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Drawings to colour - pdf
On the occasion of the Centenary of the death of the artist, the Museu Nacional and the Museu d’Art Jaume Morera are dedicating a solo exhibition to Xavier Gosé, one of the most international Catalan artists of the early 20th century.
Gosé’s artwork could be described as Catalan Modernism and Art Decó. The artist was inspired by the everyday of cafès-concert, midinettes, by prostitutes, strollers in the boulevards, by horse racing, sportsmen, and Montmartre. His refined and elegant style perfectly caught the essence of the fashion and silhouettes of French society.
This showing is part of the exhibition line followed by the museum in order to highlight Catalan artists of great quality, which started with artists like Josep Tapiró and Carles Casagemas.
Exhibition catalogue Xavier Gosé, 1876-1915. Illustrator of modernity
Exhibition organised together with
One hundred years ago today, Xavier Gosé, the prototype of the modern illustrator, died in Lleida at the peak of his artistic maturity, having achieved a position of notoriety on the international arts scene. He had left Paris, where he lived in the Montparnasse neighbourhood from 1900 to 1915, because of the upheaval of the Great War and weakened by tuberculosis.
To commemorate the occasion, the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya and the Museu d’Art Jaume Morera de Lleida, which keeps Gosè’s most important legacy, are joining forces to offer the public a retrospective exhibition of an artist whose work had never before been presented at the Museu Nacional.
The aim of the exhibition is to get together the best of his known work and unearth the unpublished works so as to enlarge our view of his creative career, which spanned from the Barcelona of Els Quatre Gats to the Paris of the Belle Époque and prefigures Art Deco. The almost 250 works on exhibit (including illustrations, paintings, magazines, fashion illustrations and items of haute couture) help us trace a path through the worldly chronicle of the Paris of the early 20th century, the capital of art and entertainment that drew artists from all over the world. At the same time, Gosé’s work, a catalyst of the aesthetic and graphic movements of the time, is an invitation to dip into the atmosphere of a period of history that swung between tradition and the seduction of modernity.
Gosé trained in Barcelona at the Escola de Llotja, where he made contact with an interesting group of artists like Torres Garcia, Nonell, Mir and Sunyer. An essential element of this period was the time he spent in the studio of one of the great illustrators of the day, Josep Lluís Pellicer. Alongside this, he tried to make headway with contributions to various illustrated magazines such as L’Esquella de la Torratxa or Barcelona Cómica and others. This work fits perfectly into the most typical Modernisme and into Art Nouveau, for which reason he has been considered one of its first practitioners in Catalonia. But Gosé also reflected the other side of Modernista Barcelona, life on the outskirts, always with aesthetic ideas not far removed from the realism of his teacher Pellicer and an iconography of a marked social nature. His relationship with the circle that gathered in Els Quatre Gats also led him to exhibit there in 1899, to considerable success with public and critics.
In 1900 Gosé moved to Paris, the creative centre of Europe in those days. His first illustrations were published in prestigious satirical magazines of the time, magazines like Cocorico and Le Rire. They were based on the genre known as espanyolades (Spanish stereotypes), pictures of flamenco dancers, the musical spectacle in fashion in Paris. But Gosé gradually dropped this subject matter and began observing the life of the French capital. His work took two directions. On one hand, it had an element of social and political protest, with references to the repressive system of Alfonso XIII’s monarchy, but he also recorded the settings and the characters of modern life, its cabarets and brothels, with an ironic, satirical eye and with a uniquely refined and decadent style.
At the same time as Xavier Gosé did illustrations for the satirical press, he cultivated a more intimist and personal type of work. He left aside his more disrespectful pencil, with which he had criticised Spanish society under the reign of Alfonso XIII or the assassination of Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia, and became one of the great chroniclers of the city and its airs, especially the more refined ones, in which appearances and sophistication mattered more than anything else. The success of his pictures allowed him to live comfortably, which suggests that he himself came to form part of an elitist, snobbish atmosphere.
His work shows young ladies and dandies occupied in their day-to-day activities in the cabarets and theatres, strolling in the boulevards, attending a variety of social events, taking coffee at an open-air café or even in intimate situations filled with sensuality. At the same time, as a good chronicler, he captured the new icons of modernity, like the motor industry, aviation, photography, the tango (imported from the suburbs of Buenos Aires) or the sparkling stars of the silent movies.
As the great couturier Paul Poiret reminisced in his memoirs En habillant l'époque, it should come as no surprise that in Paris, the city where sensuous and voluptuous life developed most freely, the fantasy of fashion should have flourished. Gosé’s illustrations, recreations of the elegant Parisian woman, were in demand from the leading fashion publications of the moment, such as Femina, Le Journal des Dames et des Modes and the Gazette du Bon Ton, which publicised the clothes of Paul Poiret, Doucet, Worth, Paquin and Redfern.
The fashion industrialists were able to exploit the publishing goldmine to be found in graphic illustration. In this respect, Gosé, along with Paul Iribe, Brunelleshi and Lepape, was part of the flock of artists whose willowy models interpreted the creations of these stars of the fashion world and, at the same time, made their own designs in anticipation of a new modern taste.