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Monday, July 10, 2017

Maties Palau Ferré

Montblanch 1921 - 2000 Vista de Montblanch,
Matias Palau Ferré
Most people are rational beings. That is to say, we have sound, logical reasons for what we say and do. The same is mostly true of artists, though their reasoning and their resultant works of art may, at times, follow a more convoluted path than that of less creative types. However, having said that, artists (and certain Presidents) may be more prone to irrational thoughts and actions than the average man or woman on the streets. We tend not to think in straight lines, which not only sets us apart creatively from "most people," but sometimes causes us to be self-destructive, or at least to act in ways that are adverse to our own best interest. This brings to mind Vincent van Gogh and any number of other artists who were suicidal. But in most cases its more like the artist cutting off his or her nose (or ear) to spite their face.

Montblanch, 1972, Maties Palau
Although the verdict is still out as to the current White House tenant, such is not the case with the irrational behavior of Spanish (Catalan, actually) artist, Maties (or Mathias) Palau Ferre (Palau Ferre, unhyphenated, was his family name). Imagine, if you will, a painter who, for a time, burned his paintings as soon as they were completed. We might ponder, perhaps even excuse such irrational behavior if there was some underlying theme or intended message involved. That was mostly not the case with Palau Ferre; he was simply being spiteful.

Palau Ferre was equally at home working in several media.
Maties Palau, was born in the province of Tarragona in 1921. He limited his painting and sculpture to a naïve form of Cubism and colorism. During his youth, on one of his trips to Paris, he became friends with Pablo Picasso, who did not hesitate to recognize him as a disciple. The work of Palau Ferré is in a figurative expressionist style, with constructive elements of Cubism, Fauvism, and graphics. His color is taken from the basics: the red, yellow and blue. It is characterized by a predominance of vivid colors in both oils, in Chinese inks, or ceramics. In his last creative phase, red has been most widely used in all the different possible manners--the color of fire, and life provides its own personality.

Maternity, Maties Palau Ferre
The figure of Palau Ferré became most famous, and controversial, during twenty years when he systematically burned all his paintings as a protest against the "prostitución of the artes" by art dealers and galleries. This practice began in 1974 as a result of a judgment of the Spanish Supreme Court which recognized as legitimate a one-sided contract with a dealer who Palau Ferre never named. The contract referred only to their oil paintings, so the artist developed a special technique with ink on a thick paper which he manufactured and which gave him, great popularity in the United States. In May of 1974, the high court ruled he should pay the debt owed the dealer by painting a certain number of square meters of oils. Palau Ferre painted them, obeying the court, between 1974 and 1985. Then spitefully burned them all as a measure of protest. Until after 1989 he was not allowed to exhibit his work. During this time, he exhibited only at non-commercial galleries or museums. He did not paint with oil but instead, began to using Chinese ink (above).

Ceramic Bowl, Maties Palau Ferre
Somehow, the ashes of some of his paintings came to light in Pennsylvania, saved from being scattered in the Francolí River as it was the custom of the artist. During the twenty years during which Palau incinerated his works, he continued to spread his art widely to close friends, to non-commercial exhibitions, and in collaborating with organizations such as Amnesty International. After Palau Ferre's death, on January 1st, 2000, the city of Montblanc named him favorite son of the village, then later gave his name to a street of the town. Montblanc also houses the Palace Museum of Art Ferré, which was opened in 2001.

Harlequin, Maties Palau Ferre


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