Francisco Riba Rovira

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Francisco Riba-Rovira also known as Francesc, (born Barcelona 1913, died Paris 2002) was a Catalan and a Spanish painter.

He worked to pay for his Beaux-Arts studies in Barcelona. He succeeded in this for only one or two months before the start of the Spanish Civil War, in which he fought against the rebellion led by Francisco Franco against the established Government of the Second Spanish Republic. After the war he was forced into exile in France, first in Perpignan or near to be in a Camp as prisoner on a beach[clarification needed].

The Second World War began a few months later. In Gertrude Stein's exhibition preface, it notes that Riba Rovira was arrested by the Gestapo. The Nazi soldiers who kept him prisoner were Netherlands Nazi SS. After an attempted escape for the second time he succeeded to escape from this camp, which was near Vannes in French Britain, he chose the day it was raining a lot for impeach the dogs feeling after him. And for that he had to fight against one Nazi SS Dutch soldier. He did it. After the war he talked about, that he learned what a few days after he escapes from the camp, a train was made by the Nazis for red Spanish republican soldiers for expedition to Mathausen. And very few people know that this Mathausen camp was harder than Dachau and even Buchenwald Dora just below Auschwitz for concentration camp part. Mathausen was the only one concentration camp put in the category number 3. And even he escaped from that, anybody can understand he lost about ten years with the wars.

This painter was a very secret man, who worked very hard on every picture or drawing. He did not speak much. His speaking was in his art. Not speaking about his art. Generally he began with a drawing after a gouache for color studies, leading on to oil composition. So it cost him several weeks working hard in his working place where he left first 27 and after 29 Guénégaud Street in Paris, near the Pont Neuf, near the Rue de Seine, near St. Germain des Prés. Riba Rovira also liked jazz and going to the Bar Vert in Paris.

He met Gertrude Stein when she was passing by with her dog "Basket" on the Seine docks. And it would be interesting to have Gertrude Stein's opinion about him. Because when she said that, she told us among an historical perspective of art, with a comparative view. With Picasso, Cézanne, Matisse, Juan Gris. It is one of the last text before she died one year later. And first it is about him. So we show it to you.

The following is a translation from Stein's preface to the exhibition by Francisco Riba-Rovira at Roquepine Gallery in May 1945:

It is inevitable that when we really need someone we find him. The person you need attracts you like a magnet. I returned to Paris after these long years spent in the countryside and I needed a young painter, a young painter who would awaken me. Paris was magnificent, but where was the young painter? I looked everywhere: at my contemporaries and their followers. I walked a lot, I looked everywhere, in all the galleries, but the young painter was not there. Yes, I walk a lot, a lot at the edge of the Seine where we fish, where we paint, where we walk dogs (I am one of those who walk their dogs). Not a single young painter! One day, on the corner of a street, in one of these small streets in my district, I saw a man painting. I looked at him; at him and at his painting, as I always look at everybody who creates something I have an indefatigable curiosity to look and I was moved. Yes, a young painter! We began to speak, because we speak easily, as easily as in country roads, in the small streets of the district. His story was the sad story of the young people of our time. A young Spaniard who studied in fine arts in Barcelona: civil war; exile; a concentration camp; escape. Gestapo, another prison, another escape. Eight lost years! If they were lost, who knows? And now a little misery, but all the same the painting. Why did I find that it was him the young painter, why? I visited his drawings, his painting: we speak. I explained that for me, all modern painting is based on what Cézanne nearly made, instead of basing itself on what he almost managed to make. When he could not make a thing, he hijacked it and left it. He insisted on showing his incapacity: he spread his lack of success: showing what he could not do, became an obsession for him. People influenced by him were also obsessed by the things which they could not reach and they began the system of camouflage. It was natural to do so, even inevitable:that soon became an art, in peace and in war, and Matisse concealed and insisted at the same time on that Cézanne could not realize, and Picasso concealed, played and tormented all these things. The only one who wanted to insist on this problem, was Juan Gris. He persisted by deepening the things which Cézanne wanted to do, but it was too hard a task for him: it killed him. And now here we are, I find a young painter who does not follow the tendency to play with what Cézanne could not do, but who attacks any right the things which he tried to make, to create the objects which have to exist, for, and in themselves, and not in relation. This young painter has his weakness and his strength. His force will push him in this road. I am fascinated and that is why he is the young painter who I needed. He is Francisco Riba-Rovira.


He belongs to the way of painting which is usually called the Modern School of Paris. When he was living in Paris, before staying on Guénégaud Street where his flat "atelier" was, he went for a short time in front of the Seine near the Notre Dame de Paris, in the building just in front of the Police Prefecture where Matisse got his work place[clarification needed]. But Paco, as he was nicknamed did not stay there long. So Guénégaud street was his main residence in France where he stays still his end of his life.

He did exposition on 1954 in Bernheim Jeune in Paris. And about on 1955 in Passedoit Gallery in New York. In Cincinnati in Ohio also.

Rovira often said that it was very difficult for a painter born after the Impressionists, and was influenced significantly by the style. Especially Sisley, Pissarro for instance. With Spanish painters he had a great preference for Goya, and admiration for Goya's political views throughout its art.

And if he got strong political views Riba-Rovira in his pictures did not have a political inspiration. But when in 1964 it was a great asturies coke miners on strike he did with Picasso and some other artists a support book with drawings, pictures, gouaches, poems.

The colors he used were made by himself. For that he usually bought "pigments" in specialised stores and after he burned them still some times 800 degrees and so on.

