by Reed V. Horth, for ROBIN RILE FINE ART
Back in the early 2000′s, I began working on the design and curation of a new gallery on Worth Avenue in beautiful Palm Beach, Florida. It was the third in the gallery chain I was working with at the time and it was quite beautiful, within eyesight of the Atlantic Ocean and across from the historic Esplanade, where the likes of Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Saks Fifth Avenue all kept residence. As I was working there throughout the week and commuting to either Tampa or Miami on the weekends. While waiting for inventory, I spent my hours watching surfers effortlessly undulate in the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Waves would roll in and roll out as I read Umberto Eco novels and stared at the play of light on the water. Strolls down Worth Avenue are beautiful, hot and not for the weak-of-credit. On one particular trek from our gallery to the fashionable bistro Bice, I stopped into the lovely and venerable Wally Findlay Gallery. WFG was established in 1870, so they are what we were, at the time, aspiring to be. The gallery of choice for the well-heeled and upwardly-mobile. They have featured everyone from Edgar Degas to Marc Chagall to Alexander Calder and everyone in between. On this particular day, they had a lovely painting in the front window by a Spanish painter named Joan Beltrán Bofill (Spanish, 1939-2009).
At that point, I was quite unfamiliar with the artist, but his style was a fresh take on the classical impressionist ethos. While not impressionist per se, the free brushstrokes and impasto painting techniques echoed masters of the past without miming them precisely. Young maidens in flowing skirts and shawls stand in rocky Majorcan landscapes while intemperate winds and natural sunlight wash over them. Rather than being frenetic in the face of such tempest, his works promoted surprisingly calm reflection. Light seems to emanate from the canvas itself as though washed through trees overhead. They seemed a salve to the everyday cacophony of city living and well suited for the homes and interior design of Palm Beach and South Florida homes.
His vision and his work, although they had always been in my mind had never been part of my professional repertoire. The inventories in my former galleries revolved around other neo-impressionist masters, Jose Royo, Nicola Simbari, Pino Daeni and others. However, he always seemed to start it all for me.
More than a decade later, and more than a year after Bofill’s passing, my travels brought me to both Spain and Mallorca, Bofill’s homeland. Though we never met, the sun is exactly as he described it in his paintings. It sifts through the tree tops and fills the day with calming warmth. The whites are whiter. Just as he told me. The yellows, reds and blues are brighter and deeper. Just as he described. The wind on the hills and rocky outcrops of Majorcan beaches effects the same rejuvenation and calm as he conveyed in work after work. As I sat in the Mediterranean sun reflecting, Bofill made sense to me.
Wandering past a small antiquario in Central Madrid, I noticed a familiar vision. One whom I had not seen in a decade, but one whom had occupied my thoughts through the previous weeks. It was a Bofill. The women he delicately placed in the background hovered in the pure whiteness of their dresses in the placid Mallorcan sun and it passed through the trees overhead. The winds were calm but you could almost sense the verdant lavender and olive oil in the air. It brought me back to my days in Palm Beach staring admiringly at works on Worth Avenue…. as well as the previous days staring at the rocky beaches of the Mediterranean shores of Malllorca. My wife and I stepped inside and spoke to the shop owner who then made arrangements for us to see several other Bofill works from the estate of the artist. We snatched them up on the spot.
Now, we stare at the placid landscapes and flowing, sunlit dresses and a calm comes over us. While remembrances abound of my early days on sunny Palm Beach, new memories have taken over from the beaches of Mallorca. Bofill has perfectly encapsulated what it means to be on in the sun of Eastern Spain. The brightness. The warmth. The wind. The feeling. Perhaps this is what painting is supposed to do. Take you to someplace…. other. Perhaps seeking these sights is why I came here in the first place.
for information on our present inventory of works from Joan Beltrán Bofill.