«El conjunto de la obra compone una balada triste cantada con el propósito consciente, o tal vez subliminal, de estimular la reflexión en torno a la soledad de los cuerpos vivos, entre los cuales es indispensable incluirse».
(Robert Saladrigas, excerpt from the catalogue Navarro. Galería Daedalus, Barcelona, 1983.)
1931 – 1939
Born at Castelsarrasin, France (1931). At the age of four he moved with his family to Barcelona. A year later the Spanish Civil War broke out.
1945 – 1956
At the age of 14 he began his training at the Escuela de Artes y Oficios in Barcelona, where he received special commendation for his skill as a restorer. In 1952 he entered the Academia de Bellas Artes de Sant Jordi in Barcelona.
During his second year at the school he met the painter Joan Serra, with whom he discovered the Empordá and the Costa Brava. That same year he won first prize in the university figure painting exhibition in Madrid, which enabled him to travel to the capital and discover the great masters in the Museo del Prado, as well as El Greco in Toledo.
1957 – 1962
In 1957 he went to Paris on a scholarship and completed his art training there, at the École des Beaux-Arts and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, which specialized in life drawing with models. During his years in Paris he also travelled to London, where he had his first solo and collective exhibitions. He began his researches into Informalism and matter painting.
In 1959 he was awarded another scholarship, which took him to London, where he attended classes in drawing and printmaking at Saint Martin’s School of Art. In London, he consolidated his matter painting and created a language of his own, embodied in the well-known series Doors. He won first prize in the British Railways Poster Competition in 1961.
1963 – 1969
In 1963, he decided to settle permanently in Barcelona. Keep working on the Doors series, working with doors in the city, in which he sought the recovery of form based on matter. The doors mark the point of inflection between his Informalist period and the pure geometric compositions.
His evolving relationship with Matérisme resulted in an increasingly essential representation, giving rise to a process of synthesis that led naturally in the direction of geometric abstraction.
1970 – 1976
Three-dimensional geometry continued to be the basis of his work until 1974, when he returned to the picture plane and oil painting on canvas, in a wide-ranging exercise of composition, chromatic contrasts and optical illusions. In 1970 he joined the work camps of the MENTE (Muestra Española de Nuevas Tendencias Estéticas) group, and that same year was chosen to design the poster and medals of the European Swimming Championships in Barcelona. In 1971 he carried out a major mural on the façade of a building in Barcelona.
In 1972 he made his first trip to the USA. Interested in the idea of bringing art closer to society, Navarro Vives and some of his friends set up an art publishing project (Disform Ediciones).
1977 – 1987
A period of enforced rest for health reasons changed the course of his painting, and in 1978 he manifestly returned figuration with the birth of a new language with three primary sources of inspiration: still-lifes, boats and landscape.
1988 – 1997
The late 80s brought new forms: highly variegated, labyrinthine urban compositions. These were years of intense pictorial output during which he also made several trips across America and spent time in Mexico. In 1997 he received the Key to the City of Barcelona in recognition of his artistic work.
1998 – 2012
Through his frequent visits to Venice for family reasons he develops a close relationship with the city. His need to explore new avenues leads gradually to a simplification of composition and colour. More or less unconsciously, the artist moves towards the essence. These are the years of his «painted atmospheres».
Josep Navarro Vives lives and works in Barcelona.