Modest Urgell i Inglada

Barcelona, 1839 - Barcelona, 1919

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The painter and playwright Modest Urgell was born in Barcelona on 13 June 1839. He trained at the Llotja art school, where he was a pupil of Ramon Martí i Alsina, the leading practitioner of realism in Catalonia. His master oriented him towards naturalistic representation and landscape painting. From 1864 onwards he began to take part in the National Exhibitions of Fine Arts and, two years later, in those organised by the Barcelona Academy of Fine Arts. Urgell submitted landscapes, and in particular, sea views from the outset. In fact, his earliest works already largely defined his later development. In the following decade, specifically between 1872 and 1878, he spent time in Paris, where apparently he met Courbet and saw for himself the works of Corot and the painters of the Barbizon School, with whom he had significant expressive affinities. Modest Urgell spent most of his life in Barcelona, although he painted series of landscapes throughout Catalonia in search of his own personal subject matter. In 1882 King Alfonso XII acquired the work Girona, which was shown at the National Exhibition of Fine Arts. After some time, in 1895, he was appointed a lecturer at the Barcelona School of Fine Arts, a post from which he exerted a strong influence on young painters like Miró, Picasso, Mir, Vilallonga, Roig i Soler, Vilapuig and his own son Ricard, among many others. In the year 1900 he and some friends and clients founded the Artistic and Literary Society which used the Sala Parés as its meeting centre and which advocated above all the aesthetic values of the early years of the Restoration, which were basically those of his artistic career. Modest Urgell died in Barcelona in 1919.

In Madrid he was appointed as a “retoucher” to the staff of the Blanco y Negro review and from the beginning of the century he spent alternate periods in the capital and Malaga, cooperating closely with his brother’s firm Prensa Gráfica which published magazines such as Nuevo Mundo, Mundo Gráfico and La Esfera. He had illustrations of his works published in them and was involved in editorial and managerial tasks.

His constant contact with Madrid led him to settle in the capital, where he frequented the company of Prado López, Muñoz Degrain, Moreno Carbonero and the Madrid Association of Painters and Sculptors, although he never lost contact with Malaga, as in 1924 he became a member of the panel for the Holy Week posters organised by the Malaga association of confraternities.

He died in Madrid on 10 October 1930.

Teresa Sauret Guerrero