Hermen Anglada Camarasa, a masterful Catalan painter, was born in Barcelona in 1871 and died in Port de Pollença in 1959.
He absorbed modernist and, later on, post-impressionist influences. Due to his successful training, he decided to travel to Paris in 1894, where he later settled until 1914. He studied at the Julian and Colarossi academies, where he later became a teacher, and at the Vitti Academy. He was a very hard-working artist, who painted with mastery and freedom, without rest, both inside and outside the academies.
He discovered the cosmopolitan and carefree nightlife. He created his first works following the fashion of the time, painting Paris at night, music hall themes, cabaret and night scenes of gypsies, using artificial light —influenced by Degas, Toulouse, Lautrec, etc—, and portraits, especially female figures with mantillas, influenced by Sorolla and Klint. His Peruvian friend Carlos Baca-Flor, an artist from a very wealthy family, introduced him to his circle of modern artists, especially to wealthy collectors.
Anglada, with his restless character and strong personality, kept his distance from the art dealers and artistic trends of the time and created a unique and brilliant piece of work, as great masters do. He was very organized and kept his professional career under great care since he was his own art dealer. Thanks to the extensive documentation donated by his family to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, we know that he drew up a file for each of his works (describing where each one was exhibited, who purchased it, for what price, etc). He also indicated in writing which works would be exhibited in a hypothetical analogue exhibition. In addition, he collected detailed information about all the exhibitions held (newspaper articles, reviews, posters, invitations, visitors, etc).
He decided to open his own studio outside the rigid environment of the academies. It was located in Montmartre (Paris), the bohemian district. Most of his pupils were foreigners, Europeans and Latin Americans. When success came, he was invited to take part in major exhibitions all over Europe and beyond: Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Cologne, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Ghent, Moscow, Munich, Paris, Prague, Rome, Venice, Vienna and Zurich. He also won some very important awards.
In the early 1900s, a trickle of artists began to arrive in Majorca, partly due to the construction of the Gran Hotel in Palma (the most luxurious hotel in Spain at the time), designed by the modernist architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner. The decor was commissioned to Santiago Rusiñol and Joaquim Mir. They found out about the light and colour of the Serra de Tramuntana and captured it in the hotel’s huge paintings. From 1903 to 1915 Gaudí improved and remodeled part of Palma’s Gothic cathedral.
Furthermore, Anglada’s colleagues from Paris also arrived on the island: the Argentinian painters Bernareggi and Bernaldo de Quirós, the Uruguayan painter Blanes Viale, as well as other Europeans, like the German artist Mossgraber. Anglada was aware of all these visits and, during a visit to Barcelona in 1908, he came to Majorca with great interest to see what he had heard about the island’s light and landscape.
Anglada’s second visit was in 1913, when he arrived by boat along with his wife Simone Martini and his Argentinian disciples Cittadini, López Naguil, Diehl and Rodolfo Franco —and his wife—, and the Mexicans Enciso and Montenegro, all of them photographed in Cala San Vicente by Guillem Bestard. They stayed in Pollença between August and the end of November and they probably got speechless. It was the ideal place to move from the congestion of metropolitan life to a sweet and pleasant life. Anglada, in his forties, had been in Paris for almost 20 years and had reached his full artistic maturity. After settling in Port de Pollença, he gradually developed a bond that would last until the end of his life. Anglada returned to the island in the summer of 1914, after closing his studio in Paris, fleeing the First World War (1914-1918). He came along with Cittadini, Cordiviola, Nocetti, Ramaugé, and Montenegro (the Mexican artist who painted the Balearic Parliament building). They settled in Moll and Anglada immediately changed his pictorial theme and experienced a personal and artistic evolution with a clear shift towards landscape painting, which he had abandoned since 1894.
They painted au plein air, in the sunlight: the sky, the sea, the mountains, the beaches and the seabed. The group succeeded in making the Pollença landscape known inside and outside of Majorca. In Palma, they took part in joint exhibitions and provided new trends, knowledge and different pictorial practices, which were not always well received by the academicist professors of the School of Fine Arts. Others, such as Antoni Gelabert, welcomed them with open arms.
