Riquer portrait at 21
A young Riquer, by Nicanor Vazquez
Riquer, adulthood portrait
Birth and early years:
Alexandre de Riquer
was born in Calaf in the region of La Segarra on May 3, 1856. His father,
Marti de Riquer, Marquis of Benavent - a typical example of the country’s
conservative nobility - and his mother, Elisea Ynglada, saw their fortunes
decline for political reasons.
Alexandre de Riquer is one of the most important and multi-faceted artists
Catalan Art Nouveau.
He undertook his first studies in the Jesuit School of Manresa (1864-1867).
Consequences of the Carlist Wars:
political circumstances deriving from the defeat of the Carlists,
Alexandre’s father, a supporter of the king Don Carlos, was forced into
exile in Beziers in Provence, where Alexandre enrolled in the school of the
Immaculate Conception from 1869 to 1871.
In Beziers, he revealed his first artistic sensibilities (inherited from his
mother) and painted his first oils.
After a brief intervention in the Carlist War of 1872, he returned to
Toulouse, France and took courses at the School of Fine Arts from 1873 to
1874. There, Riquer painted his first portraits.
1874, Riquer was able to return to Barcelona, where he enrolled in the
Llotja School of Fine Arts and became a student of Tomàs Padró, Claudi
Lorenzale, and Antoni Caba. His literary vocation began during this period,
the first manifestation of which is found in his poems Notes from the
In 1876, at the age of twenty, he began his first work as an illustrator and
lithographic draftsman. His friendship with Apeŀles Mestres introduced him
into the world of publishing. Riquer collaborated with
him in his work with graphic illustrations. Thanks to this first contact,
his circle of friends widened to include other artists such
as the Arteaga
brothers, Joaquim Bartrina, Pompeu Gener, Enric Obiols, Simó Gómez, and
He travelled to Rome in 1879 to complete his studies in fine arts, visiting
in addition Pisa, Florence, Genoa, Milan, and Venice. Later on, he visited
Paris and London, in the latter of which he became involved with the Arts
and Crafts and Aesthetic movements on whose foundations he would base his
Economic difficulties put a strain on his creative activity such that in
1880 he concentrated on his excellent illustrations for “Art and Letters”,
Lluís Domènech i Montaner.
A pre-modernist aesthetic is found in this series, and the influence of
Apeŀles Mestres is evident together with certain aspects of the Neo-Gothic
style following Violet-le-Duc.
designs for the Masriera brothers belong to this period, as do his
furniture, invitation stationery for social events, Japanese-style designs,
In 1882 he opened a workshop in a loft above the Pastisseria Mallorquina on
Barcelona’s Petritxol Street.
First marriage and early adulthood:
1885, Riquer married Dolors Palau Gonzalez de Quijano (Lolita), daughter of
a cultured and distinguished family. Jacint Verdaguer blessed the marriage,
and Àngel Guimerà and Francesc Matheu were the best men. Nine children
this marriage, but three died in infancy.
World’s Fair of 1888 in Barcelona, Riquer collaborated with Lluís Domènech i
Montaner, completing the interior decoration of the International Hotel
(demolished after the Fair) and the design for the exterior mosaic motifs on
the Castle of the Three Dragons. Also from this period is his design for a
Neo-Gothic fireplace Gaudí completed for the Palau Güell.
The World’s Fair of 1889 in Paris provided an occasion for Riquer to fix his
attention on the Pre-Raphaelites and the Symbolist movement, which gave rise
to a renovation of his style that Raimon Casellas termed “mystic-pastoral”.
This renovation is visible in his paintings Entre lliris (1890),
Divina Pastora (1893), and
In 1892, he founded a cabinet making workshop with his cousin Manel Riquer
at 38 Pau Claris Street in Barcelona.
Contacts in other European countries:
During a trip to London in 1894, Riquer found himself in an artistic
atmosphere that corresponded to his artistic desires and aspirations; the
Pre-Raphaelites (Burne-Jones especially) along
with William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement offered him, besides an
artistic statements that allowed him to shift his work toward a more
stylized and highly sophisticated model.
In 1899, Riquer’s wife Lolita died, which threw him into a profound
melancholy and left him with the obligation of caring for their young
He returned to London in 1906 and was put in charge of the English section
of the Fine Arts Exposition to be held in Barcelona in 1907, which confirms
the influence and contacts he had made in England.
