Josep Sarró, doctor and artist Antiques 18/09/2023

It is a pleasure for Balclis to present the work of a great unpublished artist of the 20th century. Eminent dermatologist and experimenter of novel treatments, in a totally unusual way, developed also a lively passion for creation. Its activity completely amateur, but perfectly dominated, she did not orient herself towards the most common that would appeal to an amateur (painting or modeling of mud), but towards activities that required greater preparation technique and that would be included in what we know as Arts Decorative or Object Arts.

Dr. Sarró on one of the roofs of the Hospital de Sant Pau, in the 1930s

A young man who, in addition to scientific interests, had evident plastic hobbies, in the Barcelona of the first third of the 20th century had the possibility of finding a good fertilized field. The young Sarró He had artists like Joan as friends and clients Bosch-Roger, Joan Commelerán, Francesc Domingo, Rosendo González Carbonell or even the great Francesc Gimeno, so the debate and creative restlessness were all around him. Likewise, the development of the teaching activities of the Escola Superior de Bells Oficis from from 1914, enhancement the love towards the decorative arts that they recovered many techniques that were practically lost. All of this would lead to the creation of often unique objects, that combined a taste for tradition with designs moderns, which had to do with the entire “noucentista” and with the most advanced French taste and that would link with Art Deco. From there jewelry, trays, glasses, plates… that we can consider “Artist Objects”. Artists such as Josep Aragay in ceramics or Ramón Sunyer in jewelry, they were teachers at that School and from there they they would come out silversmiths like Jaume Mercadé, glass enamelers like Josep Mª Gol or ceramists like the Serra brothers. The best Catalan ceramist of the 20th century, Josep Llorenç Artigas, united these two aspects: on the one hand he was patient and friend of Sarró; and on the other hand he was a student of the aforementioned Escola from 1915, which would undoubtedly be the strongest link between the doctor and the art objects.

We must also remember that Sarró he got married in 1923 with Elisea Palau de Riquer, niece of the great artist Alexandre de Riquer, that he was an excellent painter, draftsman and engraver and that he designed furniture, stained glass and decorative objects. This particular one deserves stand out because Elisea inherited large number of works by his uncle and of his contemporaries, as well like ancient art objects, so the young Sarró was in direct contact with works of art and traditional objects, as well as as with works by Catalan artists first level.

Frances Domingo. Josep SArró. Pencil on paper. Around 1933

We do not know if Dr. Sarró He went to some art school, but for his medical occupations, we assume that he would not have much time in his youth to dedicate himself to other courses. What is undeniable is that His artistic vocation was strong and since the years 20 already signed objects designed or directly made by him. Everything indicates that he must have surely to be basically self-taught and who had to be inspired directly from contemplation and analysis of the art he saw and that aroused his interest. Although we know some pictorial notes and drawings of figures and landscape, it is surprising to see how from the very beginning his interests They leaned towards the world of objects.

Fortunately, the descendants of this saga have inherited and preserved much of the graphic documentation, designs and the works carried out by Sarró, so we can make ourselves very good idea of ??the interesting production of this artist whose The work has remained unpublished until now. From the projects and from the preserved pieces, we can affirm that it was decided by what they called at the Escola de Bells Oficis “Arts of the Earth” (or also “of Fire”), which encompass ceramics, glass and metals, although he would also dedicate himself, as We will see, wood carving objects. It is a pleasure for Balclis to be able study, catalog and offer this entire series of unpublished pieces, that are presented to the public in an online monographic auction.

The ceramics

Ceramics interested him. particularly from the world of the tiles, feeling very attracted to the Catalans called “d’Arts i Oficis”. Some of his drawings are copies of 18th century tiles made directly on paper decal on the originals that practically always measure 13x13 cm. From these tracings he made watercolor drawings and also made some real tiles, which can practically be confused with the old originals. Without a doubt Sarró he was enthusiastic about popular freshness and grace of that type of production and I had to like to imitate them, being one of the most creative facets of ancient Catalan art. In his case, there were no works with a seal own, but yes that served him to practice his art and to recreate those beautiful models. Of his interest in those works This is a sample of a letter preserved from the Maritime Museum by which They sent the photos of six ship tiles that I had requested. In a more elaborate aspect, we know a ceiling of 24 pieces that illustrate a Last Supper with a wide border, with composition inspired by Romanesque frontals (this piece was donated by a son of the doctor to the parish of San Raimundo de Peñafort in Barcelona, where it can be seen).

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Josep Sarró. Twelve "Arts i Officis" and peasant tiles. Watercolor on paper and cardboard. Second quarter of the 20th century

In the world of tiles you can breathe the Noucentista spirit of recovery of the moments of past splendor and of a taste for the recreation of the popular, but it is undoubtedly in the pieces “of form” in which Sarró get in the area ceramic greater originality. We know a vase and several dishes in and various dish projects in which the author explores with excellent results the aesthetics of Art Deco and Cubism, revealing to us an undoubtedly advanced spirit. The little one centerboard shows great bravery in the enamelled decoration on the white surface, linking without continuity solution plant stylizations of the most vivid colors, in a style Art Deco perfectly assimilated. At this moment perhaps We must consider to what extent Sarró participated in the making of his works, since the objects require technical elaboration that we do not know if he completely dominated. It is possible to think that the execution of the ceramic forms or the glass were not made by him, but we can deduce that the application of the enamels on the surfaces, drawing and painting applied with a brush, would be work direct from the doctor himself. The delicacy in the dedication and signature of This small daggerboard leads us to think that whoever made it That text was also the one that painted the rest of the piece.

