Antoni Tàpies

Sarpta, 1949
Oil on canvas
25.50 x 21.25 in
SKU: 12818c
Price on Request

"Sarpta" is an original oil on canvas painting created by Antoni Tapies. This is a fantastically dark mid-century abstract painting. There is a monstrous figure barely visible on the left side of the painting. Also a sinister face breathing smoke out of the right side of the painting. This piece is perfect for a collector that enjoys a more avantgarde style. Tapies signed, dated, and titled this piece on the backside of the canvas. It is currently in good restored condition. Presented in a new hand-carved, parcel gilt wood frame.


Artwork Size: 25 1/2" x 21 1/4"
Frame Size: 32 1/4" x 28"

Artist Bio:

Antoni Tàpies I Puig, 1st Marquess of Tàpies (Catalan; 13 December 1923-6 February 2012), was a Catalan Spanish painter, sculptor, and art theorist, who became one of the most important artists of the second half of the twentieth century and the best-known Spanish artist to emerge in the period after the Second World War. Largely self-taught, Tàpies first came into contact with art as a teenager through the contemporary art magazine, D’Ací i D’Allà which featured reproductions of works by Duchamp, Baque, Kandinsky, and Picasso. The artist came of age during the Spanish Civil War; his father was a Catalan nationalist and served with the republican government. At 17, he suffered a near-fatal heart attack caused by tuberculosis and spent two years as a convalescent, reading and pursuing his interest in art. He studied law for three years, and in 1943 devoted himself to art. Shortly after becoming an artist, Tàpies attended a clandestine meeting of Els Blaus (the Blues, formed in 1946), an iconoclastic group of Catalan artists and writers. In 1945 he began experimenting with non-painterly materials, mixing paint and whiting. He also became interested in philosophy, particularly Sartre and Eastern thought. In 1948, Tàpies exhibited for the first time in the controversial Salon d’Octubre in Barcelona. It was the first post-War attempt in Spain to introduce the public to new art. The same year, he co-founded, with the poet Jean Brossa, the first post-War movement in Spain known as Dau al Set (the seventh face of the die), which was connected to the Surrealist and Dadaist movements. Under the repression of the Franco regime, Surrealism became a powerful symbol of freedom and transgression for Spanish artists. Tàpies was particularly influenced by Max Ernst, Paul Klee, and Joan Miró, whom he met in 1948 and became a lifelong friend. The artist was interested in magical subjects, and gradually incorporated geometrical elements and color studies in his work.

Sarpta, an oil painting on canvas from 1949 (cat. raisonne, A. Agusti, vol. I, no. 166), is an example of Tàpies’ early, Surrealist work. At the time the work was executed, the artist was a member of the Dau al Set group. The artist’s exploration of Surrealism early in his career was foundational for his ongoing investigation into the nature of physical objects and their materiality. In this painting, the artist emulates Klee and Ernst with his depiction of obscure images surrounded by a dark atmosphere. In Sarpta, a menacing figure emerges from the dark canvas. It rears up on what appear to be human legs, defined with white paint and scratches into the painting’s surface. Its body is amorphous and it has tiny claws. It appears to be bleeding from the chest. It rears its equine head, bearing fang-like teeth and spouting a trail of smoke. Its eyes are scratched into the paint. The figure slips out of the darkness and reveals itself like a surreal pentimenti. On the creature’s back and at the picture’s lower right are partial chessboards. A red sphere appears at the right-hand side of the painting. The upper left appears to be colored smoke. The painting’s surface is scratched throughout and there is a star-like symbol scratched in the upper portion of the work. In Sarpta, Tàpies begins his lifelong interest in matter and explores the theme of transformation expressed through signs and symbols.

Tàpies was championed by the influential French art critic and curator, Michel Tapié. In 1950, Tàpies had his first solo show at Galeries Laietanes in Barcelona. He was also included in the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh. The artist received a French government scholarship in the early 1950s, and lived in Paris for a year, to which he returned frequently. In 1953, he first exhibited in the United States and he also moved away from the painterly styles of Dada and Surrealism and began working in mixed media. He became an informal artist, associated with the European movement known as Art Informel, and worked in a style known as pintura matèrica, in which non-artistic materials are incorporated into paintings.  The artist added clay and marble dust to his paint and used waste paper, string and rags. By the mid-1950s, Tàpies had achieved international recognition. His works were shown in major museums and galleries throughout the United States, Europe, Japan, and South America. In the 1960s, the artist incorporated new elements in his works—writing, signs, anthropomorphic elements, footprints, and references to the Catalan situation. He employed new technical methods such as new surfaces, use of everyday objects, and varnish. His work of the early 1970s is marked by symbols of Catalan identity. From around 1970, influenced by Pop Art, Tàpies began incorporating more substantial objects into his paintings such as furniture. Although his work defies clear labels, he has been associated with Tachisme and Abstract Expressionism.  The artist emphasized the raw materiality of his works and by bringing together different objects, Tàpies invokes the Surrealist technique of juxtaposition in which objects take on a new order of meaning when taken out their familiar contexts and placed together. He shares a visual vocabulary with contemporaneous Neo-Expressionist artists Francesco Clemente, Julian Schnabel, Cy Tyombly, Anselm Kiefer, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.