His assimilation into the aesthetic criteria of Arts and Crafts ran parallel
to a diversification of his interests related to art and different artistic
techniques, not only in the sense of artistic and artisanal production, but
also in a vision that permitted him to unite aesthetic refinement with
industrial production. In this manner, the modern means of artistic
- would become his favorite pursuits.
Particularly in the field of bookplates, Riquer completed an enormous
undertaking with distinct phases. His production in this field between 1880
and 1903 was collected in the book Ex-libris d’Alexandre de Riquer
published in 1903 almost simultaneously in Barcelona, London, and Leipzig.
This book was financed by Count Leiningen-Westerburg, which indicates the
renown Riquer’s bookplate work had in his own time across Europe. Miquel
Utrillo wrote the book’s prologue.
Politics and religion:
In the realm of
politics, as could be assumed from his early and energetic support for
Carlism, Riquer always maintained a firm Catalanist position, socially
conservative and profoundly religious. Under the influence of Domènech i
Montaner he became a member of the "Lliga de Catalunya" political
conservative Catalans party.
Because of his profound religious beliefs, he became associated with the
"Artistic Circle of St. Luke" as soon as one of its founders -
- suggested it to him and participated in its biannual exhibitions. This
important center of the diffusion of the Catholic moral tradition in art is
still active today.
Riquer, the most multi-faceted artist of the Catalan
In 1896, Riquer
created the first poster of the Catalan Art Nouveau for the Exposition of
Arts and Industries sponsored by the Barcelona City Council. Later, between
1896 and 1902, he created another twenty-odd
Riquer developed from 1880 important decorative works,
thus offering the Art Nouveau a decisive contribution in this field as he
had in others.
Riquer dedicated considerable energy to decorative painting and the design
of interior decoration, often in collaboration with other artists and
artisans such as Gaspar Homar i Granell, incorporating elements of refined
design in wood, metal, enamel, and other materials. He also produced mosaic
designs for the Escofet company.
Other fields in which Riquer’s designs achieved wide renown, in addition to
those mentioned above, were in the
design of standards
for cultural and political entities,
and decorative elements as diverse as lamps, candelabras,
artistic glasswork, and
Comas and Guarro companies.
Everywhere he lived, Riquer developed an intense relationship with artists
and cultural groups. Beyond those previously mentioned, Riquer was
associated with the “Quatre Gats” group whose members included
Puig i Cadafalch,
and other well-known artists. In Terrassa, he met the painter Joaquim
Vancells. In Ciutat de Mallorca, he developed relationships with artists and
individuals linked to cultural endeavors.
Master of the applied arts, Riquer showed multi-faceted skills and developed
intense artistic activities in the widest of fields. He was a
a poet) in addition to engaging in applied arts such as
cabinet making, stained
glass, and wrought iron designs
for which he was considered not only one of the most important authors of
the Catalan Art Nouveau, but also the best graphic designer of that era.
Riquer founded a cabinet making workshop, designed
furniture – receiving for his creations in this field the gold medal at the
World’s Fair in Chicago – glassware, ironwork, etc., and founded a school
for graphic design, from which came outstanding
numerous books and magazines.
His enormous prestige is reflected in the words of his friend Eugeni d’Ors i
Rovira, who acknowledged Riquer’s enormously important artistic
contribution. He said: “The whole country owes Riquer respect and esteem
because he has been one of the most highly-prized men. An entire generation
has received, from his freely-given instruction, the news and documents of
the most modern art. The workshop behind the cathedral, with its collection
of beautiful things, has been for many years our School, our only School,
generously open to youthful curiosities and enthusiasms. Just as we call
Maragall "the essential teacher of the Art of poetry" so should we call
Riquer our "essential professor of Art Nouveau". For this we all owe him our
deepest gratitude. I am pleased today to pay him public homage” (Eugeni
d’Ors, Glosari, February 1911).
Eliseu Trenc, the most important scholar of Alexandre de Riquer, has divided
his artistic evolution into three distinct periods:
(1880-1894) a first
period linked to Aestheticism, also called pre-Modernism, based in an
eclectic aesthetic in which Realist and traditional elements are blended.
(1894-1906) a second
period solidly grounded in Art Nouveau that represents the apex of his work
and coincides with the period of widest distribution and success in this
(1907-1920) a final
period that Trenc defines as “Pantheism” which lasted until Riquer’s death
In 1911 in Oloron
Sainte Marie, France, Riquer married the French writer Marguerite Laborde,
known by her pen name Andreé Bearn, with whom he would have unstable
relations due to problems with their children.
