PEP COLOMER, DECORATOR AND ILLUSTRATOR

M. Lluïsa Faxedas

 

Despite the fact that the figure of Pep Colomer has been known and recognised above all for his work as a painter, the fact remains that his main professional job was that of interior decorator, work that he developed firstly in a team along with his friend, Francesc Gallostra, also a painter, during the nineteen-thirties, and later alone, during the period after the Civil War. This facet of his work, while known, has not been specifically studied until now. This text thus aims to be the first approach to the subject, in which we will try to gather the information that has been obtained on the matter, as well as outline a certain aesthetic route of the artist’s production in this field. We will also speak of Colomer the illustrator and designer, an activity he worked in more commercially before the war through his decoration studio, complementing it with a more personal dedication to political illustration.

Colomer’s interest in the world of decoration is not only connected to the need, quite legitimately, to make a living in order to pursue an artistic career which, in his youth just like today, would not offer many professional perspectives, and less for whoever decided to settle and work in a city such as Girona. Just as his academic studies show, the interest in decorative arts arose very early on in his career.[1] The decision to further his studies in the Belgian capital specifically shows a very clear interest in the world of decorative arts, since Brussels had been one of the European benchmark cities in this field since the late-19th century, if not the most important, above all due to its connection with the style we know as Art Nouveau, leading figures of which were the architects Victor Horta, who was head of the Royal Academy that Colomer attended; Henry van de Velde, architectural and decorative arts theoretician, or the Viennese Josef Hoffmann, who in fact left in Brussels one of the key works of the movement, the extraordinary Palais Stoclet.

Nevertheless, in 1930, when Colomer arrived in Belgium with another painter, Martí Adroher, and with whom Francesc Gallostra would later join them, Art Nouveau was already a style of the past. The decisive event to surpass the omnipresence of this aesthetic that had flooded Europe since the turn of the century had been the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, which took place in Paris in 1925, a show in which Le Corbusier presented his Pavillon de l’Esprit Nouveau, an authentic prefiguration of the architecture and decorative arts of the future. Although the other contributions to the exhibition were a long way off anything that was as avant-garde, the express prohibition to present pieces that imitated or repeated any style of the past (that is, the strict negation of historicism) meant that as a whole the show, in which a large number of Belgian artists took part, would become a shop window for the very latest ideas in the sphere of decoration and architecture, which to a large extent corresponded to the style we now know as Art Deco. This is not the place to discuss what the defining characteristics of this style are, what its theoretical base was (if it had one), even less so to describe its formal variants, but the truth is that Art Deco is the style we identify today with the architecture and decorative arts of the interwar years, a conception of everyday objects that combined modernity and functionality, simplicity and ornamentation, from a new viewpoint, free of prejudice and which in some way announced what we would end up knowing as the Modern Movement.

Colomer’s stay in Brussels—in fact quite short: he was just over a year there, and Gallostra, about eight months—therefore offered the young artists from Girona the opportunity to discover first-hand the most recent European innovations in the field of architecture and decorative arts. It is a pity we do not have much information about either the teachers with whom he studied or his activities during this period. Despite events such as in February 1931, when Colomer, Gallostra and Adroher were elected board members of the culture commission of the new Catalan Centre of Brussels, suggesting that perhaps they had been thinking of a longer stay, the fact is that in early April that same year they had already returned to Girona. It is quite possible that this return had something to do with the turmoil of political events that the country was experiencing a few days before the proclamation of the Republic. What is clear is that Colomer and Gallostra did not waste time, and immediately put their plan into practice to form a company and establish themselves as interior decorators and graphic designers in a studio at number 10 Ronda Ferran Puig. On the 30 April of the same year they published in the L’Autonomista newspaper what we could consider their first job as graphic artists, to be precise an advertisement for the OIC publicity company in Nou del Teatre St. in Girona (cat. no. 695).

