Ramón Casas Carbó
Barcelona, 1866 - Barcelona, 1936
Ramon Casas is perhaps the most versatile and productive artist of Catalan Modernisme. He was not only a painter but also an extraordinary and prolific graphic artist, illustrator and poster designer.
Born in Barcelona on 5 January 1866, in the early stages of his artistic education he was a pupil of the modest painter Joan Vicens i Cots (1830–1886). He travelled to Paris for the first time in 1882 and was instantly charmed by the city. There he studied with Carolus-Duran (1838-1917), the great portrait painter of the Parisian bourgeoisie.
In 1884 Ramon Casas went to Granada and started to send his works to group exhibitions in Barcelona. In 1889 he travelled in a horse-drawn cart throughout Catalonia in the company of Santiago Rusiñol (1861-1931), and the following year he settled at the Moulin de la Galette in Paris, together with other young Catalan artists.
Casas was a tireless exhibitor throughout his career. From Paris he sent his works to the Sala Parés in Barcelona, where he showed his work uninterruptedly for thirty years alongside his close friends Rusiñol and the sculptor Enric Clarasó (1857–1942).
On returning to Barcelona, Ramon Casas founded Els Quatre Gats in June 1897, and the following year he was awarded a first-place medal at the General Exhibition of Fine Arts held in that city for the painting Salida de la procession del Corpus de la iglesia de Santa María del Mar (Barcelona) [“The Corpus Christi Procession Leaving the Church of Santa María del Mar (Barcelona)”]. He also received a prize for his design for posters advertising the aniseed liquor Anís del Mono.
Ramon Casas founded the art reviews Forma and Pèl & Ploma in which he published innumerable drawings, many of them portraits of the foremost intellectuals of the time. He came to draw more than six hundred such portraits, most of which were donated by the painter to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, where they remain to this day. They are all deservedly described by Pantorba as “the best charcoal portraits ever made in Spain”.
In 1902 he finished the decoration of the Circle of the Liceu opera house in Barcelona, and in the same year he obtained a first-prize medal at the National Exhibition of Fine Arts for his famous painting Barcelona. 1902, better known as La Carga (“The Charge”), without a doubt one of his most shocking and modern pictures, falling as it does between historical chronicle and social realism.
In 1908 Casas travelled to the United States, where he was asked to paint the portraits of the most prominent members of American society. He enjoyed such success that he had to repeat his visit again in 1924. He also travelled around Central Europe in 1910 and died in Barcelona on 29 February 1932.
José Luis Díez