Antoni Tàpies 1923-2012


Born in Barcelona in 1923, Tàpies was rasied among the Catalan intellectual elite. His father was an influential lawyer who worked for the Catalan government during the Spanish Civil War and his mother was the daughter of a prominent right-wing separatist and devout Catholic. His parents, especially his mother, insisted that he had a religious education. Despite  gaining a fear of nuns, Tàpies became spiritually educated which would greatly influence his later work in ways that would not be appreciated by the church. At the age of 17 Tàpies contracted a lung infection that caused him great problems for the following couple of years. During this time, he began to copy the works of Van Gogh and Picasso, read Dostoevsky and studied the practice of Japanese Buddhism. 

Once regaining his health, in 1944 he was pushed by his father to enrol in a law degree, but in the meantime,  he was attending drawing classes at the Academia Valls in Barcelona, where he was inspired by poetry. He spent the 1940s developing a style that was largely inspired by ‘primitive’ arts and the works of children, but it was Paul Klee and the Surrealists that really sparked his interest. His early drawings were self-portraits but by 1946 his motifs of collages with crosses and scraps of newspaper and toilet roll were beginning to surface. He often used the grattage (scraping) technique consulted by Max Ernst and was influenced by Joan Miró, a friend of his whom he met in 1948. Also, in 1948, Tàpies co-founded an avant-garde group named Dal au Set, with the Surrealist poet Joan Brossa.