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Antoni Morillas, a graphic designer of the pioneer times. Barcelona 1932-1983

Authors:

Abstract

Study about Catalan designer Antoni Morillas and any possible points of intersection with diverse International trends he may have had. It explains Morillas’ graphic work from cataloguing and analysis of all his professional projects.
Author 1 and presenter: Noemí Clavería Pelegrín
Gender: F
Title, Position: PhD Student.
Institution: Universitat de Barcelona
Address:
Telephone:
Department of Design and Visual Arts.
Facultat de Belles Arts.
e-mail: nclaveri@xtec.cat
Theme: 1
Author 2 (not presenting): Anna Calvera
Gender: F
Title: Phd
Position: Associate Professor
Institution: Universitat de Barcelona
e-mail:
Department of Design and Visual Arts.
Facultat de Belles Arts
Pau Gargallo, 4
08028 Barcelona (Spain)
acalvera@telefonica.net
Translator: Cristina Papadopoulo
ANTONI MORILLAS,
A GRAPHIC DESIGNER OF THE PIONEER TIMES. BARCELONA 1932-1983
Introduction
The present study focuses on the personality of Antoni Morillas, one of the pioneers of Spanish
design. In fact, this will also be the argument to justify: the pioneer characteristics of the
designer. We shall learn more about the historical circumstances that he lived in, about his
professional route and about his works, trying to clarify the intersection between points that there
might have existed with different international movements and with his catalan colleagues.
We shall get closer to this point peripherally, which means that the study will firstly focus on the
local environment of Cataluna in order to relate it with the international environment later.
Nevertheless, the basis will not only be theoretical but also practical. On the other hand, as there
is no profound analysis on Antoni Morillas, a study work has been done, that consists in
cataloguing his work, and on the information that has been acquired by familiars and colleagues.
There are several fundamental targets to achieve through this work: learn, allocate and get richer.
First of all, we shall meet Antoni Morillas himself, a basic but unappreciated personality in the
history of catalan design. Secondly, we shall give the right position to the Morillas within the
local and the international environment of his times. Finally, as a result of the two previous
points, we think that the history of design is getting richer. The knowledge gets further and the
unedited study of an almost unknown designer and a peripheral zone in this period design will be
reached by more people.
The Antoni Morillas time
Morillas professional activity runs at the 50’s, the 60’s and the 70’s and on the geographic zone
of Catalonia. The Spanish civil war ended in 1939 opening a large postwar period of franquist
dictatorship. During the 50’s, an economic opening of the regime was produced, a sign of which
is the intervention of foreign capital, mostly through the American aid. On the other hand, the
first public conflict against the regime, the first sign of a collective Catalan consciousness was
the tramway strike in Barcelona, in 1951. In fact, “the wake-up of the professional consciousness
of the designer starts –chronologically- from the great tramway strike of 1951 in Barcelona and it
gets more concrete in 1956-1957, marked by the university turbulences”1. The educated
minorities shall look with positiveeness at this new profession which will be converted into the
expression of a European normality.
The 60’s provided the zone with an important economic reactivation boomed thanks to some
coordinated means of liberalization and to the industry development. That’s why this period is
ironically considered to be and is usually described as “happy”. The consumer choices are
multiplied though “the necessities of those who already own a fridge, a washing machine and a
TV, had either an ideological or a snobbish origin”2. It seemed rather difficult to put together a
relatively comfortable life with its pressing spiritual needs. It is interesting to mention the
emerging of important movements of the Catalan culture, such as the Catalan “Nova Cançó”
(New Songs movement) materialized in the record company of Edigsa. Editions 62 also appear
at that time, an excellent editing company, and “Serra d’Or” the first cultural magazine in local
language. 1966 was the year when a new law for press and information a little more open in
spirit passed and many cultural industries started then.
During the 70’s a progressive weakness of the regime was produced and a period of transition
started. The 20th of November of 1975 can be considered as the day of its beginning-date of the
death of Franco- and the October 28th of 1982- day of the election of the P.S.O.E.- as its ending.
