A Spanish painter, lithographer and etcher, Tàpies was born in Barcelona. He studied law at Barcelona University 1943-6, then gave this up to devote himself to painting. He studied for two months in 1944 at a drawing school in Barcelona, the Valls Academy; otherwise self-taught. In 1945-7 he made many works with thick impasto, collages, found objects and graffiti.
Tàpies took part with other young painters and writers from Barcelona in the creation of the group and periodical Dau al Set 1948 and painted delicate romantic Surrealist pictures influenced by Miró and Klee in 1949-52. His first one-man exhibition was at the Galerias Laietanes, Barcelona, 1950. He then moved to Paris in 1950-1 on a French government scholarship. He turned to abstract art in 1952 and began soon afterwards to use thick, highly textured impasto incorporating such materials as clay and marble dust, together with incised and scribbled lines.
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