Antoni Tàpies i Puig, 1st Marquess of Tàpies (Catalan: [?n't?ni 'tapi.?s]; 13 December 1923 – 6 February 2012) was a Spanish painter, sculptor and art theorist, who became one of the most famous European artists of his generation.
Tàpies was perhaps the best-known Spanish (Catalan) artist to emerge in the period since the Second World War. He first came into contact with contemporary art as a teenager through the magazine D’Ací i D’Allà, published in Barcelona, and during the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), while he was still at school, he taught himself to draw and paint. On a French government scholarship in the early 1950s he lived in Paris, to which he often returned. Both in Europe and beyond, the highly influential French critic and curator Michel Tapié enthusiastically promoted the work of Antoni Tàpies.
In 1948, Tàpies helped co-found the first Post-War Movement in Spain known as Dau al Set which was connected to the Surrealist and Dadaist Movements. The main leader and founder of Dau al Set was the poet Joan Brossa. The movement also had a publication of the same name, Dau al Set. Tàpies started as a surrealist painter, his early works were influenced by Paul Klee and Joan Miró; but soon become an informal artist, working in a style known as pintura matèrica, in which non artistic materials are incorporated into the paintings. In 1953 he began working in mixed media; this is considered his most original contribution to art. One of the first to create serious art in this way, he added clay and marble dust to his paint and used waste paper, string, and rags (Grey and Green Painting, Tate Gallery, London, 1957). Canvas Burned to Matter from c. 1960, in the collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art, is an example of the artist's mixed media assemblages that combine the principles of Dada and Surrealism.
Tàpies' international reputation was well established by the end of the 1950s. From the late 1950s to early 1960s, Tàpies worked with Enrique Tábara, Antonio Saura, Manolo Millares and many other Spanish Informalist artists. In 1966 he was arrested at a clandestine assembly at the University of Barcelona; his work of the early 1970s is marked by symbols of Catalan identity (which was anathema to Franco). In 1974 he made a series of lithographs called Assassins and displayed them in the Galerie Maeght in Paris, in honour of regime critic Salvador Puig Antich's memory. From about 1970 (influenced by Pop art) he began incorporating more substantial objects into his paintings, such as parts of furniture. Tàpies's ideas have had worldwide influence on art, especially in the realms of painting, sculpture, etchings and lithography. Examples of his work are found in numerous major international collections. His work is associated with both Tachisme and Abstract Expressionism.
The paintings produced by Tàpies, later in the 1970s and in the 1980s, reveal his application of this aesthetic of meditative emptiness, for example in spray-painted canvases with linear elements suggestive of Oriental calligraphy, in mixed-media paintings that extended the vocabulary of Art informel, and in his oblique allusions to imagery within a fundamentally abstract idiom, as in Imprint of a Basket on Cloth (1980). Among the artists' work linked in style to that of Tàpies is that of the American painter Julian Schnabel as both have been connected to the art term "Matter".
Throughout the span of his life Antoni Tàpies has been associated with a number movements such as Art Informel and Haute Pâte or Matter Painting. He became a part of the avant-garde group Dau al Set in 1948 which was a group that had strong ties to Surrealism. Early works of his were surrealistic, but in 1953 he began working in abstract art. It is here that he becomes a part of the Art Informel movement and starts working with mixed media. Art Informel in Europe was the equivalent to Abstract Expressionism in America. This was among the most prevalent styles of art in post-war Europe. Within this movement is the category of Matter Painting. Its focus on the use of odd objects completely undermines the acts of traditional fine art. Some of Tàpies's most famous and original works fall within this genre. They are characterized by his use of marble dust and clay that he mixed with his paints as well as the incorporation of found objects such as string, paper, and cloth. In the late 1960's into the early 1970's Tàpies began to be influenced by the movement of Pop Art. Because of this he began using larger items, such as pieces of furniture, in his works.