Josep Sarró. Daffodil vase with plant motifs. Crockery. Signed and dated 1930

In several plate projects he developed also a very advanced cubist aesthetics, which would reveal him as a knowledgeable man of the international avant-garde. It is of greatest interest to see like Sarró I was planning to decorate a plate with a border wavy around and in the center distributed a series of elements sections of musical iconography (piano, sheet music, single notes, musicians…), which refer to cubist models of Picasso, Braque or Gris or even futuristic examples of Gino Severini. We think that In this case the grace lies in adapting that plastic to the ornamentation. from a plate and in fact we only know a few specimens that can assume a certain parallel, made by his friend Josep Llorens Artigas.

Josep Sarró. Plate project with musical motifs. Ink and watercolor on paper. Around 1930


Without a doubt the technique most used by Sarró. in its artist side is that of enameled glass. Of this we have preserved various creations dated between 1929 and 1950, particularly glasses and glasses, so as numerous preparatory drawings. Following the wide display of Catalan glass decorators at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs de Paris of 1925, where they triumphed Xavier Nogués, Josep Mª Gol or the Cardunets sisters, the doctor was applied in the ornamentation of glass objects, always made of transparent material. As those artists did, This used either repeated motifs that covered the surface of the glasses and cups, generally with vegetal stylizations or placed a main reason that acquired its own prominence. Between the The first highlights a large glass with splashed brushstrokes, which we can relate with some watercolor drawings by the author. At the Balclis auction we offer also four glasses with flowers and elements of Art Deco taste who carry a phylactery with the names of the doctor and his wife Elisea and the date 1950, so it would appear to be a glassware for own use.

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Josep Sarró. Glass. Enameled glass. Signed and dated 1950.
Josep Sarró. Enamelled decoration project. Watercolor on paper. Around 1935-1950

Among the pieces with a central motif, it is worth highlighting the glasses with shields with noble border or vases and projects with themed characters childish, but perhaps the most interesting object is a large one with a Russian style dancer. By the type of glass (thick but wall fine), the drawing outlined in black and by the pearly colors and with gradation towards white, is very reminiscent of the works made with models by Xavier Nogues in Ricard Crespo's studio. Even the way of signing and dating in black and in the center of the base of the piece, it seems to recall the collaborations of those two artists, so it would not be ruled out that Sarró I could do this piece with Crespo and his wife Conxa.

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Josep Sarró.Vase with Russian dancer. Enameled glass. Signed and dated 1929

The goldsmith

In the world of metals, Josep Sarró also made interesting raids. These range from the world of jewelry to objects silver. In this area we think that the artist should make the desired design, however the execution will surely leave it in the hands of friendly goldsmiths. It stands out as the first dated work of all the areas the gold ring - surely an engagement ring - that he would give to his future wife and which bears the date of 1920, of considerable width and with a continuous floral band. Of great originality is a forceful brooch, of which fortunately we preserve the previous drawing, made of embossed and chiseled silver, with dynamic distribution of various snails and with an oscillating pendeloque.

Josep Sarró. Brooch. Embossed and chiseled silver. Around 1925.
Josep Sarró. Brooch project. Ploo pencil and colored pencil on paper. Around 1925

Perhaps the most notable piece of silver is a tray of medium size with representation of a couple of doves, which again shows great Art Deco synthesis. The composition In the center it has the two birds on a roof surrounded by clouds and is conceived with a geometric forcefulness that almost transcends the Deco plastic to border on abstraction. In addition the strong and pointed border that acts as the edge of the cobra tray a special prominence and demonstrates great coherence with the design general of the object. Without a doubt we can state that this piece, due to its conception In general, for its composition and its adaptation to the material, It can be considered one of the masterpieces of silversmithing. Art Deco in Spain.

Josep Sarró. Tray with doves. Embossed and chiseled silver. Signed and dated 1933


In addition to these varied forays into the arts of the earth and from fire, Sarró he also ventured in other areas, like wood. Of particular interest is a small box made exactly in the style of the Girona artist Adolf Fargnoli. Both the excavated carving work with repeated and abstract design, like the matching hardware made of copper, like the poetic titling of the object on the base (“Caixeta dels/bons recorts/Nadal 1931/J Sarró;” undoubtedly refer to the work of that artist and tell us about the sincere and emotional approaches of the doctor's art to what he most He liked his contemporaries.

Josep Sarró. Carved and tinted wooden box with copper fittings. Embossed and chiseled plaa. Signed and dated 1931

We think it is fair to offer a tribute to the man of science who also demonstrated this love for the decorative arts and who maintained his work practically anonymous. The eclecticism of its aesthetics shows the variety of her interests and how diversified and broad she was his private career, which despite corresponding to an alleged “amateur”, equaled many contemporaries creating excellent “objects of an artist”.