Between these two dates we can find the first government to be established by the monarchy –the
Arias Navarro government- as well as the democratically elected government of Adolfo Suarez
in 1977. Moreover, the Spanish constitution was written and approved by referendum in 1978.
Speaking about Catalonia, the last franquist years permitted the creation of several political
alliances, the first of which ever to be created in Spain being the Catalan Assembly in 1971.
Nevertheless, the real culmination is represented by the establishment of the Generalitat de
Catalunya in 1977, the president of which, Josep Tarradellas, was the president elected within
exile and an old minister of Generalitat during the war years.
The last part of the Antoni Morillas period is destined to make the contemporary position of
design in Catalonia more concrete. Firstly, it is interesting to mention the quantity of schools
created during the 60’s. The Municipal school of art and design f Barcelona widely known as the
1 Satué, Enric: El libro de los anuncios III. Volver a empezar (1940-1962) Barcelona. Editorial Alta Fulla, 1991,
p. 22
2 Ibid., p.47
Massana School introduced the graphic design section in 1961, and extended later the areas of
learning adding industrial and interior design. The Escola Elisava was founded in 1961, giving
specialized classes of graphic, interior and industrial design. Finally, the Eina design school
opened the doors in 1967, parted from the Escola Elisava and under the direction of the painter
Ràfols Casamada. It was based on the theory of Bauhaus in order to develop the most vanguards
tendencies, like the conceptual art and semiotics theory.
A special mention to the foundation of G-FAD in 1961 is required at this point, as this was a key
fact to the evolution of Catalan and Spanish design. This society was founded by a group of
graphic designers formed by Josep Pla-Narbona, Joan Pedragosa, Ernest Moradell, Eudald S.
Humà, Enric Huguet, Francesc Graus, Angel Grañena, Amand Domènech, Josep Baqués,
Gabriel Barba Miralles and Antoni Morillas. It used to declare having as a target the “honest and
hard-working dedication the professional know-how and to all those elements that directly or
indirectly are related to culture, aesthetics and graphic education”.3 G-FAD entered the
ICOGRADA (International Council of Graphic Design Associations) from its very beginning in
1963 and joined the AGI (Alliance Graphique Internationale) in 1966. An important fact within
the FAD was the foundation of the LAUS Prizes in 1964. Finally, following the period of
political sharpness prevailing then, a considerable crisis was produced within the FAD in 1971
because of a variety of factors like the arrival of foreign professionals, the invasion of a new
generation of young graphic designers and the influence of new tendencies, such as the Pop, the
conceptual art and the Swiss graphics. A dichotomy was produced then between impure and pure
graphic contemplated the last one to be a cultural action that wanted to transmit a concrete and
temporary demand4.
These elements will be sufficient in order to establish the frame in which the work of Antoni
Morillas was born. Let’s go further, then, to meet the key facts of the professional route of this
designer.
Antoni Morillas (1932-1983), Graphic Designer.
Antoni Morillas was born in Barcelona in 1932. He formed part of the generation of transition, a
generation that was forced to learn a job and develop a profession. This was a group of devoted
and passionate self learners that loved their job, as it is also known for Antoni Morillas himself.
During his first professional steps he directed for the theatre and created the scenery of various
films. Nevertheless, his career as a graphic designer started in the Seix Barral Publishing House.
He worked there in an advertisement short film that was prized with the first prize in the San
Sebastian film festival. He opened his own studio in 1962, a place that still goes on working
nowadays under the name of Morillas Brand Design thanks to the dedication of Morillas’ son
Lluis and a number of loyal professionals.
However, Antoni Morillas‘s passion for design was not limited to the projects taken over by the
studio. He was also a founding member and vice president of the FAD. Moreover, he completed
3 Grafistas, Agrupación FAD. Selección de Obras del Arte Gráfico Español creadas y realizadas por miembros de
la entidad Grafistas, Agrupación FAD / Barcelona (España). Barcelona: Editorial Blume S.A. (Introduction of J.