If in the context of Girona the persona and work of Pep Colomer was maintained over the years, although with ups and downs, giving him a certain presence which made many people aware of him, that of Francesc Gallostra is more a story of oblivion. In some way it is explained by the fact that Gallostra went into exile after the war and that, although he returned to Girona in 1950, died before the end of the dictatorship. This, however, does not justify the general disregard for his persona and his work, taking into account the intense activity he undertook in republican Girona, whether individually or, almost always, jointly with Colomer.[2] Gallostra, a self-taught painter, had exhibited his work publicly in 1922, three years before Colomer, in a group show in the Galeria dels Bells Oficis in Girona, promoted by the GEiEG, recently founded and of which he and his father were the first members. In 1924 and 1925 he received consecutive prizes in the painting competitions organised by this entity, and also in 1924 had his first solo exhibition, in the Ateneu in Girona. In 1925 he took part in a group exhibition that was shown in the Ateneu in Igualada promoted by Rafael Masó, and the following year once again had a solo exhibition in the Ateneu. In 1928 and 1929 he showed his work in Figueres, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Barcelona, and even, with one painting, in Madrid. The critical evaluation of his painting, preferably landscapes, generally intimated his possibilities, but also his immaturity.

Although it is certain that Colomer and Gallostra had coincided before (both took part on the exhibition of the GEiEG in 1925), the first evidence of their joint work is their participation, in 1929, as founders of the Amics de les Arts group. This association was founded as a section of the GEiEG and organised two group exhibitions of young artists, but above all else it was the promoter of the raising of the monument in homage to Fidel Aguilar in the gardens of the Devesa Park, according to a project probably produced by both of them (cat. no. 546).[3] The interest of these young men in the ill-fated Aguilar is very significant, not only because it was the first act of reclaiming the figure of an artist who in twelve years had almost been forgotten, but also because it places the new generation of artists from the city in confrontation with their predecessor, the noucentista generation, headed by the powerful figure of Rafael Masó, who was still, to a large extent, a reference in the artistic and cultural life of the city.

In this sense, the relationship between the new artistic proposals which as we will see represent the works of the Colomer-Gallostra team and the noucentista world of Masó and the artists and craftsmen of his orbit could not be free of some tension, although, as often occurs in these cases, the points of contact between the two sides were numerous. The artistic beginnings of Gallostra took place under the auspices of Masó, who included him in his selection for an exhibition in Igualada that aimed to take the artistic production of the city beyond Girona, in a similar way to what he had done with the ambitious and large exhibition in the Laietanes galleries in 1918. Moreover, in undertaking their projects, Colomer and Gallostra had the collaboration of several craftsmen closely linked to Masó, such as the blacksmith Ramon Cadenas, for who they designed an advertisement that was repeatedly reproduced in the press of the time (cat. no. 697).[4] The very act of homage to Fidel Aguilar could be included in this climate of respect and good relations between generations. However, the uncompromised attack by Masó on the project revealed a probably inevitable distance. In a signed text the day after the unveiling of the monument (erected thanks to a popular subscription in which he did not participate), Masó made it very clear that he did not like either the conception or the execution of the project. He stated that greater justice would have been done to Aguilar with “a tombstone inscription, with an evocative heading that records the house or workshop where he spent his days, instead of this monument with all the pretensions and inherent defects”.[5] Regarding the actual piece of work, Masó was appalled that “here unfortunately good sense has not been present in the conception of the monument to Aguilar, but rather the fleeting and frivolous fashion”, and he considered it lamentable that in a work like this it was allowed that “some amateurs raise in a public place and with a municipal subsidy a monument without the minimum intervention of professionals, to whom due control should have at least been handed”. He finished by saying that “what has been done here, in the way of a Parisian fair or exhibition, will not last for very long”. In these words clearly beat the resentment for not having been consulted regarding the project, but also a certain disregard for a generation of younger artists, and perhaps even more so for the fact that he had acted as patron to at least one of them. Masó probably sensed that at the end of the day they were destined to take over both his own artistic work and cultural agitation. In contrast, we cannot point out that these words also reveal aesthetic differences, because at this time Colomer and Gallostra has still not embarked on any decoration project. Nevertheless, it is clear that the proposals that both of them would present throughout the thirties, close to a modern and vaguely rationalist aesthetic, must have been surprising in the context of Girona, which had already become accustomed to Masò’s noucentisme, just as Masò’s projects had also had an impact on the petit-bourgeois conservatism of the city at the beginning of the century.

The few decorative projects that we know of by the Colomer-Gallostra tandem are all commissions for shops and commercial premises: we have news of five spaces on which they worked in Girona, and of one in Olot. Unfortunately, of the Girona shops, practically none have survived and, with one exception, we only have some photographs that very poorly record the work undertaken; therefore, any commentary about their characteristics must be made and taken with a great deal of prudence. In the same year, 1931, they undertook their first job and one of the most successful: the reform of the facade of the Pratdesava cake shop, at number 8 of what was then called Plaça del Vi, which had the collaboration, among other craftsmen, of Ramon Cadenas for the wrought iron work (cat. no. 698). The only photograph we have of the shop shows a facade with an elegant symmetry, in which a marble lintel frames the central glass door and the two shop windows, one on either side. Of note, on the one hand, over the door, is a horizontal panel painted with a geometric design and a type of still life in the centre, beneath which shine out the letters of the shop’s name, designed with the same stylised typography and made with the same polished metal as those which, below the shop windows, announce the specialities of the house. On the other hand, also of note is the design of the door itself, an abstract and lineal motif also produced in metal in the purest Art Deco tendency. It is not surprising that, in the newspaper item which reports on the reform, it is described in the following way: “This is truly an improvement of great importance, which entails the most refined stamp of distinction. The modern, stylised and decoratively original style is in total harmony with the elegant character that today’s public demand in establishments of this type.”[6]

Modernity and elegance are without doubt two concepts that fully fit with the work of Colomer and Gallostra in this case, and indeed have a lot to do with the demands that the young generations made on the new architecture and associated arts. In Girona, Colomer and Gallostra were not completely alone in this defence: a young architect trained in the School of Architecture in Barcelona, Josep Claret, was one of the key figures in the apology of modern architecture in the twenties and early thirties, both in his work and in his theoretical texts. Claret, who was the only member from Girona of the GATCPAC and also formed part of the Amics de les Arts (in 1932 in the headquarters of the GEiEG he gave the talk entitled Modern orientations of architecture and painting), had in 1929 published in the Barcelona magazine D’Ací i d’Allà the article “Our shops”, in which he wrote the following:

 

The novelties launched in other countries arrive shortly; pity that what does not arrive is a tiny bit of good taste, so that what is put on show is immediately sold […]. This is the disease that our shop windows, our shops, suffer from; columns confront us at every step, gilded frames, fanciful combinations of bars, mouldings, corners full of dust […] everything with florid and twisted letters to make reading easier. […] [Against this] we place on a smooth, white wall the clear sign, with simple letters, those that are easier to read; without more stripes or relief, the shop window must be a rectangle that stands out—this positions you—. Similarly, the smooth door, attaining proportion—we do not have to do much more.[7]

 

Despite the fact that Claret’s option is situated in the line of the most radical modernity and that we must always classify the proposals of Colomer and Gallostra as more moderate, there is no doubt that their shops are much closer to this longing for simplicity than the outdated hotchpotch the architect describes. In the Historic Municipal Archive of Girona we have discovered a project from 1935 that still corresponds with more precision to the ideas of Claret (cat. no. 724). It is a plan for the facade of a chocolate shop that deals with a very simple proposal, in which the wall appears painted in two shades of cream and, apart from the glass door and shop windows, only the rationalist typography stands out in what are inscribed both the name of the establishment and the different products that the shop would serve.[8]

Still in 1931, Colomer and Gallostra collaborated on the decoration of the facade of the Hotel Peninsular and of the Teatro Albéniz in Girona with a painting in relief. We do not have images of the result, but we do have some of the samples they worked on, of geometric design (cat. no. 699). The following year, Colomer and Gallostra worked on the reform of the Reixach hairdresser (Roig, as from 1935), at number 5 of Plaça del Vi, on the corner of Albareda St. (cat. no. 1075).[9] This is the only conserved work of theirs, although today it is difficult to recognise its original function. No distinctive element of the facade remains to our knowledge; as regards the interior, the photograph shows a comfortable, practical and functional space, with modern furnishing, of which the ceramic decoration survives with white and grey-blue strips, very useful to provide light in quite small premises. Also of note is the niche above the mirrors on the main wall, where one piece of the series of sculptures by Jaume Busquets was hung, Child of the crown (c. 1920), a black earthenware piece with argerata patina produced in Cerámicas Marcó in Quart. This element, in harmony with what we mentioned above, points out the links with the noucentista aesthetic of the previous generation.

