Espai Carme Thyssen

The exhibition

Cities and inhabited places

Josep Amat converses with impressionism


Staying true to the way the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection is presented, putting Catalan painting into context with international painting, on this occasion we offer the painting of Josep Amat as a common thread of the interaction with masters of French impressionism (Pissarro, Sisley, Guillaumin, Bonnard) and other artists who have also nourished themselves on these aesthetic roots (Gauguin, Dufy, Louiseau, Lebasque, Camoin, Potthast). A pictorial stroll through the twenty-one selected works which we hope you will enjoy.


Amat cannot be defined as an impressionist artist, but it is true to say that he has incorporated the dialogue with this pictorial movement into his visual language. There are four key concepts that distinguish these conversations, and which can act as guides in the reading of the works. Three of them are directly connected with the pictorial act in general and impressionism in particular: the light, the atmosphere and the moment. The exhibition devotes Rooms 1, 2 and 3 to each of these in turn. The fourth concept, the workshop on the street, will be a constant in Amat's work and is highlighted in Rooms 4 and 5. When taking part in the dialogue, it should also be considered that the fact of highlighting a concept does not exclude the presence of the others, since the painting is always open to the gaze.

Although a tour is offered in the virtual visit, the aesthetic discourse is constructed in such a way that the exhibition can be freely explored without the need to follow a set itinerary.

VIDEO. Introduction

(or) VIDEOS. All the videos together

The exhibition in detail

Exhibition's tour

  • Room 1 Light

    Room 1 Light

    Reading the world through painting while exploring the magic of light is one of the ways to enjoy art. Impressionism combines the analysis of the vision and that of the light in aiding sensitivity to interpret the form. The four pieces in this room are drawn from places close to the experience-based biography of the artists who produced them, and have been chosen to awaken the viewer's curiosity in reading their interrelationships. While the impact of light is decisive and the colours are not sacrosanct, the same thing occurs in the reading of the works when they interact.

    The approach is the dialogue between Amat’s The artist's house in Sant Feliu de and Lebasque’s On the banks of the Marne, and between Amat’s El Prat de Llobregat and Bonnard’s Sunlight.


  • Room 2 Atmosphere

    Room 2 Atmosphere

    The colours are not perceived on their own, but through close relationships. In this regard, impressionist artists attempt to represent the atmosphere - the relationships between light, space and time. During the final third of the 19th century, the pictorial discourse began to go through a change that had not happened since the Renaissance. Paris became the world capital of painting, and remained so until the Second World War.

    When Josep Amat visited Paris in 1933, he was greatly impressed and painted intensely. During this stay, he repeatedly visited the Louvre and the Jeu de Paume, where Sisley, Pissarro, Guillaumin and Bonnard were on show.

    The dialogues in this room are between Sisley’s The Port-Marly Flood and Amat’s Rambla de Sant Feliu, and between Guillaumin’s The Archbishop's Bridge and the Apse of Notre-Dame and Amat’s Pont Saint Michel.


  • Room 3 Moments

    Room 3 Moments

    A single landscape can be the object of many representations. The subject is only an excuse for the analysis of light and the challenge of catching the moment. Hence the successive appearances that make a place inexhaustible, whether it is a street, a building, or a promenade. The painting prevented the moment from melting away, while succeeding in playing with the optical illusion to bring about the sensation of movement. The shadows of the objects are represented by abandoning the dark tones and reducing the coloured spaces with complementary shades, for example using yellow lights and violet shadows.

    The suggested dialogues are, on one hand, between Rue de Clignancourt, Paris, 14th July by Loiseau, The “La Constancia” casino and Tables on the promenade by Amat, and on the other hand, between Route De Versailles, Louveciennes. Winter sun and snow by Pissarro and Snow, Sant Gervasi by Amat.


  • Room 4 Corners of the world

    Room 4 Corners of the world

    Plein air painting, produced outdoors, has its roots in the Barbizon school. The artist works directly in the place where he or she is painting and not in the workshop. At the outset, the artist was seeking direct contact with nature. In the case of Amat, most of his works were produced in an urban environment, but if he is distinguished by anything, it is the fact that he was passionate about moving his studio to the street, always painting in the open air. His study was wherever he set up his easel, because he had found the excuse, the subject for enjoying colour. Josep Amat’s urban landscapes, whether devoted to the streets of Paris, Barcelona or Sant Feliu, precisely have the charm of the “how”, the magic of the “where” and the enthusiasm that prolonged the “who”.

    This room’s dialogues are between Dufy’s The Fish Market, Marseille and Amat’s Market, and between Gaugin’s Rue Jouvenet, Rouen and Amat’s La Criollat.



  • Room 5 Sant Feliu de Guíxols and the sea

    Room 5 Sant Feliu de Guíxols and the sea

    When he went to Sant Feliu de Guíxols in 1933, he did so seeking the beauty of the light and of the landscape that his friend Pau Verrié had told him about. In addition, there he met Isabel Girbau, whom he married and thus his human geography was sketched out between Barcelona and Sant Feliu. The connection with Paris will remain in the impressionist effluvia that will define part of his painting. The sea and the trees of the Paseo de Sant Feliu, an urban nature, probably provided him with the perfect subject for applying the loose brushstrokes with which to apply grouped pure colours which, from afar, sparkle in the eye of anyone contemplating them.

