Early Life and Barcelona: 1890s–1919
Key events and activities of the life and artistic path of Joaquín Torres-García (JTG) are summarized in this chronology, which encompasses his works, exhibitions, writings, and life events. Other aspects of his career, such as the lectures he gave in Montevideo after his return in 1934, as well as the activities of the Asociación de Arte Constructivo (AAC) and the Taller Torres-García (TTG) are documented in the 1992 exhibition catalogue, El Taller Torres-García: The School of the South and Its Legacy (UT Press).
Only select artworks, exhibitions, and writings by the artist are featured in this chronology. For more complete information, please browse the catalogue, exhibition, and literature sections of this catalogue raisonné.
The facts in the chronology have been gathered from a wide variety of sources and have been checked against the archives of the Museo Torres-García and those of Cecilia de Torres. There exist in the public sphere numerous inaccuracies that have been previously published; this chronology has sought to correct those errors.
July 28, 1874: Joaquín Torres-García (JTG) is born in Montevideo, Uruguay, to Joaquín Torres Fradera, an immigrant from Mataró (a city in the region of Catalonia, Spain), and María García Pérez, the daughter of Spanish parents. A brother, Gaspar, and a sister, Inés, are born in 1875 and 1890, respectively.
Torres Fradera owns a general store in Montevideo that occupies a large warehouse alongside stables, a bar, and a carpentry shop, where JTG first experiments with constructing in wood. He also enjoys opening and assembling the boxes of imported goods, such as sewing machines, furniture and tractors. In spite of Uruguayan law regarding compulsory education, JTG leaves school to study at home by himself with his mother.
Although Uruguay experiences great economic growth during these years, it also suffers internal strife, conflict with bordering countries, and recessions in 1875 and 1890 that reverse Torres Fradera's business.
Tired of the economic uncertainty in Uruguay, Joaquín Torres Fradera returns with his family to Spain, settling in Mataró, his native village. JTG is struck by the handmade objects and traditional customs so different from what he knew in Uruguay.
JTG receives his first formal art training, studying drawing and painting with Josep Vinardell (1851-1918) at the local Arts and Crafts School, Escola Municipal d’Arts i Oficis (Municipal School of Arts and Crafts).
JTG’s family settles in Barcelona, the capital of the Catalonia region, where JTG attends night courses at the Escola Oficial de Belles Artes, La Llotja. His fellow students there are Ricard Canals, Joaquim Mir, Isidre Nonell, and Joaquim Sunyer. He also takes art courses at Academia Baixas during the day.
Catalonia experiences a rise of nationalism and aspirations for autonomy. Catalan as a literary language and traditional music are revived. A confederation of Catalanists, including politician Enric Prat de la Riba (1870–1917) and architect Josep Piug i Cadafalch (1867–1957; also a native of Mataró) establish the Lliga de Catalunya (Catalan League) and the Unió Catalanista (Catalan Union).
JTG joins the newly formed Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc, where he meets poet Eduardo Marquina (1878–1946), art historian Josep Pijoan (1880–1963), writers Luis de Zulueta (1878–1964) and Pedro Moles, and the musician A. Ribera, who introduces him to Richard Wagner’s music. JTG attends lectures by Catholic priest Josep Torras i Bages (1846–1916), who asserts that the artist’s task is to seek redemption through obedience to God and promotes the search for faith and balance in nature’s harmony. Inspired by Torras i Bages, JTG studies Greek literature and philosophy, including Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Immanuel Kant, and Arthur Schopenhauer.
JTG travels to Madrid to see the Museo Nacional del Prado, where he meets the artist, Julio González.
February: Painters Raimon Casas, Santiago Rusiñol, and sculptor Enric Clarasó exhibit at Sala Parés, Barcelona; their style, similar to Art Nouveau, becomes known as the Modernista school, associated by conservatives with fin-de-siècle decadence.