The following integral project that we have news of is another hairdressers-barbers, in this case the E. Sitjes hairdressers in Plaça Marquès de Camps in Girona, opened on the 3 of June 1933 and functioning until just a few years ago (cat. no. 712a-d). The images we have are quite recent, and although the establishment was essentially conserved just as it was originally, we cannot rule out any later changes. As regards the facade, it has a wooden and glass door painted blue with the traditional barber’s sign, on which the typography of the name of the establishment is the most innovative element. From the images we have of the interior, it shows a large, clean and well-lit space, painted in light and very functional colours. As in the case of the Roig hairdressers, there is no doubt that in the early thirties establishments that were so well designed and with equipment that at the time must have been quite advanced, contrasted notably with the more traditional barbers. That is why on this occasion the newspaper refers specifically to the comfort of the premises and to the “modernism style” of its decorators.[10] Here again it is significant to discover in the photographs that above the first aid box is placed a figure of Fidel Aguilar; who knows if it was put there deliberately by the decorators or at the will of the owner.

 1934 was a good year for the decoration studio, because they undertook at least three projects. In May they completed the reform of the studio and shop of the Barber photographers, in Rambla de la Llibertat (cat. no. 717). We only conserve one image, which shows a corner of what was probably the studio’s waiting room. Despite the fact that we cannot draw many conclusions, the photograph reveals a soberly arranged space in a combination of light and dark shades, in which in contrast with some rather old-fashioned furnishing, features two details of modernity quite typical of them: the tiled floor in a geometric design in black and white, and what appears to be the studio door, with a metallic line drawing that recalls the Art Deco forms we have seen in the cake shop. On the 23 and 24 of August of the same year the premises (shop, offices and exhibition room) of Ràdio Univers were opened, an electric appliances shop in Plaça Marquès de Camps (cat. no. 718). The shop has disappeared and we only have a photograph of the facade, which feature, firstly, the symmetry of the shop windows, and secondly, the fact that the only visually powerful element is the graphic art of the shop signs, which again seem to correspond to the new modernity that Claret’s text expressed. We have no image of the inside, so we must refer to the newspaper account:

 

Everything has been planned, first, and then assembled, with a lively practical sense and an undeniable sobriety and elegance, in accordance with the most modern commercial requirements.

In a special way, the exhibition and sales rooms have been done in great luxury and with praiseworthy exquisiteness. It goes without saying that the decoration has been done by the “Colomer-Gallostra” partnership, and everyone will now have an idea of the good taste that has governed the installation.[11]

 

The same year they undertook the reform and decoration of the Casa Massias perfumery in Olot (cat. no. 721a-d). Although in this case it is difficult to distinguish the original elements from those that have been progressively added, the facade, built basically in wood and brick, geometric and functional, and above all the name of the shop, done using a similar typography to what we saw in other cases, recall some elements characteristic of the work of its authors. This is, according to the information we have, the last decoration job of the Colomer-Gallostra team.

Parallel to these commissions, they carried out another very important project; their very active participation in the organisation of the Commercial and Agricultural Fair of Girona, the first of which was held in 1932, promoted by them together with the journalist Lluís Bota, and in which they took on the role of artistic directors and designers (cat. no. 706a-b). This job involved the supervision of the general organisation of the fair, the design of the stands and the publicity for the event, a mission they undertook until, the year of the last fair before the Civil War. I think that their attitude before the trade they themselves had chosen, painters by training, is very significant; that they promoted an initiative of such a clearly commercial outlook reveals not only a clear understanding of the tendencies of the time (evidence of which is the increase in similar fairs and shows being held all over Europe at the time), but also their drive and initiative, which must have come from the obligation to create a market and public for their professional activity in a context that must certainly not have favoured them. This commercial nature of the proposal was proclaimed clearly on the posters they designed for the fairs of 1933, 1934 and 1935 (cat. no. 713, 719 and 725), all of them exactly the same apart from the background colour: a clear and precise lettering accompanies the profile of Mercury, the Roman god of trade, an iconographic element that had been used repeatedly on similar posters all over the continent.[12] Colomer and Gallostra had already created this image of Mercury for the publicity of the first fair, in 1932 (cat. no. 1073, 1074 and 1076), and we have found it again on the cover of the catalogue of the third fair
(cat. no. 720), which leads us to believe that it was an icon reproduced on many supports and in distinct formats, to the point of becoming the image that identified the show.
[13]

There is no doubt that in the Girona of that time, this commercial eagerness could create some mistrust. However, their efforts in the organisation of the event were well received and appreciated, and the authors who wrote about the fair highlighted its sobriety and balance, the quality and care taken of the stands, and in general the exquisite taste of the event as a whole.[14] Certainly, the photographs we have of this first fair do justice to all these adjectives. Among others, we have an image of Colomer and Gallostra’s stand on which is shown a proposal for a domestic interior (cat. no. 707). The article that accompanies the photograph, by an unknown author, begins reinterpreting the known slogan of the Viennese Secession: “An artistic style corresponds to each period.”[15] According to the article, this style of the period could still be classified as immature, but “brings together within some simple lines, such as the geometric line, all the charm of comfort and all the elegance of the most opulent forms of yesteryear”, and highlights the modernity of the stand, as well as its simplicity and large space.

Despite these comments, the decorative proposal in question seems quite conventional to us, above all if we compare it with what they presented to the 1933 fair. The photographs enable us to discover the stand of the Colomer-Gallostra team again, this time sharing it with the artistic ironwork of Ramon Cadenas, with who, as we have seen, they worked closely (cat. no. 715a). In this case the stand does not aim to reproduce a setting, but rather show a series of pieces of furniture that had the singular characteristic of having been made with chromed steel tubing, which at that time represented the most avant-garde proposal in questions of furniture and interior design. The first piece of this type had been the famous chair designed by Marcel Breuer in the Bauhaus in 1925, known later as the Wassily chair, which combined the singular and modern design with the capacity to be mass produced. Breuer would continue developing tubular furniture after he left the Bauhaus, mainly chairs, but also small tables, shelves and other pieces that were very successful and popular. In this case everything leads us to believe that the furniture had been designed by Colomer and Gallostra and produced by Cadenas himself, who on his stand of the previous year had already shown chairs and tables made with metallic tubing, despite it seeming that they were not chromes, and of a smoother design. As a whole, the pieces (a table and a side table, two shelves and a chair much in the line of that of Breuer) probably constitute the most avant-garde items from among all the creations of the team of designers.

For Colomer and Gallostra their representation at the fair represented a gesture of great daring and meaning, which in some way would determine its image. It is interesting in this sense to recall that, when some years later the old avant-garde colleague Josep Claret wanted to claim the pioneering role of Rafael Masó and his architecture, he did so contrasting his work to that of the “modern ones” in these terms:

 

Now, in these last two years, already begun all along the coast and by architects who are destroyers of what is classical, commentators of the excellence of horizontality, of the mechanism, the “discovery” of popular art.

Through some tortuous and unsteady lines they reach the path that Masó followed—they have outlawed the chrome tube and functional furniture, placing in their works vases, vogue chairs, knotted rugs—but without saying that what have opened their eyes are his works themselves.[16]

 

The reference to the chrome tubing and functional furniture therefore serves to perfectly characterise modern architecture and decoration, in contrast to the Masonian traditionalism. In this sense, what is significant of the novelty that these pieces represented is that Colomer and Gallostra never used them in any of their projects, at least according to what we are aware of until now.

Colomer and Gallostra’s studio was also devoted to graphic design, as can be seen from the posters and advertisements produced to publicise the annual gathering of the GEiEG, of which they were responsible between 1931 and 1936 (cat. no. 696, 700, 710, 711, 716, 722, 723 and 726); we have already mentioned the posters and publicity for the Commercial Fair, and the design of its hand programme. They also designed several commercial advertisements which were published in the press of the time, such as for the Ramon Cadenas company (cat. no. 697) and for the Pompilia shaving foam (cat. no. 1075). We also know of at least one drawing by Colomer published in L’Autonomista on the 11 of May 1935 representing the dancer Joan Magrinyà, who had performed in Girona some days before (cat. no. 1072).

