Ricard Canals i Llambí
Barcelona, 1876 - Barcelona, 1935
Ricard Canals i Llambí was born in Barcelona on 13 December 1876. He trained as an artist at the School of Fine Arts, known as the Llotja, and at the academy of the painter Pedro Borrell del Caso; he did not spend long at either, as he and his young friends preferred a much freer approach to painting and turned to the suburbs and nature in search of humble motifs that contrasted with the academic teachings of their time. The painters who joined the early Colla del Safrà (“Saffron Group”), as they were called on account of the violent colour of their paintings, were Mir, Gual, Pichot, Vallmitjana, Nonell and Canals; the latter two became close friends, exhibiting together at Els Quatre Gats, painting in Bohí during the summer of 1896 and moving to Paris in 1897.
But the career paths of Nonell and Canals did not run as parallel as they seemed to the French critics who described them as “two artists, two Catalans, almost two brothers” when praising their joint exhibition of 1898 at the gallery of Le Barc de Boutteville. Throughout his short life Nonell painted in a style close to the aesthetic of Catalan Modernisme, while Canals evolved much more, first with espagnolade subjects and then, gradually, towards a type of painting that combined the Impressionist approach to colour with the Spanish tradition that he was able to observe during his stays in Andalusia and in Madrid, working primarily for the Parisian merchant Durand-Ruel.
The high point in Canal’s career may have been his last years in Paris, where he was in very close contact with Picasso, although his art was not influenced by that of the brilliant Malaga-born artist. By the time Canals returned permanently to Barcelona in 1906 he had already painted some of his most famous works with a Spanish theme for Durand-Ruel and for clients in Paris such the banker Ivo Bosch (A Box at the Bullfight). However, during the following years in Barcelona he also produced some very important works such as La Toilette and beautiful portraits of his wife and of his sister-in-law that now hang in the art museums of Barcelona and Bilbao. And mention should also be made of other works executed before he finally devoted himself chiefly to portraiture: fine examples of beautiful colourful compositions of port scenes with figures and delightful paintings of landscapes and flowers.
Jaume Socías Palau