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The Collection de l'Art Brut in Lausanne opens exhibition of works by Josep Baqué
Josep Baqué, Sans titre, entre 1932 et 1967. Mine de plomb, encre et gouache sur papier, 25 x 32,6 cm. Photo : Atelier de numérisation - Ville de Lausanne. Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne.

LAUSANNE.- Decked out in claws, pincers, pustules and shells, the monsters created by Josep Baqué (1895- 1967) bespeak anything but glamor. And yet his fanciful bestiary, drawn up of figures rendered at once attractive and repulsive by their creator, incites our curiosity, fascination and amusement.

Josep Baqué, who was born in Barcelona in 1895, was seen as a somewhat uncontrollable troublemaker within his family circle. His father worked in a ceramic tile factory. An uncle of his who worked in a textile finishing factory introduced him to the decorative arts and popular prints. Indeed, at a very early age, Josep Baqué became enthralled by the illustrated publications and magazines of his day. At the age of seventeen, the young man left home for France, and then Germany, during which time he worked at various odd jobs—notably, as a warehouseman, kitchen helper and stone carver. The declaration of war in 1914 obliged him to return to Spain, where he was drafted. He joined the municipal police force as a traffic policeman and peace officer in 1928, and continued at that job until his death in 1967. This creator lived withdrawn from the world, in solitude and bachelorhood until very late in life. Living in a highly unobtrusive fashion, he left behind a very singular world made up of a multitude of imaginary figures and animals.

His production amounts to 454 plates comprising 1500 drawings, classified by their creator himself into nine categories: animals and wild beasts / primitive men / bats and insects / giant spiders / snakes / snails / octopuses and cuttlefish / feathered animals / diverse fish. All these were assembled into a cardboard case of this creator's own making.

The collection showcases some fifty plates belonging to the Collection de l'Art Brut and a private collection.

Exhibition Curator: Pascale Marini, Curator of the Collection de l’Art Brut

Josep Baqué and His Bestiary – selected excerpts by Esteve Freixa i Baqué (in conversation with Mireille Grizzo)
[...] Thanks to one of his uncles, Josep Baqué (1885-1967) joined the Guàrdia Urbana, where he remained in service until his death in 1967. A traffic policeman and patrolman for the neighborhood near Plà de l'Os, he came to know and get along with everybody. He proved very lenient towards the unauthorized street peddlers, warning them to take off while dragging his feet on his way over to them. So he never had to run after them! His daily outings left him time to calmly stare at the dragon on the sign for the umbrella shop (since become a bank branch) Casa Bruno Cuadros —a dragon like a cousin to the creatures his imagination inspired him to draw.

[...] Josep Baqué has left us 1500 drawings divided into 454 plates, all of the same size: about 17 cm (6.7 in) high by 34 cm (13.4 in) wide. In addition to the aforesaid 1500 drawings, there are some fifty large unnumbered sheets of paper, of the same width but about 26 cm in height: each sheet features one or several drawings. Several of these sheets have been donated as gifts to museums with Art Brut collections.

Although basically the number 454 held no special significance for Josep Baqué, the total number of his drawings did. He counted each one of them and, to be sure to finish things off altogether properly, he filled his last plate with seven figures, instead of the usual three or four, in order to reach a total of 1500. Thus it would seem that the order he once chased from his life, to later very humbly exercise it under uniform—of which, by the way, he was ashamed—ended up finding his way into his oeuvre.

Besides counting his drawings, he made a catalogue of them, inventorying and classing them in an at times fanciful manner into nine fairly conventional categories, thus proving his obsession with quantifying what he accomplished.

[...] On the earliest plates, the animals are recognizable—wolf, stag, monkey, billy goat, elephant, sea lion, dromedary and more still, depicted in rather naive fashion. Over the years, the forms became more elaborate and inventive, taken up by the flow of the movement and assembling deeper colors. Josep Baqué came to draw unknown creatures and humans, the hitherto unseen, his domestic monsters.

[...] Josep Baqué wanted every drawing to be unique, and yet he refused all uniformity. He would avail himself of the same basic details, recombining and reorganizing them, varying the shapes and colors at the whim of his imagination, and thus nurturing the obsessional side of his oeuvre. He recomposed each monster into a combination of the human, the animal and the imaginary, replacing hands or feet with lobster claws, adding antennas to his snails, changing the shapes, patterns or colors of his creatures' "coats." Heads with bulging eyes sport sharp beaks and horns. Other monsters feature tentacles, trunks and antennas. There are no dominant colors for each category, lest it be the blues and greens of the sea for the fish.

He never signed his plates nor titled his drawings, but did outline a space in pencil to add a caption...which he would never write.

It seems that Baqué took up drawing during his travels. Did he perhaps intend to create a new world with his own lands, animals, fauna and flora? We can well ask such a question upon opening the cardboard folder holding his first 900 drawings and dated 1932. In the upper right-hand corner, the colors red, yellow and violet of the Spanish Republican flag have been added. […]

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