Nevertheless, the commercial side of their work is complemented, by Colomer, with an activity that we can classify as more political and committed, as shown in four drawings he produced in 1932 and 1933 for the magazine L’Espurna: portantveu del Bloc Obrer i Camperol de les comarques gironines (cat. no. 701, 704, 708 and 709).[17] Moreover, in July 1932 Colomer published two drawings in number 3 of Front: setmanari d’avançada, also of the BOC (the Workers and Peasants Block), which was run by Jaume Miravitlles, from Figueres, illustrating an article titled “The agrarian policy of the USSR” (cat. no. 702 and 703). Another drawing corresponds to the same political and aesthetic line, the cover for the edition of the pamphlet Perque soc comunista? (Why am I a communist?) by Miravitlles himself (cat. no. 705). This text of thirty pages is a compilation of the contents of a talk that Miravitlles had given in the Ateneu Enciclopèdic Popular in Barcelona that same year, 1932, and as the title explains, it is a profoundly revolutionary and militant pamphlet: “What, then, do the communists in Spain want? We want to take power! When? When there are enough of us to ensure the victory of the revolution.”[18] The illustration by Colomer, as in the drawings he did for L’Espurna and Front, are signed with the pseudonym ‘Marty’, which may refer to either his second surname, Martí, or the French communist politician André Marty, as Josep Clara points out.

From a formal point of view, we could group all these drawings into two large blocks. In some of them, like the one published in L’Espurna on the 15 of January 1933 (cat. no. 708) or the posters of the GEiEG, a renewed version of the traditional xylograph that other avant-garde movements had made popular in Europe from 1910 onwards is updated. This was and is a technique of a clearly popular taste, with an intention of very clear proximity and diffusion (the xylograph had historically been the type of engraving used to illustrate books, engravings and other mass consumption and popular materials). This approach to visual imagery to which the vast majority of the public was accustomed made it especially suitable for both the commercial drawing and the more political type. The other images, especially those from the magazine Front or the cover of the pamphlet by Miravitlles, share a very simple style based on a strong colour/no colour contrast and on a drawing of a geometricized air closer to the avant-garde style of Russian constructivism, for example. In any case, it is interesting to observe how the same graphic resources have been adapted, according to the occasion, to pieces of very distinct appearance and objective. This facet of graphic designer of Colomer would be complemented with his work as a compositor for the magazine Víctors (1936), close to a completely different ideological framework.[19]

The outbreak of the Civil War definitively separated the Colomer-Gallostra tandem and dissolved their professional union. Paradoxically it was the latter, an active member of the moderate Acció Catalana Republicana party, who went into exile, while Colomer, closer, at least occasionally, to much more radical parties, stayed in Girona, although beginning like so many others his own process of inner exile. Immediately after the war finished, Colomer, now working alone, returned to his activity as decorator. We can suppose that both the social context and the proliferation of artists from Girona also looking to make a living in interior design, it must have been difficult finding work, although it is also true that he had gained quite a reputation.[20] In fact, when in 1947 he joined the board of the recently created Cercle Artístic, he did so as member for decoration, despite the fact that he held the position for just over a year.

Some commissions came his way very soon: in the line of work he had undertaken before the war, in 1940 he designed the cover of the programmes of the Fairs and Festival of Saint Narcissus, a design that was reused the next year. The subject matter, a merry-go-round with the bell tower of San Félix in the background, and the style, much more conventional than that which had been previously used, allows no doubt about the time in which it was produced.[21] The following year he received an important commission, undertaken jointly with the architect Ignasi Bosch: the reform of the facade, offices and furnishings of the Triadú agency in Avinguda de Sant Francesc in Girona, which is partially conserved (cat. no. 727a-i). Neither in this case does the stylistic option chosen show any continuity with the line in which he had worked in the previous decade. If we could classify that as a moderate modernity, the Triadú agency enters directly into the category of a traditionalist revision of vague Masonian inspiration which, especially regarding the furniture design, contrasts completely with the desire to correspond to its time which in some way appeared to have guided his earlier work. This total break with modernity and the opting for a much more classicist line, closer to noucentisme, is related to the question of the possible existence of an art or aesthetic characteristic of Francoism, at least in its early years. Many debates have been produced on this matter, and I would like to quote Oriol Bohigas, who wrote that “[during Francoism] in Catalonia there was a continuity of the plastic language that came from noucentisme, an art that certainly approached Francoism, precisely because it was an antiquated, old art with an ageing language and ideology”.[22] Xavier Barral, on the same lines, writes at this time “bourgeois taste continued being linked to formal spirit of noucentisme and the eternal plastic arts”.[23] This vision enables us to understand not only that what was really a parenthesis was the avant-garde art of the thirties, but also that the strength of noucentista forms survived, albeit vaguely, beyond the social and cultural movement from which it had emerged, to a large extent due to its success among the bourgeois class to which it was aimed.

