Esprit Barthet (1919-1999) – 100th anniversary from his birth

A hundred years from his birth, the remarkable city of Valletta will see the commemoration of one of its late renowned sons – artist Esprit Barthet. Born in Valletta on 6th October 1919, Barthet is still recognised as one of the best local artists who contributed towards the development of artistic expression in Malta.

On Wednesday 16th October, Heritage Malta is inviting the public at the national-community art museum MUŻA to attend the event ‘Esprit Barthet (1919-1999) – 100th anniversary from his birth’. The artist’s family shall be present too, joining in to present a different and more human facet of the artist, his public and private life.

Barthet’s initial schooling started at the Liceo Umberto Primo in Valletta. Later on, he began his art studies at the Malta School of Art, directed by the artist Edward Caruana Dingli, while he also attended Giuseppe Calleja’s Scuola del Nudo at Old Mint Street where nude modelling sessions were held.

Like several others contemporary artists, Barthet continued to enhance his artistic studies at the Regia Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome. However, the imminent threat of war cut short this opportunity and he had to return to Malta.

Barthet was a prolific artist with a great ability to diversify into still-life, landscape, and other genres. Yet it was after his studies in England, at the Academy of Arts in Bath, that he gained a new artistic style, particularly in portraiture.

A captivating potraiture which was regarded by Barthet as his finest ever is that of Marì tal-Bajd. The work was not commissioned and the sitter is that of a woman who sold eggs and vegetables to his family at their summer residence in Xemxija. The texture of the painting worked with a palette knife is unsurpassed in its unforced realism which resembles a technique used by Paul Cezanne and Vincent Van Gogh. Marì’s rough character is portrayed in her heavily veined and gnarled hands and in her expressive face which captures also a dignified look in her eyes. This work forms part of the National Collection and can be viewed at the national-community art museum MUŻA.

Among the long list of commissioned portraits, one finds those of President Anton Buttigieg, Governor Sir Robert Laycock, Prime Minister Dr Giorgio Borg Olivier, Archbishop  Sir Michael Gonzi, the Hon Mabel Strickland, the film star Joseph Calleia, and St. George Preca.

Besides portraiture, Barthet is also famously known for his abstract rooftops paintings and for his ability to integrate painting and sculpture.

The event ‘Esprit Barthet (1919-1999) – 100th anniversary from his birth’ will start at 7.00 pm at MUŻA, Merchants Street, Valletta.

Admission to this event is free of charge.