1894: JTG participates as a Uruguayan in the foreign section of “Segona Exposició General de Belles Artes i Indústries Artístiques” (Second General Exhibition of Fine Arts and Artistic Industries), Barcelona.
December: Sala Parés, Barcelona, presents an influential exhibition of French Art Nouveau posters by, among others, Alfons Mucha, Theophile Steinlen, and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, which are a revelation for JTG.
Spring: “Tercera Exposició General de Belles Arts i Indústries Artístiques” (Third General Exhibition of Fine Arts and Artistic Industries). As in the previous year, JTG participates as a Uruguayan in the foreign section. He receives an honorable mention for an advertising poster in watercolor.
JTG frequents the café Els Quatre Gats with artists including the González brothers, Picasso, the composer Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909), Miquel Utrillo (1862–1934), and the writer Eugenio D’Ors (1881–1954). He joins El Cenacle, a group of artists and writers who gather at Julio Gonzalez’s workshop.
JTG designs posters, among them a poster for the magazine El Gato Negro. He works as a book illustrator and designs magazine covers.
January 5: JTG’s first solo exhibition, in the Saló de la Vanguardia, Barcelona, an exhibition gallery in the office building of the newspaper La Vanguardia.
JTG travels to Madrid with artist Pau Roig (1879-1955), where he is struck by the work of El Greco, Tintoretto, Titian, and Paolo Veronese at the Prado museum.
JTG discovers the work of the French neoclassical painter and muralist Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, who had recently died. For JTG, Puvis’s work, rooted in the Mediterranean tradition, represents a more authentic painting style for Catalonia than the Impressionism and Art Nouveau that inspired the Modernistas.
Picasso leaves Barcelona for Paris after first exhibition at Els Quatre Gats. Julio Gonzalez and his family also leave Barcelona and settle in Paris.
Besides creating charcoal drawings in the style of Toulouse Lautrec, JTG draws buildings and urban landscapes exploring the structural and tectonic qualities of architecture, which will reemerge in his later works in wood and his paintings.
1900: JTG’s second solo exhibition at Saló de la Vanguardia, Barcelona.
1901: JTG teaches drawing and painting privately to the sisters Carolina and Manolita Piña. He marries the latter in 1909.
July 1901: Miguel Utrillo publishes “Joaquín Torres-García Decorator,” Pèl i Ploma. Reproduced on the cover is .
1903: JTG works with architect Antoni Gaudí on Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia Catedral, Barcelona.
JTG paints in a classical Mediterranean style inspired by Puvis de Chavannes.
1901: Solo exhibition, Sala Parés, Barcelona.
“Impressions.” Pèl i Ploma (Barcelona), July 1901.
1904: JTG works with Gaudí on the restoration of La Seu, Palma, Mallorca’s cathedral, for which JTG designs four stained-glass windows (.) using glass of various thicknesses in primary colors to achieve the desired tone and brightness, a method devised by Gaudí.
D’Ors—writing for the weekly El Poble Catalá (The Catalan People) under the pseudonym Octavi de Romeu—remarks on JTG’s aptitude for large mural decorations.
April 13, 1904: JTG's father dies.
1906: JTG obtains his first mural commission: ten canvases for the home of Baron de Rialp in San Gervasi, Barcelona, depicting scenes of country life (now in the Collection Centro de Arte Museo Nacional Reina Sofía, Madrid).
1905: Group exhibition, Sala Parés, Barcelona.
“Angusta et Augusta.” Universitat Catalana (Barcelona), no. 5 (May 1904): 71-72.
JTG joins the faculty of the Mont d’Or, a school founded in 1905 by J. Palau i Vera that was rooted in the progressive Montessori educational method. There he teaches arts and crafts to children aged seven to twelve. JTG studies pedagogy and psychology.
The Barcelona Municipality presents the Fifth International Art Exhibition featuring works by Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, James Ensor (1860-1949), Giacomo Balla, and Francis Picabia, and three preparatory boards for the murals by Puvis de Chavannes for the Paris Panthéon.