Pollença attracted many artists, but none devoted themselves as much as Anglada’s group. They contributed to the cultural, social and economic development of Pollença. We owe them rented properties, purchased houses and land, opened hotels and inns (Anglada was the first client of the Hotel Miramar), Ramaugé’s purchase and extension of the Albercutx Fortress (1919), the construction of the Hotel Formentor by Adán Diehl in 1929, etc. Anglada, Cittadini and others shared both experience and friendship with local artists: Gelabert, Bestard, Llinàs, Seguí Palou, the Menorcan Vives Llull, the Valencian Tudela, or the Catalan sculptor de Creeft, who was in charge of decorating the gardens of the Fortress.
They were an open and welcoming cosmopolitan group, and Anglada was clearly their master. They were also a multidisciplinary group, since among their friends and relatives there were writers, art critics, intellectuals, lawyers, musicians, businessmen and some members of high society. They would regularly spend periods of time at the Bay of Pollença. Ramaugé was both an artist and a patron, as he bought works by the most needy artists. These artists were welcomed by the local residents. Despite the hustle and bustle and the novelty, they were invited to participate in local festivals and activities.
During the winters they travelled to their home countries to exhibit. Anglada would spend the winters showing his work to the public who did not know him on the mainland (Madrid and Bilbao, etc). For the first time, Anglada considered exhibiting in the United States.
With so many exhibitions, the tourist promotion was huge thanks to the amount of works they had (with titles such as Majorca, Cala San Vicente, Pollença, Port de Pollença, Castillo del Rey, el Calvario or Formentor) and which were displayed in countless museums and public or private collections from Argentina to the United States, passing through Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay, and also in Germany, England, Belgium, France, Sweden and Switzerland. The island’s landscapes were exhibited in numerous exhibitions in Europe and America, promoting Majorca worldwide.
In 1918 the master Joaquín Sorolla visited Pollença and was portrayed by Guillem Bestard while he was painting Cavall Bernat. Between 1917 and 1936, other Hispanic American artists arrived on the island, such as Castellanos, Vecchioli, Pinto, Riccio, Bellini and Montesinos, attracted by the phenomenon of the “Pollensian School”.
Time passes and master Anglada turns sixty. The influence of the European avant-garde in the thirties and onwards pushed Anglada’s work into the background in Europe. But in South America, where he had been known since 1910, and in North America, he remained a first-rate artist, holding exhibitions in Washington in 1924, and in New York in 1925 and 1926.
On 18 July 1936, at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Anglada was in Barcelona and was granted the protection of the Generalitat de Catalunya. They allowed him to live in the monastery of Montserrat, where he kept painting landscapes of the surrounding area. In January 1939 he left for France (where he also lived through World War II). He lived there until 1948, when he got the papers to return to his house in Majorca, confiscated during the Civil War.
At the age of 78 and after living through two wars in 10 years, he longed for the serenity and calm that Pollença provided, until he left us in 1959.
Although at first sight it may seem that Anglada’s painting looks hastily produced, it is in fact layered and well crafted, full of high quality and richness.
His work is also notable for its underwater motifs. He was the first to paint rich and colourful seabeds, using the fauna and flora found in Majorca at the beginning of the 20th century. He was a good swimmer and enjoyed diving, so he could observe, underwater, an infinite number of plants, fish, rocks and other fauna that fed his inspiration. Initially, he developed a curious technique for painting by attaching mirrors to long rods, allowing him to draw from a llaut (a vessel). Later on, he suggested placing a large pane of glass at the bottom of his boat to get a better view of the seabed. He would go by boat to find a place they liked, and then paint it with devotion.
In 1967 his family decided to turn his house into a private museum. In 1991, the Fundación La Caixa acquired the museum’s entire collection. With the acquisition of the modernist building of the Gran Hotel in Palma as the headquarters of CaixaForum Palma, they decided to dedicate part of the building to his works. Periodical exhibitions of his collection are held there, among other activities.
It is essential to know the work of this brilliant painter, the most successful Catalan of his generation, and his work should be preserved and disseminated by the different art museums of Majorca, especially in Pollença, where he used to live and where his daughter Beatriu and his granddaughters still live nowadays. Also, we appreciate and are grateful to the digital museum KAIROI ART for their dedication, a task that is hardly recognised yet. Thank you KAIROI ART for dedicating this virtual exhibition to this artist, with some of his works.
The work of the great artist Anglada Camarasa has an infinite richness and represents a legacy of great value to our island. At the same time, it represents a valuable treasure for current and future generations, who will be able to enjoy the beauty of his work and his great artistic quality.
Aina Aguiló – Art historian