Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Josep Tapiró Baró's Watercolor Portraits


Josep Tapiró Baró (1836 - 1913) was a Spanish painter known for his watercolor portraits of indigenous North-African people. (He is also known as José Tapiró y Baró)

His paintings push the limits of closely observed portraits in watercolor.

Up close, the textures are layered and the brushwork is varied, giving an iridescent sheen to surfaces like the skin and the shells, and a dry softness to the hair and fabric.

Here's a Berber bride, painted in 1896. The original is in Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya - MNAC, Barcelona. I don't know how long such a portrait would take, but the reserves of patience of both the artist and the model boggles the mind. Google Cultural Institute has a file of this image that can be scaled way up to see the smaller details. 

He was a friend of the painter Marià Fortuny, and once saved him from drowning. 

Apart from their technical virtuosity and artistic quality, his paintings are sensitive human portraits, capturing the quiet dignity of his subjects.


Tapiró was one of the first Spanish artists to live in Tangier, Morocco. He settled there in 1876 until his death in 1913, and witnessed great changes as the colonial powers exerted their influence on local cultural traditions.


The National Museum of Cataluna had an exhibition of his work last summer.

If you liked this post, you'll also enjoy Eugène Burnand's World War I Portraits

13 comments:

George Pratt said...

It's easy to see why he was pals with Fortuny as their technique, as well as subject matter, was very similar.

Beautiful stuff! Thanks for posting these, James!

Cynthia Nicole said...

Is it possible that the painting "Berber Bride" is really w476 x h688 cm?

These are so beautiful and amazing.

James Gurney said...

Cynthia, it must be 47.6 x 68.8 cm.

George, yes! Fortuny was awesome, too.

Rich said...

Amazing headwear with all that hardware, pearly lustering and otherwise.

Especially like those turquoise tinted skin tones of the first one indigenous, reflecting the shells he wears.

Steve said...

Amazing paintings. Further proof that watercolors needn't be weak and washed out. Thanks once again for bringing another artist to our attention.

David Webb said...

Those are just wonderful. I love the texture of fabric and the iridescence on the inside of the shells.

Novice Naturalist said...

Thank you for posting these. Boggles the mind, indeed!

Kunst Kommt Von Können said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kunst Kommt Von Können said...

Wonderful artist, i have never heard of him before. Thx!

echee said...

I just came back from Barcelona where I discovered the genius of Tapiró. I can't get enough of his art, do you know of any good publications that might show his work? Thank you so much for posting this!

LifesA Beach said...

Here's what i head back after asking the museum about a catalog for the exhibit!

"We have a catalogue of the exhibit in Catalan with translation to English. I attach you 2 links. One link are the technical specifications of the catalogue and the other is from the bookstore that sells it online:

http://www.museunacional.cat/en/josep-tapiro-painter-tangier-0

http://www.laie.es/libro/josep-tapiro-catalaangles/968983/978-84-8424-270-3"

Vinod Rams said...

Wow these are so amazing. I look at a lot of art on the internet... and these made me stop in my tracks! Need to learn more about Baro!

Thanks, James!

echee said...

Thank you so much for the book info!