JTG works on several mural commissions:, Barcelona (destroyed in fire, 1936); l’església de la Divina Pastora (Church of the Holy Shepherdess), Sarrià (painted over, 1910); (destroyed, 1910).
“Una nova artista” (A new artist), Feminal, no. 2.
“La nostra ordinació i el nostre camí” (Our order, our path). Empori (Barcelona), no. 4 (April 1907): 188-91.
“El dibuix educatiu a Mont d’Or” (Educational drawing at Mont d’Or). La Illustració Catalana (Barcelona), 5, no. 236 (December 8, 1907).
“El literat i l’artista” (The man of letters and the artist). Empori, no. 12 (June 1908): 216-17.
JTG travels to Tarragona, Spain, to see the Roman ruins.
February 22, 1909: Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s Futurist manifesto “Le futurisme à Paris” is published in Le Figaro; it is translated to Catalan and published in El Poble Catalá on March 9.
August 20, 1909: JTG marries Manolita Piña and moves to Sant Gervasi in the outskirts of Barcelona.
November 1909: JTG and Manolita travel to Brussels, where JTG is commissioned to paint two panels illustrating agriculture and cattle raising for the Uruguayan pavilion at the Brussels Universal Exposition.
February 1910: On their way back to Barcelona, JTG and Manolita stop in Paris to see Puvis de Chavannes’s murals at the Panthéon. They also visit Julio González and Pau Roig.
November 1910: The couple settles in Vilassar de Mar, a small town by the sea thirty kilometers outside Barcelona.
April 5: Daughter Olimpia is born.
July: JTG is nominated by d’Ors, and others, to decorate the Saló de Sant Jordi in the Palau de la Generalitat, a palace dating from the fifteenth to seventeenth century that houses Barcelona’s Congress. D’Ors promotes JTG as representing the Noucentista aesthetic. The term Noucentista, coined by d’Ors in 1906, means “of the twentieth century.” Its goal is the affirmation of Catalan nationalism.
D’Ors publishes the Almanac dels noucentistes with works by Josep Aragay, Ricard Canals, Joan Clará, Pablo Gargallo, Joaquim Mir, Xavier Nogués, Isidre Nonell, Picasso, Pijoan, Ismael Smith, Pere Torné, and JTG.
October: JTG and his family move to Sarriá, a suburb of Barcelona.
JTG completes a large panel painting,that he donates to the Institut d'Estudis Catalanas in Barcelona. The painting follows an an earlier work of the same subject created three years earlier that the artist gifted to d'Ors.
June: Group exhibition, “Exposición Internacional de Arte,” organized by the Barcelona Municipality.
October: Solo exhibition, Faianç Catalá, Barcelona with landscapes of Brussels, Antwerp, and Paris.
“El ideal artístico” (The artistic ideal). Cataluña (Barcelona), January 7, № 170-171(special issue).
February: D’Ors publishes “Pel Cubisme a l’estructuralisme” in La Veu de Catalunya, in which he proposes a relationship between Cubism and the Noucentista aesthetic. The article sparks a debate that leads to the organizing of “Exposición de Arte Cubista” by the Galeries Dalmau, Barcelona; opening in April, the exhibition includes works by Marcel Duchamp and Juan Gris, among others.
JTG studies primitive art and folk traditions, and reads the book Los comienzos del arte (The Origins of Art) by Ernst Grosse published in Barcelona in Spanish in 1906 (after Die Anfänge der Kunst, Freiburg: Leipzig, 1894).
April-August 23: JTG is commissioned to decorate the Saló de St. Jordi. To prepare, he travels to Italy (Pisa, Florence, Rome) to see early Roman and Renaissance fresco painting. He stops in Saint-Cergue, Switzerland, where he completes sketches for the Diputació de Barcelona (Barcelona Provincial Council) murals.