Pla Narbona, president) p. V
4 Calvera, Anna: Tercera Etapa: El grafismo y la desaparición del cartel comercial. 1965-1976: Publiartigas
(unpublished text)
an important pedagogical labor as a professor in the Escola Massana of Barcelona and was a
common lecturer of graphic art, design and visual art themes.
On the other hand, he participated in numerous exhibitions in Catalonia, like the “Art of the 2nd
half of the 20th century”, “FAD, from the beautiful jobs to contemporary design”, “A history of
the decorative arts in Catalunia in the 20th century”. His work can be found in the Graphic Art
Museum of Los Angeles, in Tipomundus, in Montreal’s Intergraphics, in the Berlin Museum and
in the University of Honolulu.
The numerous contributions of the artist are worldwide known and distinguished, having gained
two selections in Delta prizes of ADI/FAD and various selections in Laus prize of the
ADG/FAD, up to 1983, year of his death.
After setting the basis of the starting, the development and the results obtained by Antoni
Morillas, we shall learn more about his work before establishing connections between him and
other personalities of the time.
Antoni Morillas’ work
It is time to talk about his work. We shall mention not only the methodology that he used in his
study but also the fundamental points that characterize him, ending our approach with an
analysis of some specific examples.
In order to study his work systematically, an exhaustive cataloguing has been done, an attempt
that covers from 1956 till 1982, in which a number of drawings of his earlier years (dated in
1946) can be added. A large file of the conserved material of each project has been created and
all his works are now accompanied by an identification card. These cards are divided into 3
parts: identification, characteristics and content. So we define each work, taking into account its
technical points and its description.
There are practically 700 catalogued items that contain artistic pieces, illustrations or sculptures
and graphic, industrial and interior design pieces. Nevertheless, we observe a turn- down of the
strict specialization which is paid off by Morillas’ compromised effort as an individual– as he
recognized himself during an interview in Serra d’Or journal. In this presentation of his work,
we shall focus on his graphic projects.
The cataloguing has permitted us to watch the totality of his work and provided us with the
knowledge of some lines of work that appear repetitively. His job is heterogeneous, complicated
and, as a result, difficult to put in frames. Nevertheless, there are some constant characteristics
that we shall make reference to.
The first one is the undeniable leadership of the image contrary to the text in all his designs. At
that time, there was a progressive decadence of the word because of the trouble caused by its
abuse, a fact that could start from small misunderstandings to get to serious conflicts. On the
contrary, image represented the simple and naked truth, easy to understand no matter which the
social class or the cultural level of a person. An image has different forms of presentation and
techniques in Morillas’ professional route. Speaking about presentation, we can find creations
that start from the most detailed figuration to end in informality, going through adorned designs
surprisingly baroque. On the other hand, he uses a variety of techniques thanks to a tireless desire
for experimentation, the collage and even the wooden photograph pounces, the color pencils, the
ink are a few of his means of expression.
It worth mentioning a form of representation he mostly used: the conscientious adornment that
prevail in his work. This adornment is composed by small pieces that tend to create complex
structures very frequently, like waves or circles. Occasionally, we can also see small elements
looking like circles, plants or stars. This kind of adornment, so baroque, may be represented
apart or even be integrated in a piece as a background or as a texture of an element of the image.
The 3rd element that is remarkable in his work is the insistence on conceptual images, meaning
images that do not copy reality but represent a concept. Anna Calvera observes that maybe the
most defining characteristic of his time is “thinking of the graphic work- the project- as an effort
to which a visual expression of the most abstract concepts should be given”5.