    The dialogues between Potthast’s Beach scene and Amat’s Balandres, and Camoin’s Port of Cassis with two sailing boats and Amat’s Port of Sant Feliu I, perhaps invite us to look at what was there but which we possibly had not seen.



  • BIO Josep Amat

    BIO Josep Amat

    Josep Amat i Pagès - Barcelona, 1901 - 1991

    Josep Amat i Pagès was born in Barcelona on 13 April 1901, into a family of rural landowners in the Barcelona region of Baix Llobregat. His father, Josep Amat i Aymar, was a legal administrator of properties. He was a cultivated man with artistic interests. His mother, Maria Pagès, originally from the same region but born in Barcelona, had been brought up in a cultured environment. A music-lover, she had been a disciple of the pianist Vidiella.
    The young Amat set out on his artistic path in 1917, and that year he frequented the workshop of the scenographer Ros i Güell. Shortly afterwards, he attended the courses taught by the painter Nicanor Vázquez at the Ateneu Obrer in Barcelona, until he entered the Escola de Belles Arts de la Llotja, an institution where many masters of modern Catalan painting were trained. There he studied under the painters Fèlix Mestres and Francesc Labarta.
    Josep Amat’s vocation for painting was permanently established as a result of his acquaintance and friendship with the country’s most prestigious landscape painter, Joaquim Mir, with whom he lived for the whole of 1925 at his home in Vilanova i la Geltrú. The close relationship with Mir - who in the spring of 1936 was the painter’s best man when he married Isabel Girbau - lasted until his death in 1940. However, Amat's artistic emancipation from his master came about very soon afterwards. By the end of the 1920s, Amat's painting already had a definite personality that was far removed from that of his master, in terms of both subject matter and style.
    1928, the year of his first solo exhibition at the Dalmau Galleries in Barcelona, then one of the main centres for the dissemination of avant-garde European art in pre-war Spain, marked a milestone in Amat’s career. On the one hand, it marks his successful debut as a professional painter in his home town, while on the other, the eruption into the art world of an independent and singularly mature artist.
    Between 1933 and 1935, Amat experienced his private journey in Paris, which at that time was still the capital of international art. Before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, he stayed in the city of the Seine three times, almost always coinciding with autumn. The first and last of these stays were longer, while the second was shorter. During these trips, the painter came into direct contact with the great works of Impressionism, became acquainted with the treasures of the Louvre Museum and, above all, painted ceaselessly. When he returned from Paris, he brought with him exquisite views of the Seine bridges and the city’s most picturesque spots. This contact with Paris also left an important mark on him, thanks to his acquaintance and friendship with two veteran painters who belonged to the avant-garde scene of the beginning of the century: the fauves Albert Marquet and Raoul Dufy.
    The Civil War period was bitter and difficult for Amat and for his entire generation, the so-called "lost generation," men and women whose lives were cut in half by the convulsions and historical events in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1936, shortly after marrying Isabel Girbau, the painter witnessed his father-in-law and brother-in-law being shot to death in Sant Feliu de Guíxols. His parents spent most of the War hidden in a farmhouse. In 1938, during a heavy aerial bombardment of Barcelona, Isabel , the first of his three children, was born.
    When the conflict was over, the painter resumed exhibiting in Barcelona and in 1940, he formed an exclusive verbal agreement with Joan A. Maragall, owner of the Sala Parés, a pact they both maintained until Amat's death in 1991. Soon afterwards, in 1941, he joined the Barcelona School of Fine Arts as a teacher, an activity he continued until he retired in 1972. In the dark years of the post-war period, Amat regularly attended the meetings of one of the few artistic circles in Barcelona, La Colla, a group formed around the hospitable and exquisite painter of Georgian origin Olga Sacharoff, in which prominent personalities of contemporary Catalan culture, such as the musicians Frederic Mompou and Eduard Toldrà, the painters Josep Puigdengoles and Josep Mompou, the writer Josep Millàs i Raurell, the publisher Joan Seix, the sculptor Enric Monjo and the ceramist Josep Llorens i Artigas, among others, were active.

    The 1950s and 60s were when Amat's creativity matured and he established himself professionally beyond the artistic field of Barcelona where, since the beginning of the 1930s, he had already earned a considerable reputation and a not inconsiderable income, and where he had gained almost unanimous critical acclaim in the official events in which he had taken part. By 1949 he was able to resume his periodic urban landscape seasons in his beloved Paris. In 1954 he won the José Ramón Ciervo Prize at the 2nd Hispano-American Biennial, held in Havana. In 1955 he was awarded the Sant Jordi prize by Barcelona Provincial Council and in 1963, the Ynglada Guillot drawing prize. He also exhibited in Madrid, Paris, Brussels and in various Spanish and American cities.
    In 1988, the president of the Catalan Government, Jordi Pujol, presented the painter with the Creu de Sant Jordi, a public recognition of a career lasting three quarters of a century, which Amat was especially thrilled to receive. Shortly afterwards, in 1990, his wife Isabel Girbau died, and the painter only survived her by a few months. Amat died on 17 January 1991. In line with the artist’s wishes, he was buried in the town of Sant Feliu de Guíxols.

    Jordi González Llàcer