Cau Ferrat Museum is the former house and studio of painter, dramatist and collector Santiago Rusiñol. Rusiñol brought his art collection from his Barcelona studio to exhibit it in this house. When he died in 1931, aged seventy, the town of Sitges inherited the house and collections.
Rusiñol came to Sitges in October 1891 to spend a few months here. In the summer of 1893 he bought a fishing cottage and asked his friend the architect Francesc Rogent to design a space that would serve as both his home and studio. The following year he bought the house next door and again it was Rogent who designed the space as we see it today.
The house has two floors, each with own specific purpose. The ground floor has maintained the characteristics of vernacular architecture, while the diaphanous first floor, in the neo-Gothic modernista style, houses the collections.
Everything in Cau Ferrat is connected with the biography of its creator, Santiago Rusiñol.
The entrance hall is, in a certain sense, a concise introduction to what the other rooms in Cau Ferrat hold in greater profusion. The works and objects are distributed on all the walls of the house, as we can see in the entrance.
There are many ceramic pieces, a few examples of wrought-iron work, some furniture, wood carvings and above all paintings and drawings.
When we contemplate the central pictures in this first room, we appreciate the different periods in the career of Rusiñol the artist: in Paris, in Sitges and his landscapes.
Santiago Rusiñol, 1889, Paris, oil on canvas
This is one of the first paintings Rusiñol did in Paris. In it, Rusiñol depicts a dark courtyard in an inner city. The place’s sense of sadness and distress is highlighted by the woman in mourning who appears in the background.
When the work was shown in Paris, critics referred to it briefly, though in favourable terms. The longest and most enthusiastic commentary was by Miquel Utrillo. Thanks to his observations, where he suggested the courtyard could belong to a pawnbroker, the work took on this title definitively.
During his first stay in the French capital, which lasted until May 1890, Rusiñol alternated his artistic work with an intense bohemian lifestyle.
The Girl with the Carnation (Teresa Mirabent Planas)
Santiago Rusiñol, 1893, Sitges, oil on canvas
From the first moment he saw it, the light of Sitges had an impact on Rusiñol’s retina, as it did for all the painters of the luminist school.
The figure is of a young woman spellbound as she smells the fragrance of a carnation, and is the focal point of the work. Around her the overall effect of the courtyard helps to accent the girl’s beauty, as she seems completely unaware of the painter’s presence. The colours are bright and luminous.
This is one of the most beautiful portraits painted by Rusiñol in his entire career. The artist chose to keep it for his private collection, although it was shown on three occasions.
last quarter of the sixteenth century-early seventeenth century, Castile. Walnut, pine and black poplar, with wrought iron applications.
This writing desk in two pieces was made between the last quarter of the sixteenth century and the early seventeenth century. It is made of walnut, pine, black poplar and wrought iron.
In spite of the decorative sobriety, the influence of the classicism of the Italian Renaissance is clear, as interpreted through the Mannerist style.
Although the name refers to the specific task of writing, these writing desks or pieces of furniture with desktop and drawers, were fundamentally containers for all kinds of small objects, papers and documents. The retractable cover could only with difficulty withstand the writing desk, which does not mean that it would not be used for writing upon occasion, as seen by the fact that in the lower drawers there are ink stains.
Girl in White
Ramon Casas, c. 1891, Sitges, oil on canvas
In this painting we see the fine technical and chromatic quality of Ramon Casas as he seeks to combine the figure with the setting, which in this case is a blue courtyard in Sitges. Casas pays particular attention to the lush effects of the rays of light on the clothes and body.
For Ramon Casas the world was a chromatic impression. This idea led him to achieve extraordinarily fine subtleties, with highly attractive results. Due to the quality of features like the pink tones on the female face and on the white dress, Casas was considered an impressionist in the late 1880s.
Santiago Rusiñol, 1898, Víznar (Granada), oil on canvas
Santiago Rusiñol went on his third trip to Granada in December 1897. The final result was a total of forty paintings featuring the gardens of the city.
All of the paintings were done in Víznar, a small town on the outskirts of Granada with an old Episcopal mansion built at the end of the eighteenth century.
The weeds amongst the boxwood, the small pond without water, the half-erased graffiti, the broken windows – all told these details worked to create an ambience of melancholy, speaking to us of the inexorable passing of time.
The kitchen- dining room is the largest room on the ground floor, because it was normal in humble homes for cooking and eating to take place in the same space. This was where Rusiñol would often read fragments of his literary works to his friends from Sitges as they sat around the fire. This was also where his private dinners would be held, when he would tell his guests about things that had happened on his latest journey to Paris, Granada or wherever else he might have been.
