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Spanish Posters
43 historic Catalan images

Modernisme was a distinctly Spanish art movement that heralded the revival of Catalan culture from roughly 1888-1911. Like similar movements of the time—Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, and the Vienna Succession—decorative ornamentation dominated the imagery. But the Modernistes shunned bourgeois exclusivity in favor of an integrated and democratic approach: they drew inspiration from Japanese woodblock prints, Pre-Raphaelite painting, and Belgian lithography; they also worked across multiple fields, including fine art, theatre, and architecture. A central point of influence was Els Quatre Gats (The Four Cats), a café and creative meeting place inspired by Paris’ Le Chat Noir. Founded by Ramon Casas, Santiago Rusiñol, and Miguel Utrillo, it attracted many prominent artists, including the young Pablo Picasso. Els Quatre Gats held performances, concerts, art exhibitions, and literary gatherings; the artists also published an influential literary review of the same name.

1. Femina.
Artist: Anonymous
38 1/8 x 60 3/4 in./97 x 154.2 cm
Est: $4,000-$5,000

The French have always been role models for high-end fashion with their undefinable aura of effortless class, and this bourgeois Spanish woman has fallen under the spell. Dressed to the nines on a stroll with her elegant greyhound, she’s picked up the latest issue of Femina, a Parisian women’s magazine that covered leisure activities, fashion, literature, and art. It was quite the feminist publication: in 1903, they dedicated an entire issue to female artists at the 1903 Salon, and the illustrations and cover were all drawn by women. In 1909, when the Académie Française proposed electing female members, Femina asked its readers to nominate 40 women writers to constitute an imaginary female academy, who were then featured in the magazine. Unfortunately, the Académie did not elect its first woman until 1980.

4. Velodromo de Barcelona. 1898.
Artist: Adrià Gual (1872-1943)
35 x 50 3/4 in./89 x 129 cm
Est: $2,000-$2,500

Gual presents us with a veritable vision of Modernismo, saturated with Mucha-esque decorative elements and Catalan imagery. Just like Paris, Barcelona experienced a bicycle boom in the 1890s; several cycling clubs were born, including Peña Ciclista, the organizers of this charity event at the Bonanova Velodrome in Barcelona to benefit victims of flooded villages. The day’s events included international races to be awarded with art objects, cash prizes, and commemorative medals; a military band and municipal band promised to liven up the party. This velodrome was Barcelona’s first such venue; the initiative was launched by The Cyclist magazine—the official body of the Barcelona Society of Velocipedalists—and was opened in 1893. Along with regular bike races, the venue was also home to cricket, tennis, and soccer matches, and it was the first playing field of Fútbol Club Barcelona. This is a two-sheet poster—and rare!

5. Mercurio. 1903.
Artist: Adrià Gual (1872-1943)
18 3/4 x 25 1/2 in./47.8 x 64.6 cm
Est: $1,400-$1,700

Gual presents an idyllic coastal scene to promote the Spanish magazine Mercurio, which was founded by businessman José Puigdollers Macià in 1901, shortly after the loss of Spain’s last colonies: Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. In coalition with the Casa de América in Barcelona, the magazine aimed to integrate Catalan business in America and reinvigorate Spain’s international affiliations. Gual’s design, paired with the text that reads “The travels of a drop of water,” illustrates the interconnectivity of the natural world—and perhaps supplies a conceptual vision of Mercurio’s ultimate goals.

7. Ayuniamiento de Barcelona. 1896.
Artist: Alejandro de Riquer (1856-1920)
59 x 36 1/2 in./150 x 93 cm
Est: $3,000-$4,000

De Riquer was the earliest Spanish posterist of note, and, as can be seen from this design for an 1896 exhibition of arts and crafts, he was right up there with contemporary Art Nouveau pioneers, particularly Mucha and Livemont. He studied and traveled extensively in Europe, absorbed the influence of William Morris in England, and became quite versatile at various forms of design in many media. He produced illustrations, prints, ex-libris, and several murals. His posters continue to guide succeeding generations of Spanish graphic artists. This is a two-sheet design.

8. The Four Seasons. 1900.
Artist: Alejandro de Riquer (1856-1920)
Each: 22 3/8 x 46 1/4 in./57 x 117.6 cm
Est: $7,000-$9,000

This is a rare complete set of the Four Seasons by de Riquer. More seldom seen than the equivalent series by Mucha, they are the artist’s masterpiece. A letter from the publisher Pierrefort to the artist indicates that the panels were printed on “paper exactly similar to the one used by Mucha for his animated Flowers,” and that, because of the intricate detail and shading within the designs, seven instead of six colors would be used in the printing process. The letter continues: “The artist responsible for the lithographic process is not only skilled in the use of colour but is also an excellent designer. He admires your panels very much and will do everything in his power to reproduce them properly. I have additionally agreed to keep an unflinching eye on the process myself. We shall experiment, something that is not easy, given the size of the lithographic stones” (Art Nouveau/Weill, p. 54). (4)

10. Mosaicos Hidráulicos Òrsola Solá y Cia. 1898.
Artist: Alejandro de Riquer (1856-1920)
33 1/8 x 49 1/4 in./84 x 125.2 cm
Est: $2,500-$3,000

De Riquer contributes his Art Nouveau aesthetic to a Barcelona firm specializing in hydraulic mosaics—a collaboration that was actually quite typical of the time. The decorative pigmented cement tiles were first invented in France in the mid-19th century, but it was a Barcelona company that developed it into an alternative product to natural stones like marble. The rise of this technique coincided with modernisme, spurring complex and artistic designs created by artists including de Riquer and Gaudí.

