Exhibition “The Diaries of Josep Franch-Clapers”
The Exile Memorial Museum, in collaboration with the National Archives of Catalonia, presents an exhibition of the artist Josep Franch-Clapers (Castellterçol 1915–Baux de Provence 2005).
This exhibition, curated by art historian Pere Parramon Rubio, is based on the research carried out on the testimonial character of the work of this artist; a work that was produced in the difficult context of the internment camps in France and the subsequent German occupation during World War II. This title, “The Dairies of Josep Franch-Clapers” demonstrates the interest in linking the pictorial expression of Josep Franch-Clapers with the genre of diary. While normally the diary is often associated with literature, this exhibition shows that drawing and painting were also effective tools to reflect and record a daily life full of difficulties. The often humiliating day-to-day life, inseparable from detention in concentration camps set up by the French state, portrayed with large doses of honesty and symbolic expressiveness in the pictorial outlines of this Catalan artist.
The time Josep Franch-Clapers spent first in the camps of Saint-Cyprien and Gurs and then with a working brigade of foreigners in Saint-Remy, and the subsequent semi-underground work during the last years of Nazi power, are events that take formal shape in the hands of the painter. This is a true visual file, a picture of the time and the places built from the plasticity of painting. Indeed, the series of paintings he created during this period of time, so complicated and historically dense, become an essential testimony of the living conditions of exiles. However, they also reflect the ability of the human being to overcome exceptional situations and, even more, because although the circumstances were not the most adequate in the middle of the global conflagration, Josep Franch-Clapers, with his drawings, is still able to transmit the survival of human dignity in that hostile environment, only possible thanks to the confidence in humanity expressed by many of his colleagues, as well as himself.
Despite the visual character, what these “diaries” transmit brings the author closer to what is known as concentration camp literature because, in a certain way, looking at his work one is likely to understand through its expression the long and painful maze the Republican exiles went through. The work of Josep Franch-Clapers can be added with determination and strength to the rest of the considerably remarkable works created in exile by writers and visual artists. We can undoubtedly find other examples of the same desire to bear witness with Artur Bladé, Ferran de Pol, Ramon Morales, Carles Fontserè, Antoni Clavé, Josep Bartolí, Josep Viladomat, Roser Bru and Agustí Centelles, to name a few.
Josep Franch-Clapers, born in El Vallès (surrounding Barcelona), never stopped thinking about and expressing all the pain that resulted from the great exodus of 1939. This historical episode will mark forever this artwork that is essential for our democratic memory.
The exhibition shows a total of 67 works from the National Archive of Catalonia. On the occasion of the exhibition and during the opening, the catalogue published by the MUME will be presented. This publication contains reproductions of the exhibited works and texts by curator Pere Parramon Rubio, professor of Art History at the University of Girona, Lluïsa Faxedas, Montserrat Prudon-Moral, professor at Paris 8 University, and Robert Forniés Alaiz, a personal friend of the artist during the last years of his life.
The opening was attended by the President of the Consortium of MUME and Mayor of La Jonquera, Jordi Cabezas, the Director of Democratic Memorial, Miquel Caminal, the Director of the National Archive of Catalonia, Josep Sans-Travé, the curator of the exhibition, Pere Parramon Rubio, and the Director of MUME, Jordi Font.