The sculptures on the roof of the Trinxeria house, in Cassà de la Selva (Gironès), protected as Cultural Asset of Local Interest, whose ownership was unknown, are the work of Enric Clarasó. The sculptural decoration of the first floor of the Cau Ferrat, in Sitges, the sculptures of Saints José and Antonio Abad in the church of the monastery of Sant Cugat and those of the Virgen de la Merced and of Jesus and the children, of the asylum of Barranquilla, Colombia. These are three examples of the various discoveries of Professor Isabel Coll Mirabent after years of research that she now publishes in her book Enric Clarasó. Sculptor. A volume that combines a long biography with a first catalog raisonné that includes up to 318 works out of the nearly 800 originals that Clarasó would have made.
“It can be said that Enric Clarasó converted to Catholicism after his marriage to Pilar Serrat, a very Catholic woman, and for this reason and because of his prestige he received numerous commissions for works for religious schools , churches and monasteries. But in 1936, at the start of the civil war, many of these works were destroyed,” explains Isabel Coll. And yet, in his book, he reports up to 110 religious images from his workshop, with a presence in the cathedral and the church of La Mercè, in Barcelona, in the monastery of Montserrat or in the sanctuary of Loyola, as well as in many religious schools, especially in Catalonia. It also brings together 54 funerary sculptures, respected during the popular revolution of 1936, with works as well known as El Ángel, from the pantheon of the Rusiñol brothers; Pain, on the tomb of Ernest Niquet; the pantheon of the painter Joan Mir or the Memento homo, in the tomb of Joan Vial, all four in the cemetery of Montjuïc, although there are also cemeteries in other cemeteries in Granollers, Vilassar de Dalt, Terrassa, Santa Coloma de Cervelló, Cardedeu, Manlleu, Zaragoza, Jumella or Novelda.
‘Faded Flower’ sculpture, exhibited in Barcelona, Madrid and Chicago broke on return boat
A separate case of a destroyed work is that of the desiccated Flor sculpture. Enric Clarasó’s stay in Paris marks a change in his sculptures, strongly influenced by Albert Bartholomé and Auguste Rodin. According to Isabel Coll, the fruit of her attraction to Rodin and other contemporary sculptors are “nudes that move away from any voluptuous idea”, perfectly reflected in Flor flétri, made in 1892, of which no photograph has been preserved. The critic Raimon Casellas, who saw it in Clarasó’s studio, described it thus in an article in La Vanguardia: “It is simply the reclining body of a young woman, almost a girl, folded on her knees, curled up, twisted in a nervous movement contraction of anguish and stupor”. Clarasó presented this sculpture for the first time in the Parés room and later in Madrid, where he changed the name and presented it as Chopped Capullo. Thanks to the support of the sculptor Lluís Llimona, who faced the rest of the jury who rejected him on the pretext of an alleged French style, he won a third class medal at the Fine Arts exhibition. In 1893 he sent it to the World’s Fair in Chicago, but on the return trip by boat the box in which this sculpture and others were located had an accident and broke. It could not be recovered and there are no images left.
Another of the missing works are the plaster and wood decorations of the ephemeral triumphal arches that were built for the 1888 World’s Fair, such as the one that was placed on the Gran Via for the entrance of the Queen Regent and d ‘Alfonso XII in Barcelona. The bas-relief that adorns the Arc de Triomf in Passeig de Sant Joan, entitled The Parade of Nations, survives although other authors have attributed it to Josep Reynés. Among the works in public buildings, the allegorical group La veritat i la justícia also stands out, in the old courthouse in Pamplona, now the seat of the regional parliament, and the monument to Jaume I in Palma de Mallorca.
“Clarasó -explains the author- made a first trip to Paris with Rusiñol in 1889 for only 15 days but on his return a certain change is already perceptible with less historicist sculptures, so to speak, now more concerned with expressing feelings than to reflect details of the folds of the dresses. But it was the following year, after a longer stay, that the influence of Rodin and other sculptors around him made itself felt”. a selection of 82 letters from different artists addressed to Clarasó is published, and one of them is from Rodin who sends him photographs to be published in the pages of the magazine Pèl i Ploma.
Isabel Coll drew on exhibition catalogs from the end of the 19th century, particularly in Paris, and found similarities with other sculptors. Thus, L’última fulla is a nude close to Biblis, by Alexandre-Jacques Chantron. Just like Desconsol, by Josep Llimona, he seems to be inspired by Albine, by Tixier, all works from 1899.
Rusiñol was literate and the friendliest, Casas the best and Clarasó the most discreet and familiar
Clarasó does not stay in Paris, he is homesick for his family, his wife, his children, his father who soon falls ill. Nor did he follow his friends Rusiñol and Casas on their road trips through Catalonia. Clarasó, Rusiñol and Casas, who exhibited together in the Parés room with great success, formed a very popular artistic triumvirate. And a great friendship was forged between them. Rusiñol’s first collection of horseshoes was in Clarasó’s workshop in Barcelona, and can be considered the embryo of the future Sitges Cau Ferrat, already promoted alone by Rusiñol. And it was Clarasó who also introduced Casas to Rusiñol. “Of the three – explains Coll – the ‘boss’ was Rusiñol, because he was the nicest, the one who wrote literature, even though Casas was the best, the one who broke all the stratagems. Clarasó was a great sculptor, but he was a very calm and familiar man. He himself had once said, “What would I like more than to be independent,” referring indirectly to the freedom enjoyed by his two friends. And sometimes he also had to do more commercial work.”
In Enric Claraso. Sculptor the presence of the artist is attested in some museums. like his piece Eva, at the MNAC, or La venedora de diaris and Resant at the Biblioteca Museu Víctor Balaguer, in Vilanova i la Geltrú. But for Isabel Coll, “sculpture does not have the consideration of painting. And that is why Clarasó is relatively little known. And that’s why Catalonia hasn’t seen a major sculpture exhibition for years. I guess partly also because of the difficulty of transporting the parts. But there aren’t many studies either. And this despite the great beauty that there is in the sculpture”. Although he acknowledges that this is not just a recent problem. Years ago, the Clarà sculpture museum in Barcelona was lost. Not exclusive to Catalonia. In Paris, the Aristides Maillol museum has known and is going through serious difficulties. “Sculpture is the poor brother of art,” he adds.