Exhibition title: PORTRAITS

Exhibition time: from March 12th to May 10th 2020

Place: Museu de Badalona

“The desire of the human being to contemplate himself through the interpretation of his own image seems to be part of the oldest impulses of humanity, and the art of individual portraiture is one of the most universally present artistic activities of all time. time”. This observation, taken from Galienne and Pierre Francastel’s book, The Portrait (originally published in French in 1969), is still valid today.

In fact, since immemorial times, the portrait has almost always been present in the history of fine art. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and, above all, the Romans have bequeathed us many works of this genre, whose practice declined during the High Middle Ages, very focused on religion, to be taken up again in the Gothic era, which is often introduced in altarpieces religious the image of the donor or donors, although sometimes with disproportionately small measures. The Renaissance will usher in a golden age of individual portraiture, often emphasizing the face, and it will become a fully established genre.

Since the end of the 18th century, with romanticism, the idea that the artist should turn his works into a personal expression gains ground to the detriment of genre painting, where the theme has more prominence than the author wants to express. This fact, as well as the emergence of photography in the 19th century, will lead to a profound rethinking of painting. In this context, the poet Charles Baudelaire will break a spear in favor of the portrait: he certainly qualifies it as a modest genre, but he also says that it requires a great deal of intelligence on the part of the creator, since it is not enough to reproduce what he sees, but he must also show what hides behind the face of the painter.

Finally, in the 20th century, avant-garde movements transformed the concept of portraiture to the point that, as Galienne and Pierre Francastel point out, the definition of the term was changed from being “the reproduction of the image of ‘a person’ to ‘an evocation of certain aspects of one character seen by another’.

The portrait, so that, tells us a lot about the person portrayed, but also about the artist and the context in which it was made. For this reason, from the Museum of Badalona we have found it interesting to offer an exhibition on this genre, which brings together works of painting and drawing (all related in some way to our city) mostly from the Museum’s Art Fund as well as others donated generously by individuals and entities, to whom the Museum expresses its gratitude.

The works exhibited cover the period from the last years of the 19th century to the beginning of the 21st century and therefore allow us to observe several styles and trends. Different types of works can also be compared. Thus, there are the official (often posthumous) portraits, in which the characters are perfectly recognizable, but tend to appear quite distant and expressionless. Private portraits, on the other hand, tend to be more real and vivid, which is noticeable even when we have no reference to the person portrayed. You can also see how, over time, the way of making portraits changes: from the more conventional ones of the 19th century, which are often made from photographs and seek to match realism, to freer formulas, in which the artist has been able to transfer his personal style to the work. There are still other interesting aspects reflected in this exhibition: the relationship between the painter and the portrayed, the artist seen by another artist and the artist seen by himself (self-portrait). A whole world, then, that offers us a great wealth of elements to observe and reflect on, but also simply to enjoy.


PRODUCTION: Museu de Badalona

DIRECTION: Margarida Abras

DOCUMENTATION AND TEXTS: Margarida Abras, M. Dolors Nieto and Mireia García


LAYOUT: Lluís Andú

ASSEMBLY: Jamal Bissane and Francisco Ruiz

COMUNICATION: Esther Espejo and Núria Sadurní



Anna M. Gassió Subirachs
Josep Santilari Perarnau
Pere Santilari Perarnau
Gabriel Pinós (Gosthsland Gallery-Barcelona)
Catholic Circle