Hugué, Manolo

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Manolo Hugué

Barcelona, 1872

Caldes de Montbui, Barcelona, 1945


Following the travels of his poverty-stricken childhood, Manuel Martínez Hugué returned to his native Barcelona, where he began his artistic training at the La Llotja School of Fine Arts. He combined his studies with an apprenticeship in the foundry workshop of Masriera i Campins, the workshop of image-makers José Flores and Torcuato Tasso, and the studio of sculptor Eusebi Arnau. This was the start of a bohemian stage of his life at the edges of the establishment, when he frequented the social gatherings at the Els Quatre Gats tavern and made friends with other artists such as Rusiñol, Mir, Nonell and Picasso

Around 1900 he went to Paris where he stayed for about ten years, becoming part of the Bateau Lavoir circle of artists. He was an assiduous visitor to the Louvre, paying particular attention to sculptures from Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece. His style was influenced by the circles in which he moved, and was enriched by various aesthetic movements: Symbolism, Mediterranean Classicism, Noucentisme, Fauvism and Cubism. Influenced by his friend Paco Durrio, he designed Modernist jewelry while at the same time continuing to paint and sculpt However, his main sculptural output took place as a result of his first stay in Céret in 1910, where he coincided with many other artists such as Juan Gris, Sunyer and Picasso

Thanks to contact with the art dealer Kahnweiler, he managed to secure a contract and access to avantgarde exhibitions, such as the International Exhibition of Modern Art at The Armory Show in New York. At that time he increased his iconographic repertoire and in addition to peasants, bullfighters and dancers, his prototype feminine figures appeared, based on a robust, rotund and simple woman, qualities that were very different from the prevalent aesthetic trends in Paris at that time. 

At the outbreak of the First World War he returned to Barcelona, where he remained until the end of the conflict. He settled once again in Céret between 1919 and 1927, the period of his greatest creative splendor. His sculptural work deserves a special mention, although he also continued to paint, generally small-format works characterized by their vibrant and personal color palette similar to Fauvism, constructivist effects reminiscent of Cézanne, and the symbolist license typical of Gauguin. During this period he also produced his main graphic work and concurrently developed his literary side, writing several poems that won considerable acclaim. 

Suffering from ankylosing polyarthritis, which forced him to remain bedridden, he decided to return to Catalonia in 1927, settling in Caldes de Montbui until the end of his days. In these final years, he combined painting with sculpture, establishing an essential bond with nature and considering the human figure as an integral part of it, a typical feature of Noucentista classicism. His work was shown at several international exhibitions and he was named an Academician of the San Jorge Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Barcelona in 1932. 

Isabel Menéndez