Marià Fortuny i Marsal. Engraving master

Marià Fortuny i Marsal: engraving master


6A GALERIA D’ART I TALLER is celebrating the 40th anniversary this year with the great master Marià Fortuny i Marsal (Reus, Tarragona, 1838 – Rome, 1874). It is an immense honor which allows us to give strength and value to the art and the technique, to the highest level. This wonderful exhibition, although it can be seen as a rara avis in a simple contemporanean art private gallery, acquires another dimension when we erase the word “simple” from the equation. All this leads to the understanding of the fact that 6a’s gallery and workshop has been the center of the traditional stamping techniques in the island, an institution that has now 40 years of history, this is the main reason why 6a is sheltering this special exhibition in this year’s programme.

Marià Fortuny i Marsal: Engraving Master has been possible thanks to Mr. Enric Juncosa i Darder, owner of one of the best private collections of engravings and other manifestations of high historic interest, such as extraordinary sketches and drawings. We are certainly speaking about a group of stamps and drawings that would be adequate to be owned by a museum (some of the pieces in this exhibition are unique) and we have to thank the fact that is in private hands, the hands of an art lover and a follower of the traditional stamping techniques, and a professional of paper restoration. The most romantic sense of the word “collection” makes sense when we speak about Enric Juncosa, and also about the hard investigation process that led him to have this extraordinary gathering  and most importantly the fact that he wants to share it.

Marià Fortuny i Marsal is one of the most recognized artists of his time, and today has turned into an essential figure in Art History. Not randomly some of Fotuny’s artworks become crucial in history, and take part in some of the best museums in the world. The importance of Fortuny’s work is placed in his historiographic, technic and aesthetic value. The catalan artist was trained in the handcraft tradition and from an early age he standed out for his technical virtuosity. His training at the Fine Arts School of Barcelona allowed this virtuosity to find some other important masters -such as Milà i Fontanals, Lorenzale or Rigalt- who will settle a notable ground in the artist’s work and his initial approach to romantic painting.

It is surely proven that his work was highly considerate from an early age because he obtained a scholarship to go to Rome, having the opportunity to study in academia Chigi and participating in the famous Caffe Greco’s social gatherings. In Rome he met Attlio Simonetti, who became his pupil and friend and became one of the most important figures in Fortuny’s creative journey.

One of the most highlighted events in his trajectory was when the council of Barcelona demanded him to go to the first Moroquean War, and work for them as a graphic chronicler. Morroque’s light, the awakening of a new chromatism and the fact of discovering another culture make him have an interest in particular subjects -such as meditations, rituals and uncommon characters- which he will explore in his creative process thanks to his incipient knowledge of arabic language. Thanks to the inspiration that he found in this place, when he returned to Barcelona, he solicited to come back in 1862 to keep developing his research on North Africa’s light and Orientalism.

His restlessness and curiosity made him embrace the opportunity to visit all the most important European museums, he got interested in the work of Vernet, Fromentin, Decamps  and very particularly by Delacroix, Velazquez and Goya. Two of the main precedents to his artwork  are Goya and Rembrandt. From the Spanish painter we can observe references in different aspects such as lightning treatment, space composition and polishing texture -characteristics which can be found in our current exhibition. On the other hand, from the Dutch artist Fortuny inherited the insistence of working several times in the same plate, prolonging  the creative process dedicated to the same subject.

Engraving is essential to understand the development of Fortuny’s work.  Among the different existing procedures in the technique, is centered on the indirect incision gravel, having as main techniques those one that allow to obtain as much freedom as the stroke pictoric finish demands: etching and aquatint. It is only in some particular cases -such as the Tiradora de cartes or Idil·li, present in the current show- when we find works that incorporate drypoint, a direct technique.

Speaking about the mastership of Marià Fortuny i Marsal is not accidental. He always took on the whole process, engraved himself the plates and made himself all the tests, creating artworks of a great intimacy.We can get an idea of ​​the freedom that Fortuny took away when we think that not only did the plates have to be used for tests and diagrams, but he used them directly for the final image, treating the plate almost as if it was paper, taking notes of nature directly. Two direct testimonies are Davillier or Simonetti, an information that we have due to the main sources that historians have tried to use to define the creative process of the artist.

Another contribution that he makes through the work we are dealing with here, is the appearance of Non finito, a feeling of unfinished motifs that is configured in a very harmonious way in the presentation of the themes that is about. It should also be noted that his engravings coincide in the context of the etching revival, which took place from the second half of the nineteenth century, especially in Paris, the artistic capital that dictated the trend within the art scene.

Around 1869, Fortuny experienced a crisis caused by the success of his work, which raised him to the highest level of international recognition, accompanied by the merchant Adolphe Goupil. Coexistence with success led him to a state of depression due to the high demand for a type of work that did not allow the creative process to be fully released. This fact led him to want to break off his professional relationship with Goupil. Shortly afterwards, a still young Fortuny died in Rome in 1874, at the age of 36.

However, his work left a deep mark on art history, becoming a clear influence on later generations of European artists. The fascination that Fortuny awakened was such that in 1875, an extraordinary event took place: the book Atelier de Fortuny was published, with an inventory of the property of his property (works and other objects that were in the studio in the same way in which he left it) which were then put up for public auction. This fact, quite exceptional for the memory of an artist of his time, explains the importance of Fortuny already alive, and which is still alive today.

Marià Fortuny i Marsal: Engraving master, gives the 40th anniversary of the 6A TALLER I GALERIA D’ART the solemnity that four decades of tireless dedication to technique, art, history and culture undoubtedly require.