Thursday, November 21, 2013

Antoni Clave: To the Print Victor

Antoni Clavé (1913 – 2005) whose career spanned all plastic art forms, and whose designs were also nominated for two Academy Awards, was one of Spain’s most celebrated artists.

He briefly studied at Escuela de Artes y Oficios in Barcelona, and then went to work at a design firm called Cinaes, designing cinema posters. Additionally, he worked for a children's magazine and designed advertising posters. During the Spanish Civil War, Clavé was a draughtsman for the Republican government but emigrated to France at the end of the war. He was sent to an internment camp at Les Haras camp in Perpignan. Clavé then settled in Paris in 1939, drawing comics and working as an illustrator.
In the 1940s Clavé's painting style became visibly influenced by the works of painters and printmakers like Bonnard, Vuillard, Rouault and Picasso, whom he met in 1944. He split his time between the fine arts and design for much of his career, but in the 1950s he devoted himself to painting. His work at that time became more abstract and enigmatic; inspired by graffiti and collaging with newspaper and other textures. Three years later Clavé was designing carpets and in the 1960s he also did bas reliefs, assemblages and wood sculptures.
Clave’s stylistic sensibility began with a sort of lyrical abstraction and it moved toward a pure, minimal format. In the early 1980s Clavé created a series called "Hommage à Picasso”. Clavé's images were scenes of melancholic, yet tranquil domesticity, strangely child-like figures, with the odd clown/harlequin thrown in for good measure. The influence of Picasso and Rouault is most prevalent, and he effectively uses overlays of rich color to create beautifully textured works.
On the flipside of his career, Clave’s theatrical designs appeared on stages worldwide, as well as in numerous films. His works include sets for opera, theater, and ballet, most notably for Roland Petit's ballet company, including Carmen (1949). From 1946 Clavé did numerous designs for ballet and theatre in Paris, Munich, London and New York; in the 1950s he turned to book illustration. In 1952 his work in film was nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design) for Hans Christian Andersen.
In 1965 Clavé moved to the South of France, near Saint-Tropez where he lived the rest of his life. The grab-ya of Clave’s work is that instant visual connection with the work of his friend Picasso, yet Clave’s images have more density, more richness, whereas we see in Picasso’s work the speed and fury of that artist’s brush. The story of the tortoise and the hare come to mind when comparing the two artists, and to my mind Clave is clearly the victor. For all of you collectors out there, Clave’s work is reasonably priced and you’d do well to get a few of his prints while they are still plentiful.
His work is displayed in many museums, including:
Several one-man shows in museums and galleries in Zurich, Barcelona, Paris and Tokyo
The British Museum, London
1978 Centre Pompidou Musée d'Art Moderne, Paris
Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao
Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid
Museum of Modern Art, Paris
Museo Patio Herreriano de Valladolid, Spain
National Museum of Serbia
Tate Gallery, London
1984 Venice Biennale Spanish pavilion was dedicated to Clavé

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