Lest you think he was gallivanting around the Continent, here are some excerpts from his report on his research trip:
I embarked on my recent research trip with a number of related objectives. Foremost among them, I sought to familiarize myself with Pierre Daura’s oeuvre through careful study of his work in person, so that I might develop an expertise in his styles and methods. Along with my survey of Daura’s artistic production, I also undertook research specifically geared toward our upcoming exhibition, Cercle and Carré and the International Spirit of Abstract Art, and with an eye toward developing future exhibitions that would include Daura. Another goal of my trip was to make connections with staff at other institutions with significant collections of Daura’s work in order to foster future collaborations. The trip was also something of a scouting mission to help plan a Daura-related group trip for museum patrons. I am happy to report that the trip was a success on all fronts. A brief summary of each of my visits to these institutions is below, with reflections on each of these objective following.
MACBA, Barcelona: I met with Ainhoa González (registrar), who showed me the four paintings by Daura in their collection from the Cercle and Carré period. While they have not shown them recently and have no immediate plans to do so, they are enthusiastic about GMOA using them for our exhibition, and about the exhibition in general.
Artur Ramon Art, Barcelona: I met with Mònica Ramon and Artur Ramon, who showed me most of the paintings by Daura in their gallery. Although there have not been any recent sales of Daura’s paintings, Artur recently purchased a seascape by Daura from a Parisian gallery. In addition to Daura’s paintings, they also showed me a very nice port-scene by Daura’s friend Bosch Roger. There were also some other notable works on display in the gallery, including a gorgeous pastel portrait by Ramon Casas, and a series of paintings by César Paternosto (b. 1931), a contemporary Argentine artist (living and working in NYC since 1967) who I’ve been following for some time. Paternosto came out of Torres-Garcia’s constructivist School of the South, and is represented in the United States by Cecilia de Torres.
MNAC, Barcelona: I met with Teresa Guasch (paintings) and Mercè Saura (works on paper). The opportunity to study MNAC’s Daura’s paintings and their extensive collection of Daura’s works on paper was essential to me as I move forward with our various Daura projects, especially since I’m currently lacking access to our own collection. For instance, by examining prints alongside their preparatory sketches, I was able to get a much greater sense of his studio practice. This visit was also especially helpful for me to start thinking about works to include in a future Catalan landscape exhibition, and even more so for a possible Spanish Civil War exhibition—they have a large number of very powerful prints and drawings from this period. I had little time to visit the MNAC galleries, but it was enough to bring me fully on board in support of a future Ramon Casas/Santiago Rusiñol exhibition (or even just Casas).
Museu de Montserrat: Eva Buch (curator) showed me the paintings by Daura in storage and Father Laplana gave me a tour of the galleries. I had hoped also to obtain more information about the St. Ceclia prize Daura won for his Path to St. Michael’s of 1931, but I was not able to make any tangible headway there. I do think that I’ve “planted the seed” for future findings.
Museu Diocesà de Menorca, Ciutadella: I met with Gabriel Julià (director) and Rafael Portella (General Vicar) who showed me and Teresa the Daura gallery and the works by Daura in storage. While their collection of works by Daura did not offer any surprising new discoveries, since I had gotten such a good sense of his work at MNAC, this visit proved just as important for other reasons. As you know, they have the largest permanently displayed collection of Daura’s oeuvre, but lack any art professional on staff. They are interested in changing out some of the paintings and prints on display, to offer returning visitors some new works to enjoy, so Teresa and I made some suggestions for a possible reinstallation.
Musée Paul Dupuy, Toulouse: Mireille Serniguet (registrar) spent most of the day showing me Daura’s drawings, prints, and paintings on paper in their collection. As at MNAC, the size and scope of their collection helped provide me with significant insight into Daura’s work. There are a number of images that could be included in a “Catalan Landscape” exhibition. After most of the day in the print room, I also met with Jean Penent (director and head curator) and had a very nice chat. He is enthusiastic about our Daura-related projects, and asked to be kept apprised of any Daura publications we produce. He also gave me some catalogues to add to our library.
Augustins, Toulouse: Axel Hémery (director), who is very personable, showed me the works by Daura in storage. He is enthusiastic about our upcoming Daura projects and about any potential loan of the works in their collection, but there are currently no plans at the Augustins to show them. He was apologetic about not having any works by Daura on display, but pointed out their limited exhibition space for paintings.
Musée Henri Martin, Cahors: Laurent Guillaut (director) showed me the works of art and Daura artifacts in their collection, which reveal much about the artist's life in nearby St. Cirq-Lapopie.
Maison Daura, Saint Cirq-Lapopie: Martine Michard (director) gave me a tour of the building. While much changed since the family’s residency, it was useful to acquire a sense of the place, and it was a delight to view the stairwell murals. I’m not sure if the logistical considerations would be too great to overcome, but I do like the thought of some sort of artistic exchange or collaboration with Maison Daura at some point, a possibility that also interested Martine.
The full extent of the usefulness of this trip will be revealed as we move ahead with the various planned and proposed projects—as they say, “the proof is in the pudding.” I believe that the trip was absolutely essential as we plan for the reopening of the Pierre Daura Center, to include developing the finding aid that will serve to help re-announce the archive’s availability and promote its use, and developing exhibitions that will prominently feature Daura’s work. This undertaking has already served me well, as I’ve been able to offer suggestions for Heidi Gealt‘s exhibition that I would have been unable to make otherwise. In short, it allowed me to begin embracing my role as a Daura expert. The main “take-away” for me at this point involves not only the works of art themselves, but also their relationship to their subjects. I returned with a feeling of having confirmed one of my initial theses: one of the common threads among Daura’s works in diverse styles is a sense of being true to the underlying sentiment of the subject. This is never truer than in his landscapes. Clearly, this knowledge was only possible having actually visited these places.
The most important working relationship fostered by this trip was undoubtedly between Teresa Macià and me. She was a huge help in every aspect of the Spanish portion, and Menorca would have been impossible without her assistance. It was also wonderful to compare notes on Daura and Cercle et Carré. As noted above, everyone I met with was enthusiastic about our upcoming projects, and I have no doubt that they will all continue to accommodate any reasonable requests we may have. Teresa and I also talked about how nice it would be to have the Cercle et Carré exhibition tour in Europe. Given the reactions I got, this seems possible to me in terms of securing venues.
Cercle et Carré research at Bibliothèque Nationale, Bibliothèque Kandinsky, and Centre Pompidou Public Reference Library was less fruitful than I had hoped, but I was able to confirm some facts that will be necessary parts of my catalogue essay, especially concerning the public and critical response to the 1930 exhibition. The research I undertook in the Michel Seuphor archive at the Letterenhuis in Antwerp was even more useful. Largely untouched, as yet, there is a wealth of Cercle et Carré material there (correspondence, related exhibition announcements, press clippings, etc.), which will be critical for the catalogue. There are some objects (some postcards, especially) that I would like to reproduce in the catalogue, and possibly even include in the exhibition.