Updated: Jul 6
I was recently asked to repair this badly broken piece, made in 1887 by Eusebi Arnau (see below)
Hand built, fired, clay sculpture makes exacting demands on one’s skill set so I was intrigued to know how this had been constructed. The sculpture had broken in two at the base giving me access to that intimate journey in tool marks, smears and fingerprints. His fingerprints. A direct line to the spirit Arnau who once knew this boy; us three together for a moment, in my house.
The boy is wearing a hat made from an old newspaper- De Barre? (Impossible to be sure as the broken corner has long been lost.)
Realising the opportunity to learn from a master I decided to take on the challenge of studying the pose. Movement twisted and tilted, playful, open smile, lifted face and living eyes. Towards the end of the study I decided to keep the boy -hard to let go of him with such a close relationship.
My study needed its own identity so I decided to change the gender. This, She, is now the boy's Great Great great granddaughter.
Her great grandma had been sent from Italy to study Art at the Royal Academy in 1964, had an ill-judged affair with her brilliant but fickle lecturer and brought the child up in a Hippy house at the top of Highgate Hill. Cromwell Avenue sits opposite the entrance to the cemetery where they spent most weekends, his mother sketching the memorial architecture of decay while he ran through toppled angels then meticulously lifted lines of moss from deep wells of chiselled words on upended gravestones, with a thin stick.
My girl, the most recent in the family line is around thirteen and goes on marches with her painter Gran. She carries a placard, “Economy?…. Feed Me Instead” - a nod to her, great, great, great, grandfather, (young Venetian scamp and model of the internationally famous Artist Eusebius Arnau), and his socialist newspaper hat.
*Eusebi Arnau (1864-1933) studied at the Barcelona School of Fine Arts and was a disciple of Josep Gamot. He continued his studies in Rome in 1887, thanks to a scholarship from the Lonja School. In Paris he expanded his knowledge at the Julien Academy; he exhibited in this French capital in the years 1895 and 1902.
In his workshop he had Pablo Gargallo and Josep Dunyach, among others, as disciples. Together with the sculptor Josep Llimona he worked on the altarpiece of the Basilica Church of Santa Engracia in Zaragoza.
His sculptures applied to architecture such as those of the Lleó Morera house, Amatller house, 1 Hotel España, Palacio de la Música Catalana and Hospital de San Pablo2 (all in Barcelona), totally cataloged him as an outstanding sculptor of modernism.
He was a regular collaborator of the architect Enric Sagnier i Villavecchia, with whom he worked on the Customs building of the Port of Barcelona, the Rupert Garriga House, the Via Crucis de Montserrat, the Expiatory Temple of the Sacred Heart, the Parish of the Sacred Heart of the People Nuevo, the Caja de Pensiones agency in Reus, etc.