A most careful observation of his job will lead us to a 4th characteristic: his relation to art, a
relation that develops along with the different artistic movements seen in the 20th century. Even
if some vanguards, like cubism, surrealism, futurism or expressionism emerge before the
establishment of his work, some of these elements are reflected on his projects. We can see, for
example, a collage coming out of cubism or a combination of some unbelievable elements that
remind us of surrealistic scenes. Another artistic movement that was quite distinguishable is
informalism. It was introduced in Catalonia during the 50‘s by Antoni Tapies and by some pieces
of Albert Ràfols Casamada, Joan Hernández Pijoan, Josep Guinovart and Manuel Hernández
Mompó. These artists searched for authenticity in painting through a sort of lyric abstraction. In
the same way, as we have already mentioned, Morillas creates abstract images in his artistic and
graphic works. That’s how he expresses the desire for authenticity through lekes or textures.
Moreover, the consequences of Pop Art, the Op art, the psychedelic can be seen in some of his
works. The Pop Art clearly mentioned- and even recycled- all sorts of everyday material and
objects, in a colorist way, which is very common in many of the Morillas’ advertisement leaflets.
On the contrary, the Op art goes deeper in perceptive questions according to which Morillas
plays with our perception, creating spaces, positioning different levels the one over the other or
putting together different textures.
In some of his works, we can see a certain sensibility towards literature: in one of his first
sketches of the 40‘s a clear demonstration is still conserved, a Dostoyefsky‘s portray. On the
other hand, he used to collaborate frequently with Salvador Espriu, an important Catalan poet
whose discovery will lead him to certain sense of the tragic in the concept of existence. This
political vision of life was strictly related to the political method of graphic design, based on
fantasy: “ the conservative, the traditional and the expected were turned down by those graphic
designers who defined the process of designing not like arrangements or constructions of the
form but as the invention of unexpected images that will distribute ideas or feelings”6.
We have previously talked about how Antoni Morillas’ generation learned the job. That‘s why
Morillas himself was always motivated and influenced by the instruments that he used. The
design of a trade mark, for example, was stuck to the coining machinery, because, as he thought,
the images as a whole would create a living body that would save and give volume that will
come trough the paper.
5 VVAA.: PND (Premio Nacional de Diseño) 2004. Metalarte, Juan Gatti, Josep Pla-Narbona. Barcelona:
Ministerio de Industria, Turismo y Comercio; Fundación BCD Barcelona Centro de Diseño, 2006, p. 118
6 Meggs, Philip B.: Historia del diseño gráfico. México, Madrid: McGraw-Hill, 2000, p.405
Not surprisingly, volume and the world of dimensions was one of Morillas constant interests.
That is what a great number of his projects demonstrate. These projects were developed through
volume, perspective or a figure. The poster of Soliday where different pieces with thick endings
create a feminine figure, an image of Binomil Hipnótico where transparencies and different
layers prevail, the series of Noveril that proposes a game of perspective are only a few examples
of his interest.
From a very early age, he felt tempted by movement. Being at the Llotja School, while having
classes of sketching at the age of 16, he contemplated the importance of this concept. Movement
can be clearly seen in his artistic work, when sculptures are constructed by different moving
blocks, but also in his graphic work, as in the Biodramina series, for example, when he is trying
to represent movement, as we shall see later.
His color palette is conditioned by the singularity of his each work although we observe that
there is a basis of black color that strengthens or contrasts other colors, usually agitated, happy,
vital. Colors that start from cold tones to end up being whatever else, and forms that depart from
straight lines to end up being the most carefully thought degradations.
As this part, concerning the characteristics of Morillas’ work, is coming to an end, we ought to
mention the words of a great chronics researcher of that period, who wrote that: “Morillas makes
a graphic art of strange quality, of baroque layers, one over the other, and of heterogeneous
bodies that succeed in creating a magical unity. His works are very sensible and reveal that he
owns an enviable position within our advertisement graphic art...”7
But, it‘s no time to make special reference to some of his pieces, in order to better specify his
creations. In the totality of his designs, we set aside the frequent collaboration that he had with
pharmatheutics or textil companies, as well as the first page of the Idea magazine of Japan.