September: JTG and his family settle in Can Bogunyá, near Terrassa, where the Mont d’Or School is now established. The school’s new director is Pere Moles, JTG’s friend and brother-in-law. JTG teaches drawing and crafts.
January: Solo exhibition of drawings and paintings in classical themes at the Galeries Dalmau, Barcelona. Catalogue text by Eugenio d’Ors names JTG as the ideal Noucentista painter.
“Consideracions al voltant del cubisme i de l’estructuralisme pictòric” (Considerations regarding Cubism and pictorial structuralism). La Veu de Catalunya (Barcelona), February 22.
June 19: Son Augusto is born.
September: JTG creates the Escola de Decoració in Sarriá, with workshops aimed at promoting a Catalan-Mediterranean aesthetic through fresco painting, etching, sculpture, ceramics, and weaving.
October: Public viewing of JTG’s first mural at the Saló de Sant Jordi, which provokes both negative and positive reviews. JTG ends his relationship with d’Ors because he feels that the critic failed to support his work.
November: Joseph Roca i Roca, art critic for the newspaper La Actualidad, publishes several negative articles about the Sant Jordi murals. Nevertheless, Prat de la Riba ensures that JTG continues to work on the project.
July 28-September: JTG paints the first fresco mural at the Saló de Sant Jordi:.
“Dues notes més” (Two more notes), La Veu de Catalunya, October 16.
Notes sobre Art (Notes about art), Gerona: Rafael Masó.
January: The sixth issue of Les Tendences Nouvelles, Paris, includes reproductions of JTG’s work.
July: JTG purchases land at Can Colomer, outside Barcelona, and builds a house he called Mon Repós, which he decorates with frescoes. Although some were lost, four were removed in 1993 and are now in the collection of the Fundación Cultural de la Caixa de Terrassa.
August: The Mont d’Or School closes.
JTG begins painting Mediterranean pastoral themes in frescolike texture. He surrounds the works with architectural-style frames with columns and pediments made from rough, whitewashed wood, his first use of wood elements in conjunction with painting.
JTG’s painting is influenced by the simplicity of country life.
Excerpts from Notes sobre art (1913) in Revista de la Escola de Decoració (Barcelona) (March): 1-5, 10, 27 (only issue).
The Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923) visits JTG at the Saló de Sant Jordi to express his support.
December 12: Daughter Ifigenia is born.
Completes and installs two stained-glass windows at the Gothic Room of the Sala del Consell (Council Room) in the Generalitat (now lost):
September: Completes the second Sant Jordi mural:.
Diàlegs. Terrassa: Tipografia Mulleras.
“De la influencia de l’art mediterrani en els paisos medionals” (On the influence of Meditarranean art on southern countries). Recull de Treballs de la Escola de Decoració, Barcelona, 3-6.
“Sobre les exposicions i les revistes de arte” (On exhibitions and art reviews). Recull de Treballs,18-21.
“Crónica de Arte Catalán del Siglo XX” (Chronicle of twentieth-century Catalan art). La Publicidad (Barcelona).
“Dario de Regoyos,” text for “Dario de Regoyos” exhibition at Galeries Dalmau.
December: JTG is introduced to the work of foreign artists living in Barcelona temporarily during the war. Albert Gleizes (1881-1953), Sonia (1885-1979) and Robert Delaunay (1885-1941), and Marie Laurencin (1885-1956) show their work at Galeries Dalmau.
August-September: JTG completes the third and fourth Sant Jordi murals:and ; the latter is the most controversial.
October: JTG starts murals on the façade and interior of the home of local businessman Emilio Badiella in Terrassa.
Vell i Nou (Barcelona), 2, no. 31 (August 15).
Un ensayo de clasicismo: La orientación conveniente al arte de los países del mediodía (An essay about classicism: The suitable orientation for meridional countries). Terrassa: Tipografia Mulleras.
“Les noves idees estètiques d’En Torres-García”(Torres-García’s new aesthetic ideas).
