On entering the Great Hall, visitors seeing it for the first time are usually struck with the same sensation as when entering a sacred precinct. Indeed, Rusiñol arranged everything in such a way that the Great Hall would resemble a temple of art. The height of the magnificent coffered ceiling, along with some of the pieces on display, further enhance this sensation.
Rusiñol chose the Great Hall as the place where he carefully arranged and displayed his splendid collection of ironwork. In the middle he placed the collection of glasswork acquired from Alexandre de Riquer and the sculpture of the Forjador català (Catalan blacksmith)by his great friend Enric Clarasó. He also hung several medieval works here, including the Altarpiece of the Mother of God, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Peter the Apostle – attributed to Guilem Ferrer and dated between 1390 and 1400 -, as well as the two works by El Greco he acquired in Paris, works by other artists such as La partició del viby Ignacio Zuloaga and Boulevard de Paris by Ramon Pichot, and many portraits Rusiñol made of his friends.
The Great Hall of Cau Ferrat is one of the truest examples of the idea of total art that informed so much of Catalan Modernisme.
Santiago Rusiñol Collection
” Antique possession and collecting mania is an incurable disease ”
Santiago Rusiñol, My old irons (1893)
“Antique collectors are the rags of memories”
Santiago Rusiñol, Highs and bad thoughts (1927)
Art, collecting and hiking were the three means where the artistic interest of Santiago Rusiñol came together and led to the polyhedral figure of the artist, intellectual, scientific hiker, journalist, archeologist, writer and collector. Rusiñol started as a collector in the workshop of his first teacher, the painter Tomàs Moragas, a friend and follower of Marià Fortuny. Scientific hiking, in which Rusiñol regularly and enthusiastically participated, was the other area in which Rusiñol developed his activity as a collector. The collector facet was the artist’s first public projection and profile, which, together with his dedication to the worship of art, defined him more precisely. Collecting became one of the most characteristic profiles in his total artist personality until the end of his days. Each of the museum’s works is directly related to a passage in the artist’s life. The Museum of the Cau Ferrat, as well as displaying a splendid collection of ancient and modern art, constitutes the “collection of the heart” of the artist.
The formation of Rusiñol’s art collection corresponds to three stages. The first, longer period, begins in 1875 and ends with the conference he gave at the Ateneu Barcelonès in 1893, Mis hierros viejos. This corresponds mainly to the formation of the forge collection and the pieces of ancient art, preserved then in the workshop he shared with the sculptor Enric Clarasó in Barcelona, called Cau Ferrat. The forging collection. Iron arts and the various objects of a religious or secular nature that became objects out of use or were part of the large number of ancient and anonymous works resulting from the constructive and artistic efforts of the ancient craftsmen were the preferred objects of attention. to some of the hikers of the time, as the various illustrations in the hiking bulletin and publications of the seventies and eighties of the nineteenth century show.
The second stage takes place at Cau Ferrat in Sitges. It begins with the purchase of the Greco paintings in Paris in January 1894, The tears of Saint Peter and the Magdalen penitent, and closes in 1902, with the acquisition of the collection of Alexandr de Riquer glass and the installation of the painting Thursday Santo in Pollença(1902), the last work of Santiago Rusiñol that enters the Cau Ferrat of Sitges. These are the years of the Modernist Festivities (1892-1899), which culminate in 1898 with the inauguration of the Sitgetan golden decade of the Greco Monument. During this stage he enters the Cau Ferrat and with the desire to form the artist’s collection most of Rusiñol’s paintings and that of his friends and colleagues Ramon Casas, MT Müller, Enric Clarasó, Arcadi Mas and Fondevila, Ramon Pichot, Zuloaga, Regoyos, as well as the one that acquires young emerging values: Isidre Nonell, Picasso and Manolo Hugué, who frequents the 4 Gats. A large number of works and artistic objects from their travels and artistic campaigns are incorporated to the Cau Ferrat: Montmartre and Paris, Italy (copies made by Rusiñol of the frescoes and paintings of the Primitives); Andalusia (the oils and drawings made in Granada and Víznar); copies made by him and others (Ramon Pichot or Pere Ferran) at the Museo del Prado, etc. Objects such as the Japanese window or the studio piano, with which Manuel de Falla concluded the suiteNights in the gardens of Spain in 1916 give the Cau Ferrat a unique and unique atmosphere and appearance.
