Fenosa, Apel·les

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Apel·les Fenosa

Sant Martí de Provençals, Barcelona, 1899

Paris, 1988


Named after the popular Catalan cartoonist and poet Apel-les Mestres, at the age of just thirteen, despite paternal opposition, he enrolled in the Barcelona School of Arts and Crafts and shortly afterwards became an apprentice in the studio of the sculptor Enric Casanovas. In 1920, to avoid military service, he left for Paris, where he frequented the cafés of Montmartre, inveigling himself in the artistic circles, and on his visits to Parisian museums he showed a great interest in Ancient Greece and Egypt. Thanks to his friend, the painter Pere Pruna, he met Picasso, who gave him guidance and bought several of his works, becoming his main patron and mentor. 

In Spain, the Catalan magazine Nou Ambient published the first article about his work, coinciding with his participation in the third Saló dels Evolucionistes in Barcelona. He returned to Barcelona in 1929 to prepare a solo exhibition at Sala Parés, and ended up staying ten years. During this period he created numerous portraits in bronze and female figures in ceramic, with a language influenced by the sculptures of the ancient Mediterranean peoples, in a not especially Noucentista variant of Mediterraneanism. In 1931 he took part in the first exhibition of Catalan painting and sculpture in Paris along with Hugué, Gargallo, Miró and Picasso, among others. 

During the Spanish Civil War he dedicated himself to the safeguarding, restoration and recovery of works of art, and was chosen to participate in the Spanish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1936. In 1939 he went into exile in Paris, which he then left after the German invasion of World War II, being forced to take refuge in Limoges, Toulouse and Marseilles. His work during these years moved away from the influence of Catalan art and its Mediterranean roots and he developed a very personal style that he projected onto the female form. 

In his second French period he again received the help of Picasso, who gave him commissions, bought his work and even posed for him, like many other intellectuals of the time, including Jorge Guillén, Paul Éluard, Tristan Tzara, Jules Supervielle and Henri Michaux

He married Nicole Damotte in 1948 and together they toured France, Belgium, Italy, England, Switzerland and Japan, countries where he collaborated with great success in a number of exhibitions, whose catalogs contain prefaces by great contemporary writers and poets.

 His first retrospective exhibition was held in Madrid in 1979. One year later, he presented a second solo exhibition at the Musée Rodin, an experience he repeated at the Virreina Palace in Barcelona in 1983 and 1984. In 1982 he was awarded the Gold Medal from the Government of Catalonia and shortly afterwards the Légion d’Honneur from the French government. These distinctions would be joined a few months before his death by the Gold. Medal of the City of Barcelona. 

Isabel Menéndez