From here it is difficult to follow exactly the different decorative projects on which Colomer worked. Nevertheless, the large number of existing sketches and notes, particularly of furniture, is inscribed in a line that seems to develop what the Triadú agency shows, that is a type of return to the past and a historicist reinterpretation that is sometimes presented in a more classicist key, and other times, in a more baroque-style and ornamental key. In fact, in his library we find a large number books about the history of decoration (see Appendix), which strengthens the idea that his inspiration came largely from past styles, although inevitably adapted to the needs of the time. Only very sporadically in some drawings does furniture of a certain modernity appear which, however, remain practically buried under other items of furniture of a more eclectic style (cat. no. 791). In neither the furniture designs nor the sketches of decorative projects can we appreciate any knowledge or interest for the more contemporary tendencies in the spheres of interior design that, at least from the early fifties, were already known in Catalonia. Perhaps it was only in the glassware, which he often used (during the forties his Girona office was advertised with the name of Glass Engraving and Decoration), where Colomer extended himself using forms that linked directly with artistic proposals from the period prior to the Civil War, in other words with a rationalist abstraction, to which the art of glasswork is technically and formally very close (cat. no. 739d, 741, 747a and 758).

The characteristics of this series of materials also tells us a lot, naturally, of the clientele that it was aimed at and the context in which they were created, which without doubt did not favour investigation and experimentation in any way. Nevertheless, it would be unwise to assume that the clients from Girona before the war for which Colomer and Gallostra worked were much more innovative, from an artistic point of view, than the ones he had later. What does seem clear, in light of his production as a whole, is that during the years of the Republic Colomer took part in a project that in some way had the ambition of intervening significantly in his most immediate environment (as the initiative of the Commercial Fair clearly shows), whereas after the war, like many others, in some way he was resigned.

 

 



[1] See the biographic article by Jordi Falgàs in this book’s first volume, pages 40-50, for more information about Colomer’s student days in the La Llotja school in Barcelona and his studies in Brussels.

 

[2] All the information about Gallostra comes from Josep Clara, “Francesc Gallostra, pintor de Girona”, Revista de Girona 188 (May-June 1998): 42-47.

 

[3] See Clara, “Amics de les Arts i Fidel Aguilar”, Revista de Girona 167 (November-December 1994): 86-88. About the authorship of the project for the monument, see the article mentioned by Falgàs.

 

[4] Apart from participating in one of the decoration projects of Colomer-Gallostra, Cadenas shared a stand with them in the Commercial Fair of Girona in 1933 and took part in at least two of the exhibitions organised by the Amics de les Arts, in 1929 and 1930.

 

[5] The existence of this text is mentioned by Enric Marquès [Eugeni Ribalta, pseud.], “Carta a Fidel Aguilar”, Fidel Aguilar, ed. Jaume Fàbrega (Girona: Ajuntament i Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya i Balears, 1972), 11-14. These fragments are quoted in Clara, “Amics de les Arts i Fidel Aguilar”.

 

[6] “Reformas en la Pastelería Pratdesava”, Diario de Gerona, 19 November 1931.

 

[7] Josep Claret, “Les nostres botigues”, D’Ací i d’Allà no. 14, December 1929. Reproduced in Gemma Domènech et al., Josep Claret (1908-1988): arquitecte entre la República i la dictadura (Girona: Ajuntament and COAC, 2009), 122.

 

[8] See the documents by Margarida Culubret, Pl. del Vi, 8, Archivo Histórico Municipal, Ayuntamiento de Girona, reg. no. 1935/0.3203. We think that this project by Colomer-Gallostra was never carried out. The address for which the reform work permit was applied for is the same as that of the Pratdesava cake shop, but was signed by Margarida Culubret. On this point of the investigation, we cannot specify accurately what the reason was for the new commission, only four years after the 1931 reform, or why it was not realised.

