We're not very aware of it nowadays, but if we could travel back in time we'd certainly discover the value of silence. A silence that's almost invasive, but only broken by the ticking of a clock, the far-off rumour of the wind, and perhaps the memory of a murmured prayer. No music, no sound of engines, not even the tiny beeps of electronic messages delivered.
There have always been poets of silence, but not silent ones. Pere Torné Esquius (Barcelona, 1879 - Flavancourt, France, 1936) is a distinguished member of this increasingly strange fraternity. Some would call him naive. But they couldn't be further from the truth.
The oil paintings by Torné Esquius seem to re-create simple compositions of interiors where the human figure is always absent. Flat colours, with no shadows or brush traces, ranges of greens, plants, tables, chairs, windows... signs of the abandoned man in an emphatic parenthesis. But let's forget about compositional complexity, forced perspectives and, most important, the ability to evoke that so much has happened, even though there's nothing there.
Torné Esquius made his living in France as an illustrator, and in Catalonia as a painter. Stylistically, his work doesn't fit in with either the modernists or the 'noucentista' style.
As an illustrator, he re-created popular urban scenes, cultivated suggestiveness, and especially addressed the world of children. Those who admire his illustrated stories will find traces of a mood that extends to artists such as Roser Capdevila. It's worth a trip to MNAC if only to see original illustrations of his most famous book, 'Los dulces lugares de Cataluña' (1910).