We distinguish, in order to analyze, a series of works he made for Biohorm, a brand that
belonged to the J. Uriach and Co company. This company created a marketing department in
1921, but it first asked for the collaboration of important artists and designers in 1945, to end up
receiving the Laus prize together with the Franscisco Casamajo Graphic industries. In Morillas’
work for Biodramina, in 1965, feeling sick is represented as the movement of four different
means of transport- a ship, a plane, a car and a train. Finally, he adds a fifth image that shows a
person with a rolling toy on his head. A lot of the characteristics that we have mentioned, that
demonstrate the prevalence of the image over the text, can be seen: the representation of an
abstract concept (the human mood, differentiated because of vertigo, sickness and throw outs) or
the influence of artistic movements such as the cubism (through the collage), the surrealism
(trough the rolling toy on the head) or the futurism, defined by the movement that he created
repeating some pieces of the illustration. Another singularity of his last projects is the counter-
positioning of various surfaces: the straight one, a texture made of a structure of small lines,
photos of eyes or paper with sharp limits.
Another remarkable design is the one made for the Roura brand, a prestigious garment store. The
development of this partnership was systematic as not only did he create the logo of the brand,
but he also designed bags, presentation cards and promotional elements. The logo is
distinguishable thanks to the use of a certain typography point that makes a special curve in
7 Perucho, Juan: “Invención y Criterio de las Artes” Destino, núm. 1490. Barcelona, febrero 1966, p. 45
depicting the R of the name, like a spiral. This detail gives a special baroque style and character
to the design, which is strengthened consequently by some backgrounds and decorations that
appear either on the presentation cards or on a promotion cap made for the company.
The first page of the Idea magazine of Japan is a kind of historic fact in Antoni Morillas’
professional route. Apart from the information given by the magazine, the image is the great
leader: a big, zoomorphic vase is represented on it, containing flowers, paintbrushes, a pencil and
a plume. Different zones are created in this way, the first one is the vase and the second one is its
content. An expressionist character dominates the image of the vase, with teeth and animal nails
(black over red with circled form textures). The elements integrated correspond to designers’
widely used instruments, the detailed realism and the delicate textures among which we can find
transparencies. Maybe Morillas wanted to represent how the designer‘s job ought to find its
context inside a strong personality, at any given time. The projects mentioned here give an
example of this study and show us some of the characteristics of Morillas’ job. Having
completed this part of our presentation, which is orientated to Morillas’ work, we shall try to get
to know what sort of influence actually affected his creation.
Professional intersections
We have already mentioned that different artistic movements influenced Morillas’ work and that
he collaborated with the poet Salvador Espriu in many occasions, even presenting common
works with him. Nevertheless, during this part of our presentation, we shall focus on professional
intersections, either national or international, that mostly affected his job.
Among the national influences we shall pay special attention to Josep Pla-Narbona, another
founding member and first president of G-FAD. Consequently, we should give a number of
common points between the two designers. We already know that Morillas used to be led by a
draught of baroque adornment, in many of his works. In the same way, we should try tasting an
older world of mannerist and baroque tendencies that would give us a hint of Pla-Narbona‘s
preferences to the most giant and complicated forms8. Both of them would also give twisted
lines that usually formed spirals. This seems to be a signal that helps them create personalities,
letters, symbols and backgrounds. Finally, Morillas as well as Pla-Narbona, would see the
possibility of their designs to create a sort of emotion to their receptors, being the image not only
the mere representation of a product but also the mean to go further, pass by the rational and
touch the subconscious.
Talking about Morillas’ international influences, we observe an explicit reference of his to
basically two designers: Jaques Nathan and Jan Lenica.
Nathan was “the man to wake up in him an interest towards an art that he didn’t know: graphic
art”9. He was a contemporary designer, follower of Cassandre, that’s why he was closer to the
depicting experience rather than the typographic one, as Morillas himself was. The French
school of posters integrated the language of the vanguards concerning plastic art, synthesizing
ideas and concepts in modern, direct images of an extraordinary capability to retain, what was
meant to be another one of Morillas’ elements of work.
