Xavier Nogués i Casas (Barcelona, 1873-1941)

A disciple of Pere Borrell del Caso, as a young man Xavier Nogués i Casas travelled to Paris with Alexandre de Cabanyes. A member of the group known as El Rovell de l’Ou (“The Egg Yolk”, circa 1898-1901), this was the period in which Nogués produced his Auca (a Catalan print format which usually contained 48 pictures with rhyming text beneath them) on the Gathering of Sant Medir. It took him some time to gain true public popularity, which he achieved after contributing illustrations to the famous Papitu magazine (1908) run by Feliu Elias (also known as Apa). In this publication Nogués signed his drawings as Babel. He also contributed to other publications such as Poti-Poti, Cucafera, Picarol, Mar Vella, D’Ací i d’Allà and Revista Nova.

Xavier Nogués is without a doubt one of the most interesting and representative figures of Catalan Noucentisme. As a man he was kind, intelligent and sensitive; as an artist he was creative, honest and sensitive. When these qualities were applied to his rigour, discipline and profound knowledge of process and technique, they enriched his work, which is full of life and rooted in Barcelona’s culture but devoid of folklore and superficiality, because he displayed a high degree of taste and restraint.

Nogués was the creator of some characteristic and peculiar figures, who wavered between being pathetic and tender, in a highly particular style. He illustrated two leading works in the canon of Catalan graphic humour: 50 ninots i La Catalunya pintoresca.

Xavier Nogués c. 1933-1935 in his studio at 115 Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona.

As a painter, his notable works include the satirical murals for the cellar of the Galeries Laietanes (now mainly conserved in the MNAC), painted in 1915, the ones for the living room of collector and industrialist Lluís Planidura at his home in Carrer de la Ribera in Barcelona in 1917 and the more sober ones for the mayor’s office in Barcelona’s Casa de la Ciutat, created as part of the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition.

A very well rounded artist, he also cultivated his work as a costume designer. In this field his designs for the premiere of Eduard Toldrà and Josep Carner’s opera, El giravolt de maig(1928) are particularly noteworthy, a magnificent example of the persistence of the Noucentist spirit during Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship. Nogués was a member of the Reial Acadèmia Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi.

We must also signal his incursions into the field of decorative arts, including ceramic and fired enamelled glass paintings, as well as his role as an engraving teacher in Barcelona and Olot. He also wrote a treatise on lithography, which was published in Salvador Espriu’s book, Xavier Nogués i la seva circumstància., escrit per Salvador Espriu.

A notable figure of the Noucentisme movement, Nogués contributed a special irony that artistically translated into a personal Expressionism, which at times has aspects in common with the work of George Grosz. This makes his style the more sceptical version of Noucentist art. Francesc Pujols and Feliu Elias (now using the pseudonym Joan Sacs) each dedicated a monograph to Nogués. However, the most complete monograph on the artist was the one published by Rafael Benet in the years after the Spanish Civil War (1949). Nogués’ activity as an engraver was later exhaustively catalogued and studied by Jaume Pla (1960).

The most recent specialist on Xavier Nogués’ work is Cecília Vidal, permanent secretary of the present Xavier Nogués Foundation, who ensures the artist’s name continues to receive attention. She organises awards for engravers, promotes limited editions on Nogués and the art of engraving, and acquires singular works by the artist to exhibit in national museums.