• Joaquim Sunyer

    Sitges 1874 - 1956


    Female portrait


    Oil on canvas

    54,5 x 46 cm


    Awards and exhibitions

    1903 - Salon d'Automne, Paris

    1920 - Salon d'Automne, Paris

    1923 - Exposición de Primavera, Barcelona

    1924 - Madrid; Sala Parés, Barcelona; Salon d'Automne, Paris

    1934 - Galerías Syra, Barcelona; Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh

    1949 - Légion d'Honneur Medal, given by the french government, Paris (France).

    1952 and 1955 - Bienales Hispanoamericanas de Arte, Barcelona

    1954 - "Gran Premio a la obra y a la vida de un artista", Bienal Hispanoamericana, La Habana (Cuba).


    Collections (selection)
    Museo Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid (Spain).

    Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona (Spain).

    Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (Spain).

    Museu del Cau Ferrat, Sitges (Spain).

    Museu Maricel, Sitges (Spain).

    Museu d’Art de Montserrat (Spain).

    BBVA Collection (Spain).


    "Salons a Can Parés (1884-1930)". Barcelona, Sala Parés, 14th December 2019 - 25th February 2020.

    "Montserrat Casanova, 1909-1990. Pintora entre pintores en los años 30". Barcelona, Sala Parés, 5th March - 1st June 2020.


    Joaquim Sunyer attended the School of Arts and Crafts in Barcelona (known as La Llotja), where he was a fellow student of Mir, Nonell, Torres-Garcia and Gosé during the academic year 1894-95, a period in which he painted in the same style of the Colla del Safrà group, of which he was never formally a member.


    He drew popular scenes for the newspaper La Vanguardia in 1896, the year in which he participated in the Third Exhibition of Fine Arts in Barcelona, and he settled in Paris a little later. There he seems to have made friends with Forain and Willette and illustrated Jehan Rictus’ Les Soliloques du Pauvre (1897), Henry Fevre's Les Minutes parisiennes: 5 heures-rue du Croissant (1901) and Gustave Geffroy's Les Minutes parisiennes: 7 heures Belleville (1903), and published drawings in magazines such as Le Fureteur (1901). He specialized in street scenes and intimate interiors. He made friends with Picasso and Manolo Hugué. His style at the time was still hesitant, reflecting a number of Post-Impressionist influences.


    In 1905-06, on the initiative of the art dealer Henri Barbazanges, who wanted works with Spanish subjects, he travelled around Castile and, while in Madrid, visited the Prado Museum. He passed through his hometown, Sitges on his way back to Paris, where he exhibited in 1907. The following year and in 1909 he also exhibited in Liège, Belgium. This was also the year in which the Catalan essayist and art critic Eugeni d’Ors contacted him in Paris. During his second stay in the French capital, Sunyer met Renoir – with whom he had long conversations – as well as Modigliani, Marquet and Vázquez-Díaz, who became his neighbour. After exhibiting at the Galerie Barbazanges (1910), he returned to Sitges.


    Sunyer had rid his style of most of his former Post-Impressionist influences as he approached his Mediterranean subjects and figures, using a clear palette and a simplified canon derived from Cézanne. In Catalonia, this new style contrasted with that of the Modernista painter Isidre Nonell. The death of the latter and the great success of Sunyer’s exhibition at the Fayanç Català Galleries in 1911 quickly turned him into the leading painter in Catalonia. The Catalan poet and essayist Joan Maragall wrote a long and enthusiastic review of the exhibition for the magazine Museum, praising Sunyer’s simple, idyllic scenes, whose genuinely Catalan roots he applauded, with special praise given to the painting Pastoral (Barcelona, J. A. Maragall collection). The Noucentista movement changed its course after Sunyer’s reappearance.


    Sunyer also went to Versailles and exhibited in Munich in 1911, and the following year he stayed in the French Catalan town of Ceret, in the Vallespir region. He travelled through France and Italy, where he was impressed by the work of Signorelli. At the outbreak of the First World War, he moved to Barcelona, followed by Mallorca (1915-16) and Paris (1918). Once married, he returned to Sitges (1919). He spent the first months of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) in Provence and Italy before he moved again to Paris in 1937. Shortly after, he went to Banyuls to be near his friend, the French sculptor Aristide Maillol, not returning to Barcelona until 1942. For the last 15 years of his life, he exhibited his paintings repeatedly in Barcelona (1942, 1944, 1945, 1949, 1951, 1952 and 1955) and Madrid (1943, 1946 and 1950). In 1952 he also exhibited in Bilbao. A major retrospective of his work was held in Madrid on the centenary of his birth in 1974.


    As a painter, Sunyer is the most conspicuous representative of the Noucentisme. His almost Cubist constructivism of the 1910s gradually lost its rigidity and achieved a plain simplicity, disdainful of virtuoso displays of technique, both in his landscapes and in his typical female nudes, as well as in his portraits – breaking away from conventional portraiture – of Catalan intellectuals like Josep Maria López-Picó, Josep Maria Junoy, Gaziel, Ferran Soldevila or Jacint Raventós. He was a classic exponent of the joie de vivre of much of his contemporary Mediterranean painters.


    This portrait is part of a key period in Joaquim Sunyer's career. It is a work located at the time the painter settled permanently in Sitges, and in which he explored the luminosity of the place, both in landscapes and in portraits. Painted in 1927, the work is a good example of Sunyer's importance and commitment to everyday life and to the simple things around him. The female figure is built on the basis of a clear structure that embraces the Cézannian synthesis. Its naturalness and humanization are masterfully captured in an intimate atmosphere that Sunyer generates from a warm colour range based on pastel and earth tones. The woman darns a sock delicately and invades the composition of the painting in a blurred interior, that is only suggested through the brush and schematic strokes. Another highlight of the work is the use of the almost watery and diluted brushstroke technique that melts colours and generates pleasant chromatic transitions, whose obvious reference is the technique of Cézanne


    Joaquim Sunyer, Portrait of Cano, the painter. Oil on canvas, 100 by 68 cm.

    Museo Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.


    Joaquim Sunyer and his family, 1925


    Benet, Rafael. Sunyer. Polígrafa. Barcelona, 1974-1975, rep. p. 206, cat. 470

    Salons a Can Parés (1884-1930). Establiments Maragall. Barcelona, 2019, rep. p. 31.

    Montserrat Casanova, 1909-1990. Pintora entre pintores en los años 30. Establiments Maragall. Barcelona, 2020, rep. p. 31.