Isidre Nonell

Early 20th Century Catalan Painter and Caricaturist

Isidre Nonell was a Catalan painter and illustrator, who was particularly influential in the early 20th century developing from impressionism towards a unique early expressionist style.

Isidre Nonell i Monturiol was born on November 30th 1873 on Sant Pere Mes Baix in Barcelona, where his parents had a small shop selling soap.

He showed an interest in art from an early age and under guidance from Josep Mirabent and Gabriel Martínez Altés, he developed his skill in caricatures and an interest in street people and low life.

In 1891, Nonell had his first exhibition and from 1893 to 1895, while studying at the Escola de Belles Arts de Barcelona, he became part of a group of young artists, known as the Safrà or Sant Martí Group because they often went to paint in what was then countryside in whats was then the separate town of Sant Martí de Provençals just outside Barcelona.

In 1894, he began drawing for La Vanguardia and was soon doing illustrations in other newspapers and magazines such as  L'Esquella de la Torratxa, Barcelona Cómica, Pèl & Ploma, Forma, Quatre Gats or Papitu. 

From 1897 to 1900, he spent periods in Paris, where he was strongly influenced by the impressionists.

On his return to Barcelona, he began painting gitanas or gypsy women using a quite dark but completely innovative style, which caused uproar amongst the conservative Barcelona public at two exhibitions at Sala Parés in 1902 and 1903.

Following the failure of the exhibitions, Nonell's work became brighter and his very individual style developed from impressionism towards a unique take on early expressionism.

Isidre Nonell died of typhus on February 11th 1911 aged only 38 and his work can be seen at the MNAC, the Biblioteca Museu Víctor Balaguer and the Museu Abelló in Mollet del Vallès.

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