Tapies, Antoni

Antoni Tàpies (1923-2012) was a Spanish Catalan painter, draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor who became one of the most famous European artists of his generation.

Encouraged by his home environment at an early age, he was interested in cultural and intellectual matters, especially in music and literature. He first came into contact with contemporary art as a teenager and while he was still at school, he taught himself to draw and paint. As early as 1942, he produced pictures clearly influenced by van Gogh and Picasso. In 1944 he began studying law at Barcelona University while also attending evening classes in drawing at the Academia Valls.

Tàpies produced his first works in thick impasto in 1945, and in 1946 he decided to abandon his studies in order to devote himself entirely to his art. Initially he produced both figurative and abstract works.

His early abstract works were generally collage-based paintings on cardboard, often incorporating fragments of newspaper. He introduced a variety of materials generally considered outside the realm of painting such as mixing ground white chalk and pigment into the oil medium, bringing out the textural qualities of paint. It was with works of this type that Tàpies established his international reputation in the late 1950s as one of the most innovative painters associated with European developments such as Art informel and Matter painting.

Tàpies was one of the founders in September 1948 of Dau al set, a group influenced by Surrealism and in particular by its dream imagery and automatism. Tàpies was perhaps the best-known Catalan artist to emerge in the period since the Second World War.

In the late 1960s Tàpies was influenced by Pop art to incorporate objects from his immediate surroundings into his paintings. He often chose these elements for their anthropomorphic connotations.

As his work evolved, his extreme sensitivity towards the qualities of different materials he used in his paintings in the 1970s and 80s was put to remarkable use in his extensive production as a printmaker, particularly in etchings and aquatints that stressed the physicality of the inked lines and surfaces.

Retrospectives were presented at the Musée national d’art moderne, Paris (1973), and Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York (1977). In 1990, the Fundació Antoni Tàpies opened in Barcelona, established in Tàpies’s name to study and exhibit modern and contemporary art, periodically preparing Tàpies-centric exhibitions and publications. In 1993, he and Cristina Iglesias represented Spain at the Venice Biennale, where his installation was awarded the Golden Lion. Other retrospectives were presented at the Jeu de Paume, Paris (1994); Guggenheim Museum SoHo, New York (1995); and Museo nacional centro de arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2000). From 2004 to 2005, a major international retrospective was organized by the Museu d’art contemporani de Barcelona, traveling worldwide to museums including Museo de arte de Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico; Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; and Singapore Art Museum to name a few.  His experimentation with media and techniques has earned him an international reputation as one of the most original artists of the 20th century. Tàpies died on February 6, 2012, in Barcelona.