January: Picabia launches the Dadaist magazine 391 in Galeries Dalmau (four issues total between January and March).
April: JTG meets Parisian art dealer Ambroise Vollard, who is in Barcelona for an exhibition of French art at the Palau de Belles Artes. JTG takes him to see the murals at the Saló de Sant Jordi.
June: JTG sees the ballet Parade by the Ballet Russes at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, with music by French composer Eric Satie, costumes by Picasso, and scenery by Jean Cocteau.
August: Uruguayan painter Rafael Barradas (1890-1929) visits JTG with Catalan poet J. Salvat Papasseit (1894-1924). Barradas is sixteen years younger than Torres-García. He moved to Italy in 1913, where he became familiar with the Futurist movement. Barradas and JTG develop a close friendship during the year and a half they are in Barcelona together. Their shared interest in the dynamic modern urban life leads them to develop Vibracionismo (Vibrationism), a painting style JTG describes as a simultaneity of visual stimuli translated to the canvas in color combinations or vibrations.
JTG’s supporter in the Barcelona city government, Prat de la Riba, dies. His successor, architect J. Puig i Cadafalch, cancels JTG’s contract to complete more murals.
November: JTG moves to Sarriá, where he meets his neighbor Cebria de Montoliu (1873-1923), a lawyer, urban planner, poet, and translator to Catalan of English literature. Montoliu, who moves to New York in 1920, is an important influence on JTG, introducing him to the poetry of Walt Whitman.
December 10: La Publicidad announces that JTG’s four frescoes at the Saló de Sant Jordi will be covered by tapestries.
JTG designs first wood toys, among them: vehicles, consisting of wheels on an axle, a chassis, a hood, and different bodies that can be put together as a car, a truck, or a bus; a locomotive in seventeen pieces; horse carts; and a hobbyhorse.
JTG paints the urban scene as an organized superposition of fragments of elements, such as buildings, signs, vehicles, trains, figures, telephone wires, letters, and numbers.
JTG completes the sketches for La Catalunya Industrial (Industrial Catalunya), the fifth mural for the Saló de Sant Jordi, which he never paints.
June: In his illustration for Un Enemic del Poble, JTG divides the picture plane and places an image in each compartment, a style he would develop further in the 1920s in paintings on canvas and wood that would constitute the foundation of his Constructive Universalism.
February: Solo exhibition, Galeries Dalmau, Barcelona. At the opening, JTG reads a lecture about his new direction in art.
December: Undaunted by the indifference toward his new paintings and the controversy over his Sant Jordi murals, JTG simultaneously opens three exhibitions in Barcelona: at Galeríes Laietanes, Salón de La Publicidad, and Galeries Dalmau, the last with Rafael Barradas. He shows a total of one hundred works.
“El arte de nuestro tiempo” (The art of our century). La Publicidad, March.
“Consells als artistes” (My advice to artists). Un Enemic del Poble: Fulla de subversio espiritual (Barcelona) (March).
“Conferencia a Can Dalmau” (A lecture at Dalmau), La Veu de Catalunya, March 19, and April 16.
“En digué tot aixó” (All I have said ). La Revista (Barcelona), 3, no. 37, April 16.
“Notas de arte: Clasicismo Moderno” (Notes on art: Modern classicism). Semanario España (Barcelona), no. 117, April 19.
“L’exposició d’art francés” (The exhibition of French art). La Revista, 3, no. 42 (June 16): 233‒37.
“D’altra orbita” (In another orbit). Un Enemic del Poble, June.
“Crónica de arte: ante una emigración posible” (An art chronicle: Considering a possible emigration). La Publicidad, July 31
“Art Evolució (a manera de manifest)” (Art evolution [a manifesto]). Un Enemic del Poble, no. 8, November.
“Los artistas uruguayos en Europa, Rafael Barradas” (Uruguayan artists in Europe: Rafael Barradas). El Siglo (Montevideo), November 24.