With Marguerite he travelled extensively through Castella, Eivissa, Andalusia,
and Mallorca looking for inspiration for his artistic work that then
centered almost exclusively on painting, particularly landscapes.
In this period, Riquer put on a number of individual and collaborative
exhibitions in various cities, most notably those in Barcelona at the Saló
Reig (1914), “El Fayans Català” (1915), in the Sala Parés (1915), and in
The final years:
1919, the "Equestrian Circle" of Barcelona commissioned him to decorate a
luxurious bound volume in homage to one of its presidents; Riquer was unable
to finish it before his death, and the designer Saurí Sires completed it.
In the catalogues for his exhibitions of 1920, the artist published a
summary of his aesthetic concepts which also served as his literary
testament, under the title “Credo”.
An avid collector and bibliophile, Riquer had a collection of wrought iron
and glass objects of great historic significance that served as the base for
- who bought them off Riquer - collection at
Cau Ferrat in Sitges.
His collaboration with the magazine Luz, of which he was the founder,
was governed by his desire to find an equilibrium between different currents
within Art Nouveau, especially between conservatives
like the brothers
Joan and Josep Llimona
represented by the "Artistic Circle of St.
Luke" and the more radical innovators of the Sitges group like Rusiñol,
Casas, Utrillo, and
In 1900 he founded and served as artistic director of the magazine
As a writer, Alexandre de Riquer, together with Santiago Rusiñol and Adrià
Gual, made clear his interest in exploring the potential of symbolism in
He died in Ciutat de Mallorca on November 18, 1920.
Thinking of his early childhood in Bassols, his first love, in the nature of
his country that became his final passion, on his deathbed Riquer dedicated
this poem, “Credo”, to Ciutat de Mallorca. It serves as a resume of his
artistic and essential philosophy.
Jo crec en los colors,
en que los colors canten,
ab l’esplendor dels cadmiums brillants d’un bell mitj-dia:
me subjuguen les formes sorpreses y m’encanten
les transparencies tenues com vaga melodia
o el sol de Juny qu'esclata armonic i vibrant:
en ell, atmiro a Deu, atmiro la Natura
y un amedller florit, un'admosfera pura
me'l fan sentir mes bo, me'l fan trobar mes gran.
Jo visc cara
a la llum com fan els girassols
y crec en mi mateix, crec en l'Art expansiu
que calma la mev'ansia fentlo per mi tan sols,
perque han florit los prats, perque som al istiu,
perque tot fa remor, tot germina, tot viu;
perque y han verts riquissims endalt de la pineda
y apareixen intimes les ombres misterioses
ahont viuen les fades de formes voluptuoses.
perque'l parral, la prada o la roureda
son tendres, son hermoses y fines de color;
jo crec perque una rama s'encen com un llum d'or
perque vibra en lo cingle la roca assoleyada,
perque entr'els blats tendrals floreixen les roselles,
perquè sirisa'l mar del sol de la vesprada,
perque l'ombra del bosc nos guarda meravelles
y es profon la cala y es verda l'onada.
Crec en la
Veritat de plastica armonia,
en respirable espay distancies y llum,
en lo sublim encant de pau que te un bell dia
i en la vida qu'es Bellesa, en l'Art qu'es son perfum.
I believe in
colors, that colors sing
With the splendor of the brilliant yellows of a beautiful mid-day,
Surprising forms conquer me and tenuous transparencies
Enchant me like a vague melody
Or the June sun that bursts harmonic and vibrant;
In it, I admire God, I admire Nature
And a flowering almond tree, a pure atmosphere
Heighten the sensation, make me feel larger.
I live with my
face to the light as the sunflowers do
And I believe in myself, I believe in expansive Art
That calms my anguish, making it for me alone,
Because the meadows have bloomed, because it is summer,
Because everything murmurs, everything grows, everything lives;
Because there are rich greens high up in the pine grove
And the mysterious shadows seem intimate
Where the voluptuous fairies live.
because the trellis, the meadow, the oak grove
Are tender, are beautiful and sharply colored;
I believe because a branch catches fire with golden light
Because the sun-beaten rock on the cliff trembles
Because the poppies flourish among the tender wheat,
Because the sea turns violet in the evening sun,
Because the shade of the forest holds marvels for us
Because the creek is deep and the wave is green.
I believe in
the Truth of plastic harmony
In breathable space, distances and light
In the sublime spell of peace cast by a beautiful day
And in the life that is Beauty, its perfume that is Art.
Alexandre de Riquer