Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Josep Renau - An exhibition at Octubre

Las Arenas, the beach of Valencia
War Poster
Picasso's Guernica - commissioned by Benau for the 1937 World's Fair in Paris

There is a fascinating exhibition at the Octubre Gallery/Arts Centre (C/Sant Ferran 12, 46001 Valencia), Josep Renau is someone you will probably never have heard of directly.

Born in 1907 in Valencia he was an Illustrator, Muralist and, in his latter years made a series of surreal photo montages.

His early years were devoted to magazine and poster illustration, beautiful graphic works. He joined the communist party in 1931 and at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, began producing images for the Republican side. He became director of the museum of Bellas Artes and his main work there was to safeguard the art treasures throughout the Civil War (It is said that not one Art treasure was lost during the war) and it was he that commissioned what is arguably Picasso's most famous work 'Guernica' a mural which decorated the Spanish Pavilion at the 1937 World's Fair in Paris and depicts the bombing of the town of Guernica and was Picasso's protest against Franco and Fascism.

He fled, with thousands of others across the border into France when Barcelona fell and was interned in an Algerian Refugee Camp until he was able to get a visa to work in Mexico in 1939 where he worked on Spanish magazines and murals.

In 1958 he moved to Berlin and continued to paint, make murals and photo montages. He lived in Berlin till his death in 1982, though after Franco's death in 1976 he was to visit Valencia several times and bequeathed his works to the Josep Benau Foundation which is now housed at Valencia's Modern Art Museum IVAM.

This is a great opportunity to see some fine works by this fascinating man. Unless we missed them on our visit some of his earlier Valencian Magazine work or Posters, though they appear in the leaflet of the exhibition. The Centre has captions and information that is only in Castellano/Catalan and Valenciano. It is a nice space and has a bar/café where people were enjoying what looked to be very good food.

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