The third stage corresponds to the first third of the twentieth century, when Rusiñol’s life change after the demoralization treatment involves a new routine of habits and almost always accompanied by his wife and daughter – of which there is work hanging on the museum walls. It is necessary to emphasize the entrance of the collection of pre-Roman and Punic archeology from the excavations of the Puig des Molins (Ibiza) and the vignettes of Ramon Casas with the scroll of Gabriel Alomar for L’Auca del sir Esteve (1907). ). Various pieces of ceramics come from Rusiñol’s travels and campaigns throughout Andalusia, Mallorca, the Valencian Country or Castile. Cau Ferrat goes from being a house-workshop to a workshop-museum, and its owner extends cards to authorize visits in his absence.
As an epilogue, the last stage of the Cau Ferrat is the one that begins with the reopening as a public museum (1933). Santiago Rusiñol bequeathed it to the town of Sitges for the love he professed to the people, as established in his will. Without removing or modifying the structure or areas, Joaquim Folch i Torres, director of the Museum of Art of Catalonia and first director of the Museum of the Cau Ferrat, together with his team carried out inventory, classification and relocation of the pieces. It is the stage of the museisation of Modernism. In 1935, the Rooster’s Weathervane , by the sculptor Pau Gargallo, was donated by his widow to be added to the forging collection.
The Cau Ferrat became one of the symbols of the cultural history of the country and is recognized as the Temple of Modernism.
Dance in the Moulin de la Galette
Ramon Casas, 1890-1891, Paris, oil on canvas
Ramon Casas painted this work in 1891, during his third stage in Paris. It is an oil painting done with a particular economy of colour, where greys and dark tones dominate, offering a melancholy image of one of the Montmartre leisure spots of the late nineteenth century.
Experts consider this work to be one of the key pieces in his long, accomplished career.
The Bohemian (Miquel Utrillo)
Santiago Rusiñol, 1890, Paris, oil on canvas
Rusiñol and Utrillo solidified their friendship after 1880. Together with Casas, Clarasó and Canudas they became an almost inseparable quintet. In the spring of 1889 Utrillo left for Paris to be artistic correspondent for the La Vanguardia newspaper. A short time later, when Rusiñol had already settled in the French capital, they moved into a building on Rue de l’Orient together with Canudas and Clarasó. Utrillo introduced many of the Parisian artists of the time to Rusiñol, also showing him the bohemian ambience in Montmartre, which Utrillo knew well from his student days.
The Morphine Addict
Santiago Rusiñol, 1894, Paris, oil on canvas
In 1894, during his third and last stage in Paris, Rusiñol painted two very similar canvases, both featuring a thinly delicate young woman. In The Morphine Addict the model (who seems to be different from the one in The Medal) is lying in bed under the effects of the drug, after having taken morphine.
The “addict” portrayed in the painting was Stéphanie Nantas, the painter’s preferred model in the period he lived in the flat at Quai Bourbon. Rusiñol had her appear in almost a dozen paintings of the period, always as someone anonymous, except in the portrait that bears her name: Rêverie (Stéphanie Nantas), which can also be seen in the Grand Hall.
Santiago Rusiñol, 1894-1895, Paris, oil on canvas
After returning from Pisa and Florence in 1894, the influence of early Italian painters on Rusiñol would be seen in three large panels now hanging in the pointed arch apertures at the end of the Grand Hall. All of them were conceived to decorate this part of Cau Ferrat. We refer to the well-known allegories of Painting, Music and Poetry. Done in Paris in late 1894 and early 1895, they are now considered to be Rusiñol’s distinct contribution to the Symbolist movement, a popular European tendency at the end of the century that Rusiñol identified with.
