Galanteig (Courtship) reflects the events in Tàpies' life at the beginning of 1952. One of the last of the artist's celebrated 'magic' paintings, painted towards the end of his association with the Dau al Set group in Barcelona, it is a romantic painting that was also one of the first of Tàpies' works to represent the artist in America. Galanteig appeared at both the Pittsburgh Carnegie Institute in The 1952 Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting, one of the earliest of the important Carnegie Internationals, as well as at his first major exhibition at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York in 1953. Acquired from the Carnegie International by Thomas Robins Jr. of Connecticut, it was later donated by the Robins to the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Galanteig is truly a work with an autobiographical context, referring to Tàpies' long courtship of Teresa Barba I Fàbregas, the young girl he had known since she was sixteen and whom after several years of courting, he was to marry in 1954. Painted shortly after his return from Paris where Tàpies had sought out and met many of the Surrealist writers and painters that he so admired, this work with its central image of lovers floating over a drawing room interior recalls the romantic surrealism of Marc Chagall - an artist whom he had also met briefly in Paris. Executed on a near monochromatic green background into which Tàpies has intuitively drawn and incised the figures of the lovers along with multiple crescent moons, and a checkerboard pattern that doubles as a Harlequin-like costume, suggesting a reference to his fellow Spaniard Picasso, who often referenced Pierrot as an autobiographical alter-ego. Although Tàpies is from a generation of Spanish painters that followed Joan Miró, his legacy is reflected in the dreamlike, Surrealist sensibility as well as the simultaneous graphic and painterly nature of Galanteig's composition.
Tàpies' 'magic' paintings had been born out of the artist's close involvement with the staunchly Catalan group of poets and painters known as the Dau al Set (Seven faced die) founded by the poet Joan Brossa, a close friend and major source of inspiration for the artist at this time. Brossa and the Dau al Set's principles were rooted in the Surrealists' embracing of magic and the occult as a way of charting the unconscious. In the visual arts, the group particularly admired the work of Max Ernst, Paul Klee and Joan Mir, all of whose presence is evident in Tàpies' work of this period. The Dau al Set's embracing of these 'black' arts was also in keeping with their sense of their art being an essentially 'underground' activity. Aiming to keep the intrinsic culture of Catalonia alive during its fierce suppression following the Spanish Civil War and the banning of virtually all things Catalan under the Franco regime, the Dau al Set's publication of an overtly Catalan journal celebrating the mystic roots of Catalan culture through art and poetry was an act of open defiance. It was an act that was finally punished by the ruling authorities in 1951 when the police closed down an illegal Dau al Set retrospective exhibition, though, at the same time and in conjunction with this repressive move, they relaxed their prohibition of publishing, broadcasting or learning the Catalan language.
Many of Tàpies' 'magic' paintings from this period also contain veiled political messages and ideologies, but by 1952 these elements began to disappear from his work, and Tàpies' association with the group consisted solely of participation in the special issues of the Dau al Set's periodical. Galanteig for example, was one of Tàpies' last contributions, appearing in the Spring 1954 issue of the Dau al Set periodical. 'The years 1952 and 1953 were crucial, both for my love life and for my work', Tàpies recalled, 'little by little, almost unconsciously, I had left behind and finally lost the worries that Soviet aesthetic principles, inspired by the famous Jdanov, had caused me... In questions of art and by an inclination that is difficult to explain, my instinct took me more and more along solitary paths I saw the necessity of going deeper in my investigation of the specific possibilities of the visual medium of colour and form in freedom.' (A. Tàpies quoted in A Personal Memoir: Fragments for an Autobiography, Barcelona, 2009, p. 264).