Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona
Ismael Smith, the beauty and the monsters
From June 23 to September 17, 2017
Reviewing the career of Ismael Smith Marí (Barcelona, 1886 – White Plains, New York, 1972) in depth was a long overdue task in the history of Catalan art. Smith was famous during the early years of his career, but in 1919 he left for the United States, at which point the process of oblivion began for him. He never managed to integrate there as he had hoped and he gradually gave up art for his naïve and obsessive research into cancer cures. Finally, in 1960, he was interned against his will in the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum outside New York. In Catalonia he wasn’t entirely forgotten as an artist but he was restricted to the field of satirical illustration and bibelots. This was because of his transgressive production, always pushed to the limit, in the orderly world of Noucentismehe belonged to.
His grotesque or expressionistic deformations, the sexual ambiguity of his male or female figures and the horrific scenes in his engravings had no place in the placid Mediterraneanism that prevailed as the only possible way out for Modernisme. It was disturbing and varied work that gradually dropped out of the official discourse of Catalan art and was eventually rejected and scorned. Reappraisal of his figure only came after his death, thanks to the efforts of some of his most faithful admirers.
The exhibition is arranged in five rooms: the person, the illustrator, the sculptor, the engraver and the artist’s tragic end.