24. Ciencia Popular. ca. 1915.
Artist: F. Sagristá
25 1/4 x 34 1/2 in./64.3 x 87.8 cm
Est: $1,400-$1,700

In the vein of so many other great Art Nouveau designs for the latest in transit technology, Sagristá employs a goddess illuminating newly developed marvels: a zeppelin hovers above a passenger train; a motorcyclist zooms ahead of a race car; a speed boat careens ahead. They’re just some of the “latest inventions” highlighted in Ciencia Popular, a weekly magazine exploring science and industry. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly which magazine this is; the English-language Popular Science was founded in 1872, but only added a Spanish version in 2008. Magazines of the same title were printed in Brazil and Argentina beginning in the mid-1920s. It would appear that Spain’s version has been nearly vanquished from history, but this striking design is certainly a testament to Spain’s scientific prowess.

25. Hispania Simil Gamuza. ca. 1905.
Artist: A. & J. Pey
30 3/8 x 43 1/2 in./77 x 110.3 cm
Est: $1,400-$1,700

The turn of the century bolstered increasing prosperity in Spain, and consumers were eager to act the part of the new bourgeoisie. Traditional homemade products were swiftly replaced by name brand goods, and the average housewife now yearned for the well-kempt aura of the upper class. Here, an overdressed woman demonstrates her finesse for chic couture and household upkeep, while a wonderful bit of visual trickery proves to us just how potent this particular cleaning product is—though the cat seems more horrified than impressed.

26. Carnaval en Barcelona. 1898.
Artist: Lluís Labarta (1852-1924)
32 7/8 x 72 in./83.5 x 182.8 cm
Est: $1,700-$2,000

“In turn-of-the-century Europe, the celebration of feasts—an ancient custom that is rooted in all cultures—follows the Roman tradition of changing seasons, and especially that imposed by the ecclesiastical calendar. Gradually, however, the festivities become more and more secular, and around the year 1900 they experience a burst of joy that accompanies the Belle Epoque. The most celebrated festival is Carnival, perhaps because it is the period of permissibility that precedes the age of austerity and penance of Lent. Masks, costume dances, comedy characters in art, streamers, and confetti are the most characteristic expressions in these posters” (Cartells Catalans, p. 133). Additionally, the 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition—the country’s first international world’s fair—brought incredible renown to Spain. This poster perfectly encapsulates all of the aforementioned festive delight: streamers swirl; costumed ladies prance; an overjoyed Pierrot attempts to keep up; and numerous activities are promised, including a children’s pageant competition, an allegorical chariot art contest, horseback riding, a cycling party, and a great lantern march. This is a three-sheet poster.

32. Barcelona / Ciudad de Invierno. 1911.
Artist: John Hassall (1868-1948)
38 1/8 x 50 3/4 in./97 x 129 cm
Est: $3,500-$4,000

Hassall—along with Dudley Hardy—was the most prolific and popular posterist in England at the turn of the century. Weill calls him “more original” than Hardy (p. 68). Judging his work in 1901, W.S. Rogers concluded that “Hassall’s work is more uniform in its excellence, and is clever in a high degree. He is extremely versatile, and displays a wide range of knowledge in his productions. His figures, his animals, and every accessory that he employs are well drawn, and impress one with the sense that they have been studied from life… His women, if savouring of a single model, are charming in their gaiety of manner, unconventionality of pose, and pert frankness of expression” (p. 34-35). Many of these qualities can be seen in this impressive poster for the Winter City of Barcelona: the beach and sky are drawn measuredly and geometrically, allowing the girl’s magnificent dress, hat, and umbrella to suffuse the scene. This is a two-sheet poster.

36. La Correspondencia de España. 1901.
Artist: E. Alvarez Dumont
41 1/4 x 85 in./104.8 x 215.7 cm
Est: $2,000-$2,500

A brigade of newsies takes to the street, bringing the citizens of Barcelona their copies of La Correspondencia de España, the politically independent daily newspaper. Packed with global news from all the world’s capitals, the daily lays claim to being a great source for the latest political news and wire service stories. The bustle of the poster is wonderful, showing a metropolitan urgency and an artistic proficiency. This is a three-sheet poster.

37. Barcelona / Ciudad de Invierno. 1911.
Artist: Carlos Verger Fioretti (1872-1929)
49 3/4 x 36 in./126.5 x 91.5 cm
Est: $4,000-$5,000

This two-sheet travel promotion gives us a shipboard couple drenched in the sultry hues of a Mediterranean sunset as they arrive in the port of Barcelona, their layers of clothing soon to be as unnecessary as any remaining workplace tensions. The poster was produced in several languages (for the French version, see PAI-XXVII, 607); this particular version was used to lure domestic (and other Spanish-speaking) vacationers to winter sojourns on the Catalan capital’s shores amidst the hills of Montjuïc, Vallvidrera, and Tibidabo. Though born in Paris, Verger received his artistic training in Madrid and is considered to be a Spanish artist. He painted landscapes and portraits, but was best known as an engraver and posterist.

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