Francesc Gimeno

Tortosa 1858 - Barcelona 1927

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Coming from a humble family of peasants, from a very young age he discovered the art of drawing thanks to his neighbor Francisco Tió, who was a typographer. At the age of fourteen he began working in the workshop of Manuel Marqués, the most prestigious painter and decorator in Tortosa. In the early 1880s he moved to Barcelona, where he continued to work as a wall painter in Joan Parera's studio, while in his spare time he devoted himself to easel painting. In Barcelona he made friends with the artists Eliseu Meifrén, Josep Lluís Pellicer and Ramiro Lorenzale. His youthful works are characterized by a preferential dedication to the landscape, particularly riverside views charged with sweet lyricism. In 1884 Gimeno went to Madrid to study at the Superior School of Fine Arts with Carlos de Haes, a master of landscaping and a companion on excursions to paint from life. The romantic and idealized realism of the canvases shows the influence of his master. The painter also took advantage of his stay in Madrid to regularly visit the Prado Museum, where he made copies of the masters, among whom he particularly admired Velázquez, Ribera and Murillo. He returned to Catalonia three years later. With Modest Urgell, he traveled to Torroella de Montgrí and established a patronage relationship, albeit modest, with Ramon Call. In 1888 he married Caterina Massaguer. According to his biographers, from then on the artist changed his personality, began the phase of inner turmoil that characterized him throughout his life and led him to reject the protection of different benefactors and, finally, to self-marginalization. Recently married, Gimeno settled in Barcelona, where he lived in constant economic precariousness with only a decorator's salary, consacrating hours of sleep to paint instead. However, in the decade of 1890-1900, considered his "euphoric" period, his painting reached full maturity, with a plastic language and expressive realism that reveal the influence of Velázquez. During those years, the artist continued to dedicate himself to painting landscapes of the Costa Brava and, above all, of Torroella. Through the canvases he interprets a universally beautiful and perfect nature, thus revealing his pantheistic vision of the world. He also worked on interior scenes, especially portraits and self-portraits, the artist's other favorite genre. The spirituality and austerity of his character meant that the figure of Gimeno was not properly appreciated by the Barcelona public of the time, unable to understand the hardness of his works, the proletarian themes and the strong brushstrokes, considered without sensitivity and refinement. Despite not supporting the crowds, Gimeno had a circle of admirers who, at the initiative of the painter Ignasi Mallol, organized his first solo show in the Sala Dalmau in Barcelona in 1915. This retrospective, of a vindictive nature, will make that for the first time Gimeno saw his artistic work recognized, and he obtained a discreet critical success. It was also the occasion for the reunion with his childhood friend, doctor Francesc Bedós, who from then on contributed financially to facilitate the artist's pictorial campaigns in Sabadell, Sóller (Mallorca, 1916), Girona, Begur and Tarragona. Until then disconnected from the art market, Gimeno began to present his work in galleries and official exhibitions. He participated in the Paris Autumn Salon in 1920, and in the Catalan art exhibition of the National Society of Fine Arts in Lisbon in 1921, and individually at the Real Academia de Sabadell. The Sala Parés also organized, in 1925, a tribute exhibition, but the recognition of the artist did not culminate until after his death, in 1927.