The Director General of the Gas Natural Fenosa Foundation, Martí Solà, the Director of the Gas Natural Fenosa Foundation Gas Museum, Eva Buch, the Mayor of Sagunto, Frances Fernández Carrasco, and the Director General of Saggas, Santiago Álvarez Fernández, introduced the “La belleza de la máquina” exhibition on 15 January in Sagunto. Fotografía industrial de Ramon de Baños (1890-1980), an unseen selection of photographs that enables this artist to be rediscovered – known until now only as a Spanish film industry pioneer. The event was also attended by the Town Councillor for Culture, Remei Torrent Ortizà. The exhibition has been supported by the Sagunto Local Council and Saggas, and can be visited for free until 27 March at the Antic Sanatori Civic Centre.
The exhibition is the result of extensive research at the Historical Archive of the Gas Natural Fenosa Foundation, which has led to the discovery of this valuable material in explaining the history of science and technology in Spain and which today constitutes an extraordinary graphical record of a world that has since disappeared. Entry to the exhibition is free and school visits can be arranged throughout the period during which it is open to the public.
Ramón de Baños develops his own photographic style that enables him to embellish and glorify machinery and the industrial landscape. They are well-framed and well-structured pieces with a careful arrangement of the objects represented. The images are not representations of a truthful reality but rather, while avoiding a human presence, reveal the architectural magnificence of factories and the beauty of machinery. Hence, despite fulfilling a propaganda purpose, these images convey a distinctly spiritual emotion.
The photographs have been touched up by hand by the artist, outlining certain elements with the finest of brushes, airbrushing techniques, paints, pencils and fine cutting tools. This meticulous work enabled him to define surfaces and planes of light, clean up irregularities and obscure imperfections to achieve the incredibly personal lyrical tone of his compositions.
The 1947 Album, commissioned by Catalana de Gas
Among other things, the exhibition contains a selection of images taken from the 1947 Album – a collection of 58 photographs of industrial machinery and architecture resulting from a photography commission given by Catalana de Gas y Electricidad S.A. – predecessor of what is now GAS NATURAL FENOSA – to the famous artists in order to document and publicise its heritage and production capacity. Such projects were also undertaken by many other companies of the time.
Ramón de Baños, a Spanish film industry pioneer
Ramón de Baños Martínez (Barcelona, from 1890 to 1980) was a pioneer in the cinema industry, a producer, a photography director, a photographer, a laboratory manager and a great lover of the arts in general. He travelled to Belém de Pará (Brazil) in 1911, where, for two years, he blossomed professionally as a cinematographic creator and producer of reports and documentaries on the Amazon. In South America, he became a true pioneer of the cinematographic industry. Upon his return to Barcelona in 1914, he worked for various production companies and set up Royal Films with his brother, through which they enjoyed the greatest of success in the silent film business of that era.
As a socially active man, he set up the Professional Union of Spanish Cinematographers in 1935 with a view to defending the interests of professionals in this sector. Stemming from his interest in the world of culture, he created the Association of Friends of the Arts in Barcelona in 1946. In 1975, the Provincial Council of Barcelona presented him with the Medal of Merit for his work as a cinema pioneer.
Norbert Tomàs, exhibition curator
He was President of the Spanish Association of Professional Photographers and Member of the Sonimagfoto Organising Committee until 2007, and Director of the National Culture Council in Catalonia (CoNCA) between 2011 and 2013. He was Director-General for the Promotion and Spread of Culture at the Department of Culture of the Regional Government of Catalonia. He has a Master’s Degree in Senior Executive Management from the School of Public Administration of Catalonia and – principally in the field of music – is a cultural manager. He sits on the boards of directors of Juventudes Musicales de Barcelona (Young Musicians of Barcelona), the Asociación Amigos de la Música de Barcelona (Association of Friends of Music of Barcelona), Juventudes Musicales de Cataluña (Young Musicians of Catalonia) and the Asociación Orquestra de Cámara Catalana (Chamber Orchestra Association of Catalonia). He was Founder and Secretary of the Catalan Music Council.