Awards & Collections
1888 - Exposición Universal de Barcelona. Second medal
1891 - Exposición General de Bellas Artes, Barcelona
1892 - Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes, Madrid. Third medal
1896 - III Exposición de Bellas Artes e Industrias Artísticas, Barcelona. Second medal
1907 - V Exposición de Bellas Artes e Industrias Artísticas, Barcelona. Second medal
1910 - Exposition Universelle et Internationale de Bruxelles. Second medal
Museo Nacional de Arte de Cataluña, Barcelona
Museo Municipal de Tossa de Mar, Girona
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Fundación Sa Nostra, Caixa de Balears, Palma de Mallorca
Sala Barrau, Santa Eulària des Riu, Ibiza
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de Cuba, La Habana
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires
Museo de Bellas Artes, Montevideo
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Río de Janeiro
Palacio de la Generalitat de Catalunya, Barcelona (Mural painting)
Laureano Barrau was born in 1863 into a large family of the Barcelona bourgeoisie. He began his artistic training at the Escuela de la Llotja (Fine Arts School), where he was a disciple of Antoni Caba and Claudi Lorenzale. In 1882 he travelled to Madrid, to study the paintings of the great Spanish masters in the Museo del Prado (Prado Museum). The following year he moved to Paris where Jean-Léon Gérôme, one of the most renowned academic artists, facilitated access to the National School of Fine Arts. In the French capital he coincided with Ramon Casas, with whom he shared his first trip through Spain, and was particularly fascinated by the Andalusian cities of Seville and Granada.
Although Rome was no longer part of the artists’ training itinerary, Barrau dreamed of training according to the classic, traditional canons. Therefore, when he was twenty-one and was awarded the Premi Fortuny (Fortuny award), granted by the Barcelona City Council, he stayed in the Eternal City for a long time to study the old masters. Later, he spent three months travelling in Morocco, following in the footsteps of Mariano Fortuny, the true artistic myth of his generation. In 1889 he returned to Paris, where he coincided with Ignacio Zuloaga and other Spanish artists living there. Among them, Barrau was mainly influenced by the Catalan Francesc Miralles, a portraitist of the Parisian bourgeoisie.
The painter alternated his stays in Paris with various trips, but a recurring destination was Olot, capital of the Catalan region of La Garrotxa, where many painters of the time – from Vayreda to Rusiñol – spent time to get closer to nature. Barrau progressively departed from the historical and social themes of his first works, developing landscapes with figures of rural naturalism, inspired by Jean-François Millet, and related to the social realism of Dionís Baixeras.
1899 is a key year in his artistic career, when he moved from Paris to Caldes d’Estrac (Barcelona). The change from the lively French capital to the small town of the Maresme was remarkable: the contrast between the greyish cloudy skies of the north and the luminous vivacity of the Mediterranean coast is reflected in his works. His seascapes with figures have a strong relationship with the works of Joaquín Sorolla, sharing an intense light. An exemplary work of this era is El baño (Bathing), painted in Caldes d’Estrac in 1909 and acquired by the French government at the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (Salon of the National Society for Fine Arts) for the Musée du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Museum) (currently in Dakar, at the former Palace of the General Government of French West Africa).
Barrau maintained dynamic exhibition activity throughout his life: from 1887 he exhibited regularly in Barcelona, in Sala Parés and in the Galerías Layetanas, as well as in Madrid and Paris. However, his goal was to achieve wide international recognition: so, following in Sorolla’s footsteps, he began to travel in the Americas. In 1909 he travelled to Argentina where he contacted the artistic promoter José Artal, and afterwards he exhibited in Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Río de Janeiro, São Paulo and New York. He also participated continuously in the Paris Salons: before the war of 1914 he participated thirty times with a total of seventy-nine works, which defines him as one of the most international Catalan painters of the time.
In 1911, with a solid artistic career and a well-defined personal language, the painter moved definitively to Ibiza, captivated by the light, colours and customs of the island and in search of the serenity necessary to continue his work.
Framing the figure of Laureano Barrau in a specific artistic current of his time is an arduous mission. Despite his inevitable bond with the Modernist artists of the time, his painting is hardly associated with this school, with which he himself marks a distance. A lover of sober naturalism and loyal to academic art, Barrau limited himself to moderate innovations in more conventional art circles.