A summer in Majorca
Text published in "Joan Palet an intimate look", 2006
FUNDACIÓ PALAU , CENTRE D'ART
S’Arracó, Majorca. Joan Palet was 82 years old, it was a blistering-ly hot summer, the house was perched on a hill and, in mid-morn-ing, thermal breezes would arrive punctually to cool things down alittle. As the sun climbed into the sky, the monotonous droning of 105 cicadas filled the valley. In this beloved Majorcan landscape, the painter Joan Palet blended into the scenery, like just another form.
He would get up at 7 am, take the little hand-cart he used to carry his paintbox and easel and go off into the olive fields to find a place where he could bring his wiry frame, so used to walking, to a halt. And throughout those pleasant summer mornings, he would go on painting and painting whilst he observed, with new eyes every day, the twisting forms of age-old trees. At 2 pm he would return home, a little tired but completely happy.
In fact, that is what he had done since he had use of reason, and painting and drawing became the very backbone of his existence. Stopping before people and things and puzzling out their beauty in order to paint or draw it. Looking with an artist’s eyes was something he could not have ceased doing even had he wanted. Throughout all life’s ups and downs, painting and drawing was, for this artist, an act of redemption. The hand that held the charcoal, the brush or the pastel was always poised to capture the world his senses perceived. Not everyone is privileged to see this world, Joan Palet reproduced and recreated it in an approach based on his invincible inner strength.
This was the same impulse that, when he was just 14 years old, in the family workshop in the Sants district of Barcelona, drove him to draw in chalk on the ground, or to use wrapping paper until there was none left to draw portraits of his family, friends and customers. Joan Palet soon discovered the draughtsman’s passion, and he received the gift of capturing as few are able, the very soul of the people he portrayed, of reaching into the hidden depths of a gaze and with a quick stroke of his hand to bring this out on paper or canvas in that magical act that producing an outline never fails to embody.
Palet was a man who kept long hours, a tireless worker, one pos- sessed by his trade. For someone who had discovered the joy of art and been profoundly taken by his vocation at such a tender age, doing his elected work was the only coherent way of life open to him.
At S’Arracó, in the evening, the cicadas fell silent and the bleating of the sheep that grazed under the olives became louder. From the terrace at the house, having rested and read something for a while, as the long, pleasant summer evening fell, he would take up one of his notes again, and would paint a little more. At this time, when light moves quickly, is more fleeting but also so warm and welcoming, he delighted in each second, taking enormous joy from the simple things that he so greatly appreciated. It was how he stayed open to the world, ready to receive and to be surprised once more.
The history of Joan Palet fuses with the history of a country where so many people suddenly found themselves living in a world that was strange to them after a cruel war. A strand of culture that was his had disappeared, and he lived with this as best he could, and even though his silence was the silence of defeat – the defeat of a civilised world that had its origins in the European tradition and in Catalan noucentisme but which found itself condemned to a long, dark tunnel – through his work the artist managed to find his path.
The works in this exhibition demonstrate this to the full.
Joan Palet was a modest man to the point of exaggeration, a discrete, a prudent type who passed through life as if on tip-toe, fearful of making a noise or annoying anyone. However, he left behind work which, though it is little known to the broad public, is nonetheless full of surprising quality and strength.
To reclaim and rediscover a painter and draughtsman like this is but an act of justice.