Reads Thomas Mann, Nietzsche, Spengler, Ibsen, Stendhal, Proust, Gide, etc. Develops a taste for Romantic music, especially Wagner and Brahms, and for the aesthetic ideology of Romanticism and German post-Romanticism in general.

Begins a course in Law at the Universitat de Barcelona, which he abandons shortly before taking his degree, the most important legacy of this time being the friendship of some of his fellow students: Carlos Barral, Alfonso Costafreda, Gil de Biedma, Alberto Oliart, Joan Reventós, Josep Maria Castellet, Manuel Sacristán, Josep Maria Ainaud, etc. Spends two months studying drawing at the Academia Valls in Barcelona, where he meets the poet and art critic Josep Maria Junoy, whose influence contributes to his decision to devote himself to art. Various portraits and self-portraits from this year have survived, as well as some drawings influenced by Picasso and Surrealism.

Increasing commitment to painting. First experiments with dense materials, obtained by mixing oil paint with whiting. Interested in the philosophy of Heidegger and Sartre, and in Eastern thought.

Leases a studio in Carrer Diputació in Barcelona for a time. Alongside the primitivist and expressionist works accomplished in that moment are added numerous abstract paintings, characterized by a fundamental interest in the matter and a recurrent use of collage and grattage.

Meets the poet J.V. Foix, leading exponent of the Catalan literary avant-garde prior to the Civil War, with whom he establishes a firm and lasting friendship and shares mutual artistic interests. Also meets the poet Joan Brossa, and Joan Prats (who provides him with friendship and support right from the outset) and other members of the former ADLAN (Amics de l’Art Nou – “Friends of the New Art”), who encourage him in his work. Sebastià Gasch publishes his article “Unos dibujos de Tàpies” in the magazine Destino.

Exhibits at the I Saló d’Octubre in Barcelona (Galeries Laietanes). Co-founds the magazine Dau al Set. Develops a growing interest in Surrealism, psychoanalysis and modern science. Meets Joan Miró, whose work he admires, and the two commence a lifelong friendship. Produces his first etchings in the studio of Enric Tormo.

Exhibits at the II Saló d’Octubre in Barcelona (Galeries Laietanes) and at the show Un aspecto de la pintura catalana, organised by Cobalto 49 at the Institut Français of Barcelona and presented by the poet João Cabral de Melo, then Brazilian consul in Barcelona. In Madrid, he shows works in the Salón de los Once, at the invitation of Eugeni d’Ors. Becomes acquainted with various members of the Club 49, founded that same year: the poet Joan Teixidor, the art historian and critic Alexandre Cirici, the architect Sixte Illescas, Joan Prats, etc.

First solo exhibition in Barcelona (Galeries Laietanes), organised by Josep Gudiol; Juan Eduardo Cirlot writes the catalogue text. A special issue of Dau al Set published to mark the occasion includes Brossa’s “Oracle sobre Antoni Tàpies”; Tharrats’ monograph Tàpies o el dau modern de Versalles is also published. With a grant from the French government, he spends a period in Paris, living and working at number 8, avenue Eugénie in Saint-Cloud. During his stay there he becomes interested in Marxism and closely involved in the controversy surrounding social realism. Exhibits in Pittsburgh, selected for the Carnegie Institute Prize.

Visits Picasso in his studio in rue des Grands Augustins, where he meets Christian Zervos and Jaume Sabartés. In the spring of that year he travels in Belgium and Holland. Influenced by Marxist thinking and concerned about the political situation in Spain, he produces numerous paintings on social themes.

Exhibits at the XXVI Biennale di Venezia, and is again invited to take part (alongside Pierre Alechinsky, Jean Dubuffet, Tal Coat, Ben Nicholson, Karel Appel, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell, among many others) in the Carnegie Institute show in Pittsburgh. Another solo exhibition in Barcelona (Galeries Laietanes).

First solo exhibition in the USA (Marshall Field and Company, Chicago). Travels to New York for his exhibition at the Martha Jackson Gallery; acquires a greater understanding of American abstract expressionism, in which he discovers affinities and correspondences with his own work. Resumes the investigations into materials he began eight years earlier, working with earth, collages, incisions, etc. In Madrid for his exhibition at the Galerías Biosca, he meets Vicente Aleixandre. Receives a prize at the II Bienal de São Paulo.

Another solo exhibition in Barcelona (Galeries Laietanes). Takes part in the XXVII Biennale in Venice, the 64th Annual Exhibition of the Nebraska Art Association and the exhibition Reality and Fantasy 1900-1954 (Walker Art Center, Minneapolis). He marries Teresa Barba Fàbregas.

Travels to Paris, where he meets the poet and critic Édouard Jaguer, who invites him to take part in the exhibition Phases de l’art contemporain (Galerie R. Creuze). Also meets Michel Tapié, with whose aesthetic thinking he sympathizes. Takes part in the debates on art organised by the Universidad Internacional Menéndez y Pelayo (Santander). Prize from the Republic of Colombia at the III Bienal Hispanoamericana in Barcelona. At the end of the year he takes part in the inaugural exhibition at the Galerie Stadler in Paris. Solo exhibitions in Stockholm, Santander and Barcelona.

© Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona