Artigas – Miró. Ceramics and drawings

9 June — 30 July, 2021


Josep Llorens Artigas (1892-1980) is considered the great reference of artistic ceramics in Catalonia. His name quickly transcended borders and he gained a prominent place on the international scene. At the same time, his companion from youth Joan Miró (1893-1983) became our most universal artist over the years. Llorens Artigas’s work is limitless and unmistakable due to its character and uniqueness, as is Miró’s, a man who, establishing his roots in the land, in the country and in his time, knew how to project himself to the world through an art as colourful and dreamy as it is rebellious, combative and demanding. By now presenting these two artists and friends in dialogue, the Artur Ramon Art Gallery pays a well-deserved tribute to their contribution both to art and to the artistic spirit of the 20th century.

Llorens Artigas was born in Barcelona in 1892 and began his artistic training in the field of painting. In 1914, when he was twenty-one, he became known as an art critic, but he did not begin to feel vocationally attracted to ceramics until 1917. It was then that he understood that ceramics could become his means of artistic expression. However, he still exhibited some Cubist-style paintings at the 1922 Barcelona Art Exhibition, and it was not until 1924, at the age of thirty-two, that he made his debut as a ceramist, in collaboration with Raoul Dufy, at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery in Paris. Results were dazzling: “No ha fet més que arribar i moldre”, exclaimed Joan Sacs in 1925 [we could translate that as “to have beginner’s luck”]. From then on, first in Paris and later in Barcelona and Gallifa, Llorens Artigas developed a solid career —both alone and in collaboration with Miró and other prestigious artists— that made him one of the great masters of artistic and avant-garde ceramics of the mid-20th century.

Llorens Artigas made a name for himself working with artistic stoneware fired at high temperatures, over 1,200 degrees. A long period of practice and training, living between Barcelona and Paris, allowed him to become aware of what ceramics he wanted to create and which were the references to follow. Thus, he opted for ceramic pieces with shapes inspired by East Asian models, which had as references the French contributions that emerged at the turn of the century, led by Delaherche, Lenoble, Decoeur and Metthey. In addition, he considered ceramics, due to its privilege of being born from the union of the four elements of nature, as the purest and most abstract art of all. Consequently, Llorens Artigas lived the creative experience as a means of introspection, expression and discovery, in which knowledge, intuition and spirit converged: “I become a philosopher because of my trade,” he confessed to his friend and art critic Joan Teixidor. In short, although one of the aspects that projected his work to international fame were the collaborations with artists such as Dufy and Miró, Llorens Artigas was always highly respected both for the quality and for the sensitive and poetic personality of his stoneware pieces.

The expressive possibilities of ceramics are infinite and, from this standpoint, Llorens Artigas chose to travel a path by laying his feet on tradition, from which a language as close as it was universal could emerge. On the one hand, he renounced the drowning of ornate surfaces, overflowing with rhetorical decorations, to embrace a pure aesthetic, with sinuous, austere and balanced forms, arising from work with the potter’s wheel and reflecting oriental refinement. On the other hand, he renounced modern methods of Western production and remained steadfastly true to the flame. As a result of the passion that he felt for empirical research in the field of glazes — started alongside Francesc Quer —, Llorens Artigas made the deliberate and thoughtful decision to always work with wood-fired ovens. In this sense, the study Les pastes ceràmiques i els esmalts blaus de l’Antic Egipte (“Ceramic pastes and blue glazes from Ancient Egypt”) — published in 1922, under the auspices of the Escola Superior dels Bells Oficis — was the beginning of a lifetime dedicated to experimenting with the earth and the mineral world, in order to discover the chemical formulas of the colours of nature, arising from nature itself.

In this way, by means of work and continuous experimentation with glazes, together with the knowledge and mastery of fire, quickly the artist learned to fix and immortalise the elusive colours of nature, recreating materials that can be compared with those of the earth: “Each glaze, each ceramic colour achieved, not as a scientific experience, but as an artistic function, constitutes a true creation, of such a purity that is rarely found in other forms of artistic expression, in which creation consists more of representation, more of spirit than matter.” Reflections and textures, surprising colours, intermediate tonalities and gradations that are often imperceptible or full of nuances, make each of his ceramics a unique and unrepeatable work of art. Thus, the artist achieved forms both classic and modern, which through the potter’s wheel and the chromatic nuances of the glazes were expressed as true works of art. A sensual art, of an honest abstraction, capable of expressing — as Llorens Artigas himself wrote — the harmony of the world.

In the same way that Llorens Artigas found the essential elements of his language in the land, nature and tradition, Joan Miró, born a year later, was also a poet capable of creating his own original language, based on a symbolic writing of forms and inimitable colours that, over the years, came to exert a profound influence on 20th century art. The training and early years of Joan Miró in Barcelona show a certain parallel with those of the ceramist: against the current of the family will, both felt the artistic vocation from a very young age, which made them coincide in some spaces — for instance, the Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc —, in teachers, such as Francesc Galí, and in artistic youth projects, among them the foundation of the Courbet Group. Nevertheless, Miró immediately set out on his own, fully personal path. However, the failure of his first solo exhibition at the Dalmau Galleries in Barcelona, in 1918, was the spark that pushed the painter to flee from the stalled inertia of that city to come into contact with the necessary stimuli that inspired the first outstanding features of Miró’s work: the culture and popular roots of his homeland — whether it was the landscape of the Camp de Tarragona region or the expressiveness of Romanesque painting — and, not least, from 1920, the interwar cultural avant-garde, lived from its main battleground, Paris.

The departure to Paris and the alternate stays in Mont-roig del Camp and Barcelona made Miró’s work evolve from the first Fauve paintings and the magical and detailed realism towards the expression of a real nature, magically transformed through dreams and imagination. However, in order to achieve the language of the Constellations, in addition to renouncing the usual expressive means of painting, Miró absorbed more sources and impulses, from the collisions of chance and accident — as shown in the famous painting series d’après collage — to poetry, music, Altamira’s paintings, children’s drawings or siurells (decorated clay whistles, typical of Mallorca), among many other elements. And, above all, his permanent allies were tireless work and an eternal young spirit that guided him to transcend the plastic fact.

Joan Miró, restless worker that he was, consciously experienced the will to go beyond the corruption of painting, with the desire to achieve a human projection capable of leaving a mark. From that desire, in addition to drawings and paintings, arose a large number of sculptures, ceramics, wall paintings and an extensive graphic work, that have allowed to spread his world of forms and images, of a sensitive expression, and, at the same time, penetrating, committed and moving. Moreover, this self-demand was one of the keys that enabled the unanimous celebration of all the artistic ceramic projects undertaken jointly by Miró and Llorens Artigas from 1944 to 1970.

The pieces in the exhibition organized by the Artur Ramon Art Gallery, eighteen stoneware by Josep Llorens Artigas — from one of the first bowls fired in the Charenton-le-Pont studio, in 1927, to jugs from Gallifa’s last stage —, alongside nine works by Joan Miró — biomorphic forms, graphics and figures, both from the time of the “assassination of painting” and from the 1950s, as well as from the final period of his life — that are a good testimony of the contribution of these great Catalan creators of the 20th century. Two nonconformist artists who mutually admired, respected and shared each other struggles and concerns.

Ricard Bru, curator.

More Information:

Dates: 9 June – 30 July, 2021
Where: Bailén 19, 08010 Barcelona
Hours: Monday to Friday 10h-14h 16:30h-20h
Telephone: (+34) 93 302 59 70
eMail: art@arturramon.com
Web: arturramon.com