His vision was life to the service of art and not the contrary. What was his philosophical view. He had a great admiration for Max Stirner.

It would be a big injustice that to ignore the help that former mayor of Madrid got for him, Mister Sahagun, on 1976 who at the very difficult moment knew how to emphasize in particular his drawings.

Not to quote even how his meeting with Bazile Muro by 1983 that is approximately six years after his meeting with Sahagun former Minister of Defence of the democratic transition in Spain and the attempt of coup d'état on the seventies last century.

This meeting played a decisive role. It boosted his painting career.

For the paintings, and for drawings.

Basilio Muro indeed moved at least twice in Paris in his artist workplace studio of the street Guénégaud next to street of the Seine river and the Pont Neuf in the district St Germain des Prés to see his works.

Basilio Muro is one of the great specialist in Spain of the School of Paris who lives to Valencia in Spain today supported a lot him.

And goes on today still to make a commitment for him. And to agree with that, just go to see the pictures he shows. And you understand his main role indeed.

He a lot allows us to see so his works. Anyone can say that these two persons played and play another major role in the knowledge of its work in Spain especially since Valencia. And his website. Gertrude Stein teaches us that she was fascinated by his work. And you that is it?

Because an important moment takes place at present. This year and the next one. And we have to speak a little with your permission. It is very important to respect his artist work with this cultural evenement.

Her portrait appearing in the catalog, with the Gertrude Stein’s preface, in first place in the plaque of display for the exhibition of Gallerie Roquépine on 1945 is displayed for approximately one year since last June in successively several places in the U.S.A. We speak naturally about the portrait of Gertrude Stein by Riba-Rovira on 1945. Perhaps the last one made by a painter before she died.

And you can see it now.

It began thanks to a whole series of exhibitions in touch with the collection of Gertrude Stein and of her family in the United States. These family collection of the family Stein is exposed, and the famous portrait which we did not know, since more sixty five years, in San Francisco from June till September. After now from October till January in Washington. And then to finish to the Museum of Modern Art of New York since February to June 2012. And you can see this portrait in the both catalogs of the international exhibitions.

It is a big event for him, Francisco Riba-Rovira, this year. And we wanted to tell you that.

Perhaps since his meeting with Gertrude Stein even if he is dead now.


"Dibujos de Riba-Rovira , Cuadernos del Arte n°54 Edicion Europa by SAHAGUN 1976 Coleccion Maestros contemporaneos del dibujo y la pintura " you can see in about fifty works. It is the only place we know and found after historic research about this artist.


  • Galería Roquépine de París on may and November 1945 with the Preface by Gertrude Stein with the Portrait of Gertrude Stein in the first place in the catalog.
  • 1945 Exposicion de Arte Catalan Moderno. Con Picasso, Juan Miro, Fonseret etc. Por "Prisonniers et Déportés et autres œuvres sociales de SOLIDARITE CATALANE", Gallerie de Arte Altarriba Paris 6è.
  • 1949 Exhibition in "The Palace of the Legion of Honor" (now part of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco);The Portrait of Gertrude Stein by Riba-Rovira.
  • 1950 Exhibition "Salon Réalités Nouvelles de Paris" with the picture "L'Arlequin" (now in the collecion "Galeria Muro" Valencia, Spain,)
  • Bienal de Menton (1951)
  • 1952 Exposicion Galerie La Boetie salon des Jeunes Peintres Paris con Pelayo, Rebeyrolle.
  • 1952 Exposicion Salle André Bauger
  • Galería Bernheim, en 1954, con gran aceptación de la crítica y éxito de ventas.
  • Passedoit-Gallery de Nueva York (1955)
  • 1955 Exposicion "Homenaje a Machado", Maison de la Pensée Française, 2 rue de l’Elysée. Con Picasso, Pelayo, Peinado, Juan Miro etc.
  • Salon de la Jeune Peinture y Salon d´Octobreen de París (1957)
  • Museum of Modern Art de Cincinnati (1962)
  • Deutsch - Ibero - Amerikanische de Frankfort (1959)
  • Salon des Independents participa de 1960 a 1965
  • Salon de I´Automne de 1966 a 1969
  • Salon des Surindependentsen (1975)
  • 1980 Exposicion Galerie Claude Renaud Paris
  • 1983 Galeria Muro Valencia España
  • 1985 Exposicion PLACA Pinturas y sculturas contemporenos F.I.A.P. Paris
  • 2011 Exhibition "Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories" with the portrait of Gertrude Stein by Riba-Rovira, San Francisco.
  • 2011/2012 Exhibition "Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories" with the portrait of Gertrude Stein by Riba-Rovira, Washington.


  • The Steins Collect 23 Febrery-3 June 2012 Metropolitan Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York In this exhibition after San Francisco and Washington you can see the portrait of Gertrude Stein by Riba-Rovira with Picasso, Picabia, Matisse, Cézanne and the others...
  • Exhibition Galeria Muro Valencia Spain March/June 2012 "Homenaje a Gertrude Stein" by Francisco Riba-Rovira.
  • Exhibition Galeria Muro Valencia Spain March/April 2013 "L'Arlequin" by Francisco Riba-Rovira.


  1. ^ Gertrude Stein/Yale University/U.S.A "A LA RECHERCHE D'UN JEUNE PEINTRE": "Looking for a young painter" Riba-Rovir
  2. ^ Gertrude Stein, « À la recherche d'un jeune peintre »Riba-Rovira, revue Fontaine, directeur Max-Pol Fouchet, no 42, p. 287-288, 1945.