Teresa Vallmajó i Riera (Banyoles, 1944)


Teresa started drawing when she was very small, on a large blackboard which her parents ordered from the carpenter so that she could draw in the shop while they chopped up the meat behind the counter and served the customers, who waited expectantly to see what the little girl from Can Jep had done that day. Sitting on the floor, she heard their raised voices playfully commenting ”Let’s see what Teresa’s drawn today`”, which might have already made her feel like an artist.

Together with her other three siblings, she spent the summers in Garriguella, at the rectory where her uncle, the priest Francesc Xavier Vallmajó, was in charge, a cultured man who was fond of literature and music, and who straight away became aware of his niece`s artistic talent, and even thought of taking her to Paris, a city which still held its artistic prestige in the provinces. Another priest, Mossèn Manel Font i Bosch, who at the time attended his colleague’s cultural gatherings, and was locally known for his erudition, made a delicate comment on those early years of vocation: “I remember her, still a young girl, drawing with blackboard chalks in the sun near the gates of the old rectory