8 Teixidor, Joan: Caleidoscopio 4. Gráficos. Barcelona: Editorial Blume, 1965 prologue’s pages
9 Ibid., p. 45
Lenica, born in 1928, is the name that Morillas would give as an answer to an interview question
about who his favorite foreign artist was10. Lenica belonged to a current of conceptual images,
born in Poland during the 60‘s and culminated in the 70‘s. We can see in his designs an
overwhelming of the limits of narrative information, in order for him to express ideas and
concepts. It’s the same type of searching of relevant and effective images that Morillas followed.
Lenica was being fed by metaphysics and surrealism, using the collage technique just like
Morillas did. Another common point was the use of profile lines, fluid and sterilized by Lenica,
dividing the space into colored zones through the creation of structures. Finally, we shall
remember that for some people, the conceptual polish tendency is considered to be a discrete
reaction to the repressions of the dictatorship and a demonstration of the desire for autonomy,
situations and feelings comparatively common between the polish and the Catalan society.
The personalities mentioned above create the net of influence for Morillas. The designer, as well
as his Catalan colleagues, learns from the dominating tendencies (techniques, aesthetics,
concepts), but does not stop going further and experimenting for himself. On the other hand, it is
obvious that the Catalan culture and public had their own necessities. In fact, Morillas proposed
a own school defending the particular Spanish –better said Catalan– sensibility. This designer
accepted the lack of preparation of his country but, at the same time, he became a rebel against
the unconditioned dependency on foreign tendencies. That is why we should consider the
influences on him to be enrichment, rather than a limitation.
Conclusions
To sum up, as we are reaching the end of the presentation, we should remember the question
asked in the first place, and examine whether it is approved or not. We have gone through the
circumstances, the life and the work of Antoni Morillas in order to state with no doubt at all that
he was a pioneer of the Spanish design, through the constitution of G-FAD, the first Spanish
society to be created especially for the evolution of the profession. Moreover, he contributed to
the training of the new generations of designers by giving classes at the Massana School and by
giving lectures in various conferences. We have also analyzed his work showing his richness and
value. The first one is depicted in the large quantity of tendencies, techniques and influences that
Morillas developed all the way through his career. His value is demonstrated by the interest on
his work, an interest born in a number of international institutions such as the Los Angeles
Museum, the Berlin Museum and the University of Honolulu.
Antoni Morillas was a devoted designer, dedicated to illustrate the situation that he was meant to
live in but- above all- a professional devoted to his profession. Not only did he search for
answers to the necessities of the Catalan society but also opened the way for the following
generations, along with the rest of his colleagues in the G-FAD. That‘s why he is considered to
have contributed the establishment of the profession of the designer in Spain in the most
passionate way.
10 Serra d’Or, juny 1966, p. 64
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por miembros de la entidad Grafistas, Agrupación FAD / Barcelona (España). Barcelona:
Editorial Blume S.A., 1964
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Calvera, Anna: Tercera Etapa: El grafismo y la desaparición del cartel comercial. 1965-1976: Publiartigas (unpublished text)
Selección de Obras del Arte Gráfico Español creadas y realizadas por miembros de la entidad Grafistas, Agrupación FAD / Barcelona (España)
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Grafistas, Agrupación FAD. Selección de Obras del Arte Gráfico Español creadas y realizadas por miembros de la entidad Grafistas, Agrupación FAD / Barcelona (España). Barcelona: Editorial Blume S.A., 1964
Invención y Criterio de las Artes" Destino, núm. 1490. Barcelona, febrero 1966 Serra d'Or
  • Juan Perucho
Perucho, Juan: "Invención y Criterio de las Artes" Destino, núm. 1490. Barcelona, febrero 1966 Serra d'Or, juny 1966