Modest Cuixart


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Spanish painter, born in Barcelona. In his early career, he was known as Modesto Cuixart, the Catalan form of his name being problematic because of Franco's ban on the public use of the language. He began a course in medicine at Barcelona University in 1944. In 1947 he abandoned this to devote himself to painting, having already exhibited his work with some success, and in 1948 he became a founder member of Dau al Set alongside his cousin Antoni Tàpies. He painted in the Surrealist manner favoured by the group, though with anticipations of expressive abstraction, and by the mid-1950s he was working in an Art Informel style. Like Tàpies he was very concerned with textural qualities, adding grit and straw to his canvases. In the mid-1960s his paintings began to assume a more mystical character, sometimes incorporating real objects such as lacerated dolls attached to the surface of the canvas. Although he never went into complete exile during the Franco regime, he spent much of his time in France after the dictator had tried to exploit his success by describing him as ‘our contemporary Goya’. Cuixart himself maintained that the textures of his paintings conveyed the feel of the civil war and its aftermath, although Time magazine accused him of making ‘despair chic’ with ‘elegant mud pies’, a characteristic American denigration of European art during the height of Abstract Expressionism. Cuixart received the award for best painter at the São Paulo Bienal in 1959. There is a museum devoted to his work in Barcelona.

Further Reading

P. Davison, obituary The Guardian (15 November 2007)

Subjects: Art.

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