|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data
compared to the extensive information about American artists.|
Josep Guinovart (1927-2007)
Catalan abstract painter who saw himself in the tradition of Picasso and Miró
By Michael Eaude. The Guardian, Monday 14 January 2008
Josep Guinovart, who has died of a heart attack aged 80, was a prolific painter in a wide range of abstract styles. He was also a political artist, seeing himself in the tradition of his Barcelona forerunners, the communist Picasso and the Catalan nationalist Joan Miró, whose shapes and colours influenced him strongly.
Like Miró, who claimed he painted in bare feet to feel the Catalan earth, Guinovart was profoundly influenced by Catalan landscape. During the Spanish civil war (1936-39) he was evacuated from Barcelona to his maternal grandparents' home near the village of Agramunt, in the province of Lleida. There he imbibed the colour and feel of the wheatfields and wooded hills, reflected later in the lyrical shades of his work and in the actual stubble grains, leaves and insects he stuck on his paintings.
Beautiful colour complemented the roughness of his materials. He explained: "I had a direct relationship with nature, as well as with the elements, tools and animals. We nearly always ran barefoot and I believe I first experienced the world of the senses through my feet, rather than my hands."
From 1979 he lived on the hill at the seaside town of Castelldefels, south of Barcelona, and the many blues of the sea he watched through his studio window were added to the yellows and greens of Agramunt.
Guinovart started off painting walls at the age of 14 with his father and uncles, who were house painters. One of his best-known paintings, Brotxa bandera (Brush Flag, 1970) - of a paint-pot, brush and painter's ladders - was a proud assertion of the fine artist's origin as an artisan. With little formal education, Guinovart started attending evening classes in drawing and painting in 1943.
The year 1948 saw his first exhibition, a series entitled El Blat (Wheat), and he started illustrating for the Dau al Set (Seven-sided dice) magazine, the mouthpiece for the group of the same name associated with Antoni Tàpies and Modest Cuixart that was combating the cultural wilderness of the Franco dictatorship by bringing the artistic vanguards back into Spain.
By 1951 he had become a full-time artist, making his living by painting theatre sets and illustrating magazines. In 1952 he won a scholarship from Barcelona's French Institute to go to Paris for six months. He stayed through 1953, with a grant from the French state. This decisive visit turned him into an abstract artist. He left Spain's stifling atmosphere to encounter Picasso, existentialism, the "informalist" movement and its close relation, American abstract expressionism.
Back in Barcelona, Guinovart's work evolved from figurative drawing towards an abstract art closely related to collage. He began to stick wood, particularly burnt wood (he loved the smell), rubbish and paper on his paintings. His use of wood reached a climax in his Ávila series (1963).
In the late 1960s Guinovart moved away from informalism. His work became more explicitly political, with realist signposts and strongly expressive brushstrokes. Well-known were his Homage to Picasso (1967) and Homage to Che (1968). He participated actively in the anti-Franco movement and produced numerous posters: at the time of his death 175 of them were on show in Barcelona.
Guinovart evolved in the 1970s towards still bigger and more three-dimensional pieces, with so much material stuck on to the paint that critics called him a painter-sculptor. In a series of paintings, climaxing in Terra i rastrejo (Land and Stubble, 1976) and Pedres i fang (Stones and Mud, 1977), he used straw, sand, mud and fibro-cement. "Realism" and "abstraction" were terms to be overcome: Guinovart was showing the real fragmented world as he felt it. Contorn-extorn (1977), now installed in Barcelona's Poble Espanyol (Spanish village), is a wood of painted tree-trunks of differing shapes (reminiscent of Ibarrola's Enchanted Forest in the Basque Country). The spectator moves through the magic forest, full of photos, mirrors, sand and glass eyes.
Guinovart's output was highly diverse, with ceramics, collage, book design, lithography, tapestries, stage sets, posters and frequent murals. In the 80s and 90s he continued to work as energetically as ever - right up to the day of the heart attack that put him in hospital a week before his death - and received various accolades, such as Spain's national prize for plastic arts in 1982. In 1994 he opened a museum of his work in Agramunt.
His work was shown in some 250 one-man exhibitions and is held by museums all over the world. Tireless traveller, he was particularly fond of New York, painting a famous 36-metre mural at Soho's The Exhibition Space in 1982.
In 1962 he married Maria Antónia Pelauzy, a French expert in ceramics and Spanish popular art, who died in 2003. Their daughter Maria survives him.
Josep Guinovart i Bertran, painter, born March 20 1927; died December 12 2007
|** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.|