signed, titled and dated Paris XI.85 on the reverse
mixed media on canvas
Galerie Bischofberger, Zurich
Private Collection, London
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
LITERATURE AND REFERENCES
Exhibition Catalogue, Barcelona, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Miquel Barcelo 1987-1997, 1998, p. 248, illustrated
Exhibition Catalogue, Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Miquel Barceló, Obra sobre papel 1979-1999, 1999, p. 324, illustrated in colour
Barceló: Photographs by Jean Marie del Moral, Göttingen 2003, p. 20, illustrated in colour
Bristling with energy and with a beautiful textural surface reflecting the nature of the still life elements cast before the viewer, Bodegon Chinois avec Buda, painted in 1985, is a compact masterpiece overflowing with historical references. The palpable warmth of the assembled objects, masterfully composed over the large canvas, offers a visual feast and demonstrates Barceló's skills as a still-life painter in the deep tradition of both Spanish and French masters.
During 1984, Barceló returned to Paris from a four month trip to Portugal and established his studio in an old church. From here he launched sorties to the Louvre, executing a series of paintings on this cultural landmark whilst soaking up the treasures on its walls. It is these which leave such a resonant mark on the current work linking it so strongly to the tradition of Orientalisme particularly manifest in late nineteenth century French painting, and only underlining the importance of cultural tourism so prevalent in Barceló's working methods.
Emile Zola and Edouard Manet were pivotal in introducing their contemporaries to the wonders of Far Eastern art and there are very specific references in key paintings such as Manet's celebrated portrait of Zola. Barceló doubtless saw this pivotal image in the Musée d'Orsay and understood the compulsion of other artists such as Gauguin to make literal references to other, less familiar cultures. In Still-Life with Parrots of 1902 (fig. 1), for example, Gauguin presents his own still life under the watchful gaze of a Buddha or Tahitian deity, comparable in prominence to Barceló's own Buddha in the present work. Similarly, the influence of the Nabis painters, specifically Bonnard and Vuillard, is discernable in the way the cat in the lower right corner, so often a talisman for artists, is schematised with its tale seductively curled on the studio floor. The depiction is a direct reference to an appreciation and influence of Japanese print makers, specifically Kitagawa Utamaro (fig. 2).
Barceló's development in the early 1980s was characterised by research into, and a dialogue on, from, around and against the cultural legacy he grew up with: the western, Mediterranean tradition with which he maintains an intense, passionate, conflictual relationship, continually oscillating between homage and rejections. This dialogue and struggle often produced works dominated by explicit references to the major issues and technical challenges of classical painting - composition, perspective, the treatment of light - in a constant reappropriation and re-elaboration of the history of art.
In Bodegon Chinois avec Buda Barceló thoroughly explores composition, perspective, colour, light, material and texture, coming to command all these with an indisputable mastery. Barceló here becomes a sieve for all the great art of the past presenting it here with renewed vitality and technical virtuosity.