We have created this general category of design to present all those works by Colomer (and by Colomer in collaboration with other artists) that come from his work as a decorator, designer of publicity and furniture, and illustrator. In other words, they are projects that were the result of commissions or were related to his professional activity, often for commercial purposes. We must not forget that Colomer made his living above all from this work, apart from family income, and only on few occasions did he put his paintings up for sale in an art gallery.
This aspect of Colomer’s work had been barely investigated, and the investigation we have undertaken has enabled us to discover many forgotten works and unknown projects. Similarly to his career as a painter, in the case of design work there is also a very clear division between what he did until the Civil War, when he was thirty, and what he did after, during Francoism. From the work of his youth he kept almost nothing, but it has been relatively easy to find visual testimonies and catalogue it, because he often worked on projects of an important public projection. Therefore, the Catalan newspapers and magazines of the years of the Republic have shown us again that they are excellent sources to discover the artistic vitality of that period. This is the case of many of the works he produced jointly with Francesc Gallostra after their return from Brussels, in 1931. Of note is the series of posters that they conceived for the gatherings of the GEiEG and all the works related to the successive editions of the Commercial and Agricultural Fair of Girona. We have also brought to light their first commissions as decorators and interior designers, for numerous shops in Girona and Olot. In Colomer’s case, working alone, we have also been able to extend the number of known works he produced as an illustrator for diverse publications.
In contrast, in the Colomer legacy we have indeed found a very extensive collection of drawings and decoration projects for the period of the dictatorship, when he continued working as an interior designer, now without Gallostra. Unfortunately, due to the political and economic circumstances of the post-war period, Colomer never worked on public projects again, and everything he did was for private customers or small family businesses, of which no trace has remained from the newspaper libraries. This void, along with the misfortune that Colomer did not usually date his projects (as with the painting), has meant we have been unable to catalogue them with precision. Luckily, some carry a date, and we have been able to locate some items of furniture and interiors that are still conserved, which enables us, though vaguely, to get an idea of what kind of work he produced during these decades.
From this side of Colomer’s work, a great draughtsman again emerges, whether working on designing a chair or a table or for the entire furnishing for a house or shop. The drawings as a whole also show that he knew the trade and was able to provide very detailed technical instructions to the industrialists and craftsmen who carried out the commissions. We can also deduce that he had often worked in precarious conditions, and made use of any scrap of paper to produce sketches. Above all else, however, it was also obvious that Colomer tried to maintain the values of work well done, the attention to detail and the comfort of the user. As he stated in 1979 to Anna Carrascal, “I transformed the spaces according to the people who had to live there, trying to make the decoration communicate wellbeing”.
Of course, the dichotomy between the painter who did not want to sell paintings and the decorator who made his living from commissions was not as clear in Colomer’s life as we present it now, since he produced everything simultaneously and synchronically. And as we have seen on talking about the painting, for Colomer it was impossible to forget his knowledge when he changed discipline. On the contrary, his trade as decorator was very present in his painting and vice versa, and they were mutually enriching, similar —though distant—to what occurred to some of his contemporaries, such as Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist.