Pablo Gargallo (Maella, Zaragoza, 1881-Reus, Tarragona, 1934) is one of the Spanish artists that most contributes to the revival of modern sculpture. Thanks to his command of welding, he poses solutions based on curves and the arabesque. In his pieces, shapes are suggested through perimeter lines in such a way that the material and the concept of volume, gradually give way to emptiness.
Like other great artists, Gargallo uses drawing as a support for his sculptures -like in El profeta (1904) or Cabeza de Arlequín (1925) – but also as a means of expressing himself. The collection of the sixty-six drawings that make up this exhibition from nearly two hundred the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía has of the artist stands out, both in number and because it allows a journey throughout his career which develops mainly in Barcelona and Paris.
The exhibition begins chronologically with El niño del cordero (1896), a drawing which belongs to a phase in his academic training, and ends with Eco (1934), a study for a sculpture which he makes in the last days of his life. The two works exemplify the styles that motivate Gargallo to switch between a language of classicism and cutting-edge trends.
In the drawings, classical references related to the spirit of the Catalan Noucentisme are recognised, like in Toilette (1903) and Saliendo del baño (c.1909), but which also refer to the then still to-come vision of female intimacy by French painters –from Edgar Degas to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec- as pointed out by María José Salazar, curator of the exhibition.
His numerous portraits, self-portraits and anecdotal scenes drawn early in the century like Muchacho del delantal de perfil (c.1898), Autorretrato con pipa (1901) or Retrato de Alfredo Viñas (1901) share the Barcelona modernist aesthetic, generated in the art bar Els 4 Gats. Conversely, the academies of the time can be compared with more elaborate watercolours later on, where volume is achieved through masses of colour, which reflects on his status as a sculptor. Also worth noting is his shift to the academic by the return to order of the Twenties, as illustrated in his drawings Desnudo en pie (1926), Arlequín con flauta (1929), Apunte para Academia IV (1933) or Estudio para Muchacho de la playa I (1933).
The exhibition gives priority to a chronological assemblage, so the tour through portraits, nudes, and washroom scenes, dancers, harlequins and horses allow one to notice a constant in Gargallo’s work, the importance he attaches to the human figure as a generator of form.
Museo Pablo Gargallo, Zaragoza (28 abril – 12 junio, 1998)