"Un ballet Rus de Picasso:Parade" La Revista (December 1).
“Notes d’art.” Vell i Nou 3, no. 56 (December 1): 653-55.
“Evolucionismo.” La Publicidad, December 12.
“Algunas notas sobre la decoración de las casas” (Notes on house decoration). Salón Reig (Barcelona).
El descubrimiento de si mismo: Cartas a Julio que tratan de cosas muy importantes para los artistas (The discovery of oneself: Letters to Julio about issues of importance for artists). Gerona: Rafael Maso.
“Sobre la personalidad” (On personality), La Vanguardia.
February: Joan Miró’s first solo exhibition at Galeries Dalmau.
May: Disappointed with the art establishment, JTG joins a group of young artists that call themselves Agrupació Courbet (Courbet Group). The group disbands a year later when several members leave for Paris. They briefly regroup as Els Especulatius (Speculators); members include Picasso and Miró.
November: JTG partners with the manufacturer Francisco Rambla to make wood toys.
Group exhibition “Exposició Collectiva de l'Agrupació Courbet” at Palau de Belles Arts, Sala Sant Lluc, Barcelona.
December: “Joguines d’Art” (Art Toys) exhibition at Galeries Dalmau; catalogue text by Torres-García.
“Evolucionismo.” La Publicidad, January 2.
“Evolucionismo.” La Publicidad, February 2.
“Evolucionismo.” La Publicidad, February 19.
“Evolucionismo.” La Publicidad, March 14.
“Art-Evolució” (Art-evolution) Arc-Voltaic, no. 1, February.
“La critica d’art i els artistes” (Art criticism and artists). Vell i Nou, , no. 65 (April 15): 154.
“El públic i les noves tendències d’art” (The public and new art tendencies). Vell i Nou 4, no. 67 (May 15).
“Plasticisme” Un Enemic del Poble, June.
“Notes d’ art” (Notes on art). El Día (Terrassa), no. 104, July 19.
“Natura i Art” (Nature and art). Un Enemic del Poble, October.
“Devem Caminar” ([They] should advance). Un Enemic del Poble, November.
“Art Evolució.” Un Enemic del Poble, November.
January: The young painters Enric Ricart (1893-1960) and Joan Miró visit JTG in his studio.
Photographs of JTG’s toys are published in Vell i Nou, no. 82 (January 1): 13.
May 3: JTG writes a letter to Barradas explaining that he has to postpone his plan to move to New York.
June: JTG presents a stand with his toys in the Sixth Exposition of Toys and Household Articles at the Universidad Industrial Barcelona. For the occasion he publishes an illustrated toy catalogue: Francisco Rambla, Toy Manufacture (Barcelona: Imprenta Rubí, 1919).
August: JTG lectures at Universidad Industrial about teaching art to children, and shows drawings by students at the Mont d’Or, which he would keep all his life.
Mexican muralist David A. Siqueiros meets JTG and Barradas in Barcelona. They plan the publication of the magazine Vida Americana,. The first and only issue is released in May 1921. In August, Barradas moves to Madrid.
November: JTG’s friend the Spanish-born painter Rafael Sala (1891-1927) leaves for New York.
May 30–June 30: Salón de Primavera, Barcelona. JTG includes drawings for the murals he could not complete and eleven paintings.
December: Galeries Laietanes, Barcelona.
L’art en relació amb l´home etern i l’home que passa (Art in relation to the man who is eternal and the man who is finite). Sitges, Spain: Eco de Sitges.
“Jo” (I). L’Instant, 2, no. 5, October 15.
Regeneració de sí Mateix (Regeneration of oneself). Barcelona: Salvat-Papasseit.
“Dialegs d’Art” (Art dialogues). L’Instant, October 15.
“Hechos” (Facts), unpublished; excerpts published in Un Enemic del Poble, no. 17 (March): 1.