(El Greco) and workshop, The Tears of Saint Peter, c. 1600, oil on canvas
The importance of the El Greco paintings Mary Magdalene Penitent and The Tears of Saint Peter was accurately summarized by Miquel Utrillo when he defined both works as “one of the most commented upon moral and material attractions at Cau Ferrat.” Even today, many visitors enter the museum to contemplate these two works by the painter from Crete, who Santiago Rusiñol made into the incarnation of the ideal of the modern painter.
In the work of El Greco, where colour dominates over the drawn line, Rusiñol and his colleagues saw a clear precedent for modern painting. Rusiñol saw El Greco as the personification of a free, modern artist.
Ramon Canudas, Convalescent Patient
Santiago Rusiñol, 1892, Sitges, oil on canvas
The friendship between Rusiñol and Canudas began in 1885 after being introduced by Miquel Utrillo, and grew over the years, especially in the period they both lived in Paris in the barracks on Rue de l’Orient. It lasted until the death of the engraver in Sitges in 1892 from tuberculosis.
Of the many portraits Rusiñol painted of his friends, two are depictions of the engraver Ramon Canudas. The artist did them only a few months apart in 1892, precisely when Canudas’ illness was clearly irreversible.
In this work, the subject is seated in front of a heater, with a blanket covering his legs and book open on his lap.
Attributed to Guillem Ferrer, Altarpiece of the Virgin
John the Baptist and Saint Peter the Apostle, c. 1390-1400, tempera, gold leaf and metallic leaves on pine
This pictorial group of three panels and a predella is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist and Saint Peter, whose images are in the central section. Three compositions focus on the life of John the Baptist (birth, baptism of Christ, and death under King Herod), while three more are centred on the life of the prince of the apostles (the calling of Saint Peter, the resurrection of Tabitha and his crucifixion).
This altarpiece was part of the body of work identified with Guillem Ferrer, and can be dated from the late fourteenth century.
Portrait of the Sculptor Carles Mani
Santiago Rusiñol, 1895, Paris, oil on canvas
This painting was never shown during the lifetime of the painter, and only left Cau Ferrat for the first time in 1981. Portrait of the Sculpture Carles Mani is without a doubt one of the most troubling portraits ever done by Rusiñol. The tension in the face, the untrusting gaze and the surly character of the subject reveals a man who is taciturn and troubled, the misunderstood, unlucky artist represented by Mani. Rusiñol depicts him from the waist up, seated on a chair with the left arm resting on the chair back. The dark physiognomy of the sculptor and his black jacket are like cut-outs over top of a bold duotone ground of reds on the wall and yellow on the bedspread, clearly inspired by the yellow clothing of El Greco’s Saint Peter.
Rusiñol met Carles Mani and his friend, the painter Pere Ferran, in Paris. In 1894 Mani had received a grant from the Provincial Government of Tarragona and decided to share it with Ferran, which led them both on a Parisian adventure of veritable misery which Rusiñol had to rescue them from.
Painting Each Other
Ramon Casas and Santiago Rusiñol, 1890, Cerdanya region, oil on canvas
Impressionist painters were particularly attracted to the idea of doing portraits of each other.
The friendship between Rusiñol and Casas took them to the Cerdanya region in the summer of 1890. On this trip they did this work, signed by both of them.
This was not the first time they had portrayed each other, though they had always done so separately, making this work their only collaborative piece.
In the foreground we see Rusiñol, while Casas is seated further back. The subjects are seated in the shade, out of the light, which can only be seen on the brightly lit wall beyond them.
Rusiñol on top of a wrought iron lamp
Ramon Casas, 1893, Sitges, oil on canvas
Rusiñol on top of a wrought iron lamp, an oil painting by Ramon Casas from 1893, has been one of the most emblematic works of the Catalan bohemian art nouveau, ever since it appeared on the cover of a 1942 book by Josep Pla, Rusiñol y su tiempo (Rusiñol and his Time).
In effect, starting in his youth and until the end of his days, this image of Rusiñol was repeated by illustrators and painters, and was frequently used ironically by caricaturists.
The many portraits done of him by his great friend Ramon Casas stand out from amongst the prolific iconography of those done by artists such as M. T. Müller, Càndid Duran, Zuloaga, Ramon Pichot and Picasso.
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.