My research into Wheel Art has unearthed for us a surprising gem. His name is Ramon Casas i Carbo (1866 – 1932) and he was a Spanish artist known for his sketches and paintings of the intellectual, economic and political elite particularly of Barcelona, Madrid and Paris. This is a portrait of Ramon Casas by Santiago Rusinoi. Note the wheel of the bike acting as a perfect link to our present theme.
Ramon Casas included bicycles and motor cars in many of his works because they had become toys to be enjoyed by the elite members of society. Wheels had become a very instant and visible sign of wealth- a beautiful accessory to fine clothes! And only the rich, of course, could embrace the modern carefree life wheels offered the owner as illustrated here in The Modern Life, Barcelona.
I can’t find a title for this delightful work by Ramon Casas but the message is conveyed aptly by the pose, the fur and the driver’s cap - giving women confidence in their own ability and moving them that little closer to being more in control of their own lives.
And here we see Ramon Casas and Pere Romeu on a Tandem painted in 1897 specifically for the interior of Els Quatre Gats, a bar that was at the center of the Modernisme art movement in Barcelona. I have featured it in the Hero Image for today.
But back to the painting. Note that Casas is seen in profile with his pipe, while Romeu looks directly at the viewer. Although painted on canvas, the composition has the graphic quality of a huge poster with its bold drawing and simplified forms, reflecting the fact that the artist was a skilled poster designer and illustrator. (Wikipedia)
The original inscription on the right side of the painting, which was later cut off, read "to ride a bicycle, you can't go with your back straight." The message described the attitude of the bar founders (Casas and Romeu being two of them), that in order to make progress, you must break with tradition, as was done at Els Quatre Gats. (Wikipedia)
In 1901, the tandem painting was replaced in 1901 with another large composition by Casas, entitled Ramon Casas and Pere Romeu in an Automobile in which the tandem bicycle has given way to a car, symbolizing the new century.
When reproductions of the two paintings appeared in the magazine Pel & Ploma, they were referred to as The End of the 19th Century and The Beginning of the 20th Century, respectively. (Wikipedia) We will meet Casas' friend Pere Romeu very soon through an art form far removed from paintings and one I have kept in the shadows so far.
Els Quatre Gats (Catalan for "The Four Cats") is a café in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain that famously became a popular meeting place for famous artists throughout the modernist period in Catalonia, known as Modernisme. The café opened on June 12, 1897 in the famous Casa Martí, and served as a hostel, bar and cabaret until it eventually became a central meeting point for Barcelona’s most prominent modernist figures, such as Pablo Picasso and Ramon Casas i Carbó. The bar closed due to financial difficulties in June 1903, but was reopened and eventually restored to its original condition in 1989. We will return soon to learn more about Els Quatre Gats and its occupants.
Casas was also a graphic designer producing many posters and postcards some of which include wheels! This is a study for a poster (Estudu per a cartell) titled Una Ciclista ( a cyclist).
El automobile, carbon on wax paper
Researching the works of Ramon Casas has landed me in a treasure trove to be found inside Els Quatra Gats the bar/cafe he helped establish with his friend Pere Romeu. Before we look inside I want to share a light hearted look at some modern Wheel Art also coming from Barcelona, Spain.