Born to a middle class liberal Catalan family of lawyers, Antoni Tàpies began studying law at the University of Barcelona in 1943, but abandoned his studies three years later to devote himself to drawing and painting. A self-taught artist, his career unfolded in close connection with the social concerns of each period, philosophy and music.
In 1946, he met Joan Brossa, who introduced him to the work of Klee and Barcelona cultural and artistic life.One year later, he showed his work for the first time at the Salón de Otoño. A few months later, he founded the magazine Dau al Set, the main vehicle for disseminating the ideas of the eponymous artistic group of the Catalan avant-garde. In 1950, he had his first solo exhibition at Galeries Laietanes in Barcelona and participated with a work in the Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Painting, sponsored by the Carnegie Institute. He also received a grant to study in Paris.
He traveled to Belgium and Holland and, in 1951, returned to live in the Catalan capital. At this time, he had his second solo exhibition at Galeries Laietanes, which met with limited success. He then met Bender Kinland, who invited him to show his work in Chicago in 1952, the year in which he also exhibited twenty works at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York.Both exhibitions signaled the beginning of the popularity of his work in the United States. During this period, a dreamlike magical quality and the use of triangles, squares and semicircles, along with distorted letters, continued to be present in his work.
This was followed by the first accolades of his career. As a result, he exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1956 and 1958, and was awarded first prize in the São Paulo Biennial in 1953, the Prize from the Republic of Colombia at the Third Hispano-American Biennial in 1955 and the UNESCO award in 1958.
In the sixties and seventies, he introduced into his compositions a wide range of elements from daily life, such as ropes and straw, along with an anthropomorphic motif in the form of hands and feet.He used all kinds of materials, including foam rubber, aerosol and varnishes.In the eighties, his work was characterized by asymmetry, curved forms, stains, the use of varnish and the return to figurative suggestions.In 1981, he created his first large-format ceramic sculptures, assisted by the German ceramicist Hans Spinner.
In 1990, Fundación Tàpies, whose collection consists of works donated by Teresa and Antoni Tàpies, opened in Barcelona. That same year, the artist was named an honorary academic member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando. He was also awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for the Arts and, in Tokyo, the Praemium Imperiale for painting. In 2003, he was awarded the Velázquez Visual Arts Prize.