 

[9] The origins of this establishment are not very clear and have led to confusions. It seems that at the time of the reform by Colomer and Gallostra, the owner was Amadeu Reixach. For unknown reasons, Reixach was associated with the architect Rafael Masó in 1934, and Masó ended up buying and renting out the hairdressers a few months before he died. Later, in December 1935, the heirs of Masó sold it to Joaquim Roig, and it became the Roig hairdressers until it stopped operating as such, at the end of the 20th century. Masó’s relationship with this hairdressers has led us to think that it was the Dalmau barber shop, for which in 1933 Masó designed a reform of the interior that do not correspond to those of the Reixach barber shop. See the documentation related to the Reixach barber shop in the archive of the Rafael Masó Foundation, reg. no. 719; Joan Tarrús and Narcís Comadira, Rafael Masó, arquitecte noucentista (Girona: COAC, 2007), 272, and the plans for the Dalmau barber shop, Rafael Masó collection, Historical archive of the Architects’ Association of Catalonia, Girona, reg. no. 9617.

 

[10] “Un nou establiment de perruqueria”, Diari de Girona, 7 June 1933.

 

[11] “Inauguració del nou local de ‘Ràdio Univers’”, Diari de Girona, 24 August 1934.

 

[12] See Xavier Cortés, “Els cartells de la Fira de Mostres de Praga (4)”, Fires i cartells. Anàlisi iconogràfica dels cartells firals europeus del segle xx, http://xaviercortes.blogspot.com.es/, 30 September 2011. The combination of classical and modern aesthetic references corresponds very clearly to one of the stylistic tendencies of Art Deco.

 

[13] The press of the time reports on the publication of the poster of the first edition of the Fair. Everything leads us to think that that it already included the icon of Mercury like the other advertisements that Colomer and Gallostra designed, but we have been unable to find any example. See “Fira Comercial de Girona”, El Autonomista, 7 October 1932.

 

[14] See Activitas: órgano del Bureau Internacional de expansión del comercio y de la industria (November 1932): 4-7. This issue of the magazine was dedicated almost entirely to the Girona fair, and contains photographs and comments of all the stands. See also Josep García Álvarez, “La Fira Comercial”, El Autonomista, 10 October 1932; Rafel Massaguer, “La I Fira Comercial vista per un empordanès”, El Autonomista, 3 November 1932, and “Sopar d’homenatge als organitzadors de la I Fira Comercial de Girona”, El Autonomista, 7 November 1932.

 

[15] “Stand con que la Casa Colomer y Gallostra contribuyó con su artístico estilo a embellecer la Primera Feria Comercial de Gerona”, Activitas: Órgano del Bureau Internacional de expansión del comercio y de la industria (November 1932): 24.

 

[16] Josep Claret, “Rafael Masó, arquitecte”, Víctors 1 (January 1936): 9.

 

[17] Josep Clara, “Pep Colomer, entre el disseny comercial i la proposta revolucionària”, Revista de Girona 176 (May-June 1996): 45-48. In this article, Clara also reproduces a drawing by Mariana Pineda published by Colomer-Gallostra in El Autonomista throughout 1931 which we have not been able to find. In this field, Colomer and Gallostra also designed jointly, In January 1938, the posters for the exhibition of the School Work Competition in Benefit of the Combatants on the Front.

 

[18] Jaume Miravitlles, Perque soc comunista? [sic], (Barcelona: Impremta Pereda, 1932), 25.

 

[19] See Narcís Selles, “La revista ‘Víctors’: art, cultura i política en la Girona republicana”, Locus Amoenus 3 (1997): 195-214.

 

[20] See Eva Vàzquez, “El llenguatge de les arts”, in Sota la boira: lletres, arts i música a la Girona del primer franquisme (1939-1960), by Josep Clara, Narcís-Jordi Aragó, Joan Gay i Puigbert, and Eva Vàzquez (Girona: Museu d’Art, 2000), 87-154.

 

[21] We have been unable to find any printed example of this brochure, but in the Museum of the History of Girona the printing plates are conserved (MHCG reg. no. 06789 1-4), catalogued as the work of Colomer.

 

[22] Oriol Bohigas, “Sobre l’arquitectura dels anys quaranta a Barcelona”, in L’art de la victòria: belles arts i franquisme a Catalunya, by Xavier Barral et al. (Barcelona: Columna, 1996), 164.

 

[23] Xavier Barral, “Introducció”, ib., 27.