The walls and shelves of the kitchen-dining room today are covered with ceramic pieces that Rusiñol acquired throughout his life: pots from pharmacies, aquamaniles, plates and bowls. Most of the pieces are from Catalonia, but there are many others from the main ceramic-manufacturing regions on the Peninsula: Manises, Paterna, Muel, Teruel and Talavera de la Reina.
The bedwarmer on the right as you enter the room is framed by a fireplace made from a window that was originally part of Sitges Castle. To the right of the bedwarmer is the lintel of a window or door which also came from the old castle.
late seventeenth century-first third of the eighteenth century, Barcelona, enamelled chinaware
This ewer or water pitcher was made in Barcelona in the late seventeenth century or early eighteenth century.
Ewers were used to keep water cold or hot, in washing dishes and for washing hands before and after meals. They were always accompanied by wash basins, so that they can be considered to be the precursors of modern-style sinks.
This piece is unique. The botanical decorative motifs are set out in overlaid bands, with special mention to the neck of the recipient, with large tulips and chrysanthemums in negative. On the rest of the piece there are trees and branches with an Oriental influence laid out asymmetrically, the setting for a landscape of hunters and musicians.
Manolo Hugué, c. 1897-1900, Cadaqués, painted plaster
Manolo Hugué made Maternity in plaster between 1897 and 1900 during one of his stays in the home of the Pichot family. It is the only one of his early pieces that has been conserved. Alexandre Riera, a friend and patron of Hugué, acquired the piece and later traded it to Rusiñol for one of his paintings. This is how the sculpture entered the Cau Ferrat collection. Later on another piece by Manolo Hugué would also come to make up part of the collection: Flamenco Dancer, a coloured charcoal drawing done around 1906-1908, which can now be seen in the painter’s study.
The Sala del Brollador, the brightest and most cheerful room in Cau Ferrat, is named from the Gothic baptismal font that presides over it. It originally stood in the garden of the El Vinyet hermitage and before acquiring it Rusiñol depicted it in one of his paintings of Sitges, titled L’hort del Vinyet, which we may now contemplate in the Great Hall. Later, by which time it was in Cau Ferrat, he painted it again in a portrait of his daughter, Maria Rusiñol. Above the spout stands the Penell del gall (Weathercock) by Pablo Gargallo, which was donated to the museum by his widow in 1935.
This room also displays a large part of his collection of ceramics and his compete collection of archaeological pieces: unguent pots, necklaces and amulets, etc. Arranged in three display cases, the collection contains the many glass and terracotta objects that Rusiñol found in his excavations on the Punic site at Puig des Molins, Ibiza, in 1912.
Other notable features are the two nude studies by Ramon Casas and the twenty or so watercolour sketches by Maria Rusiñol, the painter’s daughter.
Santiago Rusiñol, 1891, Paris, oil on canvas
Cemeteries, burials, the nearby presence of death in general, were all fairly common subjects in the pictorial and literary work of Santiago Rusiñol, especially in the decade of the 1890s.
Montmartre Cemetery was painted in 1891. It is an extraordinary painting where Rusiñol, by means of a play of light sustained through three tones (gray, ochre and white) is able to create a saddened mood.
The painting depicts a descending perspective, taken not far from the artist’s apartment at the Moulin de la Galette. The downward perspective gives the scene a sense of being off in the distance, accenting its depersonalized effect.
Maundy Thursday in Pollensa (Mallorca)
Santiago Rusiñol, 1902, oil on canvas
In Rusiñol’s life Mallorca was a place closely bound to his personality, as it also took on a key role in his work as a painter and writer. This piece is an urban scape seen from above. In the middle of the composition we see a street with a group of people leaving the church in Pollensa with candles in their hands. This inclusion allows the artist to humanize the overall composition, something also accomplished by having smoke coming from the chimneys.
Rusiñol’s dramatization evokes certain ideas found in the work of El Greco.
The Epic Life of Mr. Esteve
Ramon Casas (drawings) y Gabriel Alomar (text), 1907, graphite pencil, ink, wash, watercolour and pastel on paper
The first edition of the novel L’auca del senyor Esteve (The Epic Life of Mr. Esteve), by Santiago Rusiñol, came out in 1907. What we see here is the novel’s transformation into drawings by Ramon Casas and textual elegies by Gabriel Alomar.
Mr. Esteve is the leading character in the story and a member of the petit bourgeoisie of Barcelona. His grandson wants to be an artist, with all the idealistic intentions this might imply. By means of this contrast, Rusiñol sets out one of the most decisive subjects of the Art Nouveau period: the relationship between the artist and bourgeois society, a question that is finally resolved by coming to an agreement.
Premiered in 1917, it was one of Rusiñol’s greatest theatrical and public successes.
Girl with Guitar
Ramon Casas, 1894, oil on canvas
In the Cau Ferrat collections there are three oil paintings by Ramon Casas depicting female nudes: Girl with Guitar, Female with Foreshortening and Female (in the study). Only the first of these is dated, while the others are considered to be from the same period.
Interest for undulating lines and arabesques shows a clear influence of certain works by Auguste Rodin, such as Andromeda and Danaïd.
The office or work room is the memento room par excellence. Items are preserved here directly linked with several important moments in the life of Santiago Rusiñol
We may contremplate the wrought-iron laurel wreath he received to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of Cau Ferrat and a palette with six brushes that was donated by his widow.
Furthermore, this room also accommodates the Bernareggi Piano which played the leading role in the many musical soirées in Cau Ferrat at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Major composers who played this piano include Enric Granados, Eugène Ysaye, Enric Morera, Isaac Albéniz, Ernest Chausson and Manuel de Falla.
This is where the bouquet of fresh flowers is placed that, thanks to the Associació del Ram de Tot l’Any aRusiñol, permanently accompanies the artist. This association, made up of women and girls from the town, was formed spontaneously in 1933, on the eve of the Museum’s opening, when a group of girls from Sitges decided to bring a bouquet of flowers to Cau Ferrat every day as a token of their eternal gratitude towards the artist.
Arcadi Mas i Fondevila, 1895, oil on board
As can be seen in the painting’s dedication, Arcadi Mas i Fondevila gave Granada Landscape to Santiago Rusiñol as a gift, as a memento of the time they both spent in the city of the Alhambra from the autumn of 1895 into early 1896. The reason for their trip to Granada was Rusiñol’s interest in seeing its light and landscapes once again, as they had enthralled him during his first visit eight years earlier.
Rusiñol and Mas spent a great deal of time painting the open air settings of the city. The Alberca Courtyard, in the Alhambra, and the Acequia Courtyard, in the Generalife, were two of the places most frequently portrayed by Rusiñol in his works.
Portrait of Santiago Rusiñol
Ramon Casas, 1926, charcoal, sanguine and pastel on paper
On January 10, 1926 a great many people dressed up in their finest to attend the homage to Santiago Rusiñol in Sitges, an initiative of Catalan intellectuals.
The central and most attended event of the program took place at the foot of the monument to El Greco.
Another of the gifts offered to Rusiñol during the celebration was this fine charcoal drawing by Ramon Casas. The venerable image of his friend that Casas offers us contrasts greatly with a number of portraits of Rusiñol also found here though done a much earlier, when the artist was still young and had many projects left to do.
The living room and alcove are separated from the kitchen-dining area by a semicircular arch. While it is not as profusely decorated as the other areas of the ground floor, there are also many interesting pieces here.
Joaquim de Miró, 1895, oil on canvas
Joaquim de Miró was part of the luminist school group, who were united by their interest in capturing the vibrant Mediterranean light of Sitges, the place they had discovered as a pictorial motif.
In their search for sincerity, the luminist painters sought to paint canvases charged with light. They chose to leave their studios, setting up their easels on the beach or in the fields, and painting what they had before them.
When he first arrived in Sitges in 1891, Rusiñol discovered the studio of Joaquim de Miró.
This is a bright piece charged with light and colour that impresses us for its confident drawing, its perspective and luminous intensity.
The Cau Ferrat Museum, Sitges, Spain
The Cau Ferrat Museum was founded in 1893 by the artist Santiago Rusiñol (1861-1931) as a home workshop and became public museum in 1933, preserving the artistic spirit inspired by his founder. The Museum contains collections of ancient art gathered by the artist (painting, forge, ceramics, glass, archeology, sculpture and furniture) and modern art (painting, drawing, sculpture) with works by Rusiñol, Casas, Picasso R. Pichot, Mas i Fondevila, Zuloaga, Regoyos and Degouwe of Nucques, Henry Clarasó Manolo Hugué and Pau Gargallo, among others. The activities organized by Rusiñol with the participation of artists, musicians and writers transformed Cau Ferrat in the Temple of “Modernisme”…
Painting, drawing, sculpture, wrought iron, ceramic, glass and much of the plastic art authored by Rusiñol itself form a unique artistic ensemble that, alongside with the building hosting the works, are an example of how “Modernisme” revered all art forms. It is the first must-see visit among all the museums of Sitges.
The renovation of the building carried out between 2010 and 2014 led to the refurbishment of the structure and the restoration and recovery of all the original assets that were part of our heritage.