Joaquín Torres-García

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Joaquín Torres-García

Maybe you've heard of the Catalan spring, or perhaps you know it as Noucentism. If you've never heard of either, what it is is a very special moment in time, when a mature society, conscious of its wealth and cultural differences decides to cast its view forward and, with more determination than nostalgia, build itself up.

Uruguayan-born son of a Catalan father, Joaquín Torres García moved with his family back to Mataró from Montevideo when he was just 17. Soon after, he settled in Barcelona, ​​where he would attend renowned art academies and become friends with the very best of an incredible group of young artists: Mir, Sunyer, Canals, Nonell.

He started to stand out around 1898, and thanks to his friendship with Eugeni d'Ors,  received commissions from an up-and-coming official Catalan nationalism. He would also feel the call of a blue-collar spirituality, of the avant-garde, of literature and even of education. In 1919, breaking ties with the establishment, he took his wife and children and embarked on a journey that would take him to New York via Paris. In the States he found himself, along with Rafael Sala of Vilanova, putting together a magazine called 'Catalonia', which was pro Catalan independence.

Torres García was one of the great avant-garde artists of the 20th century, known as one of the founders of Constructive Universalism. But he's also a symbol of an eternal Catalonia that was eventually built. He died at age 75 in his native Uruguay, leaving behind some wonderful memories, a school of indigenous painting (La Escuela del Sur), and his widow, Manolita Piña, who died in 1994 at the age of 111.

It could be said that one of the most interesting moments in the timeline of Torres García and Catalonia happened in 1914, when the Commonwealth was taking shape under President Prat de la Riba, who commissioned murals for the new headquarters of the autonomous region, the current Palau de la Generalitat. That was just about a century ago. And the Palau d’Antiguitats celebrates with a dignified exhibition, bringing together 38 works of Torres García;s Catalan period, five original drawings by Esteve Monegal from the Oració de l’Institut (an initiative of Eugeni d'Ors) and a plaster bust of Enric Prat de la Riba made ​​by Ismael Smith. Modernism, Noucentism and the avant-garde, gathered together in one dizzying show.

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