Modern Art Collection Part 4, Art and Civil War, National Art Museum of Catalonia

General Franco’s coup against the legitimate government of the Spanish Republic on 18 July 1936 marked the start of a civil war that ended in 1939 with the victory of the Fascists and the defeat, persecution and exile of the Republican forces. From the first moment, realising the need to let the world know about the dramatic situation of the Spanish people and to coordinate the diffusion of the image of the struggle against Fascism at home and abroad, the Republican institutions set up propaganda systems that achieved their best results in the activity of the Commissariat of Propaganda of the Generalitat de Catalunya, directed by Jaume Miravitlles, and subsequently of the Ministry for Propaganda of the Republican Government. The traditional arts –painting, sculpture, engraving– and the new media –illustrated publications, posters, photography, photomontage, film, etc.– converged in a sort of total mobilisation which, in conditions of utmost drama and urgency, realised many of the aspirations of modern and avant-garde art, especially those that see the artist as a producer and leader of the masses.

Perhaps the most significant moment in this synthesis of all the arts under the domain of propaganda –and also in the commitment of Spanish artists to the Spanish Republic– was the Pavilion of the Spanish Republic, built for the International Exhibition in Paris in 1937. Designed by Josep Lluís Sert, alongside Pablo Picasso’s Guernica it also included photomontages and photo-murals by Josep Renau and others, along with works by avant-garde artists –Joan Miró, Juli González, Alberto and Alexander Calder–, as well as by many others who were less well-known and more traditional but no less important.

National Art Museum of Catalonia reopened the first floor of the museum, dedicated to Modern Art, after a process of renovation of the collections, the galleries and the museography. The new display offers a new critical and complex narrative that avoids the mere succession of styles and names and includes all the artistic productions of the period:sculpture and painting, drawings and prints, photography, poster work, cinema, architecture and the decorative arts. Now there is a greater presence of elements that will help you to understand the social, historic and artistic context, and which highlight the international connections of artists and movements of Barcelona and Catalonia. The new display goes for the first time as far as the 1950s, including the movement Dau al Set (the first post-World War II artistic movement in Catalonia).

Modern Art permanent exhibition is divided into four sections and an epilogue: The Rise of the Modern Artist, Modernisme(s), Noucentisme(s), Art and Civil War, and The Avant-garde Revival of the Post-War Years.

In 2018, National Art Museum of Catalonia opened two new rooms for postwar and Second Avant-garde, we have incorporated three new artworks by Picasso and you can visit the Room project, by Pedro G. Romero, in the space dedicated to the Civil War.

At the end of the 1940s, a series of cultural and artistic groups sprang up who tried to recover the drive of the avant-garde that had been lost after the Civil War. Dau al Set, founded in Barcelona in 1948, was a paradigmatic representation of a situation which, while nevertheless announcing new paths, remained rooted in the models of the classic avant-gardes and, especially, in Surrealism. Dau al Set undoubtedly exemplified a beginning, but also, in many ways, the end of an artistic cycle that had begun four decades earlier in the first years of the 20th century.

Related Post


Josep Badosa, The glorious Republican Aviation that has acted so brilliantly on all fronts, without date
José Luis Bardasano, Evacuation, circa 1938
Pere Català Pic, Crush Fascism, 1936
Jose Garci’a Narezo, Defense of Madrid, towards 1937
Ramon Puyol, In front, 1937
Pere Daura, Le cauchemar, Argelès-sur-Mer, 1939
Juli González, Home cactus I, 1939
Juli González, Chief of Montserrat screaming, circa 1942

National Art Museum of Catalonia
The National Art Museum of Catalonia, also known by its acronym MNAC, is a museum of art in the city of Barcelona which brings together all the arts whose mission is to preserve and exhibit the collection of Catalan art ‘s most important world, showing everything from Romanesque to the present. Its current director is Josep Serra.

The MNAC is a consortium with its own legal personality constituted by the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Barcelona City Council and the General State Administration. In addition to the public administrations, individuals and private entities collaborating with the administration are represented on the museum’s board of trustees.

The main headquarters are located in the National Palace of Montjuïc, opened in 1929 on the occasion of the International Exhibition. Three other institutions are also part of the museum as a whole: the Víctor Balaguer Museum Library in Vilanova i la Geltrú, the Garrotxa Museum in Olot and the Cau Ferrat Museum in Sitges, whose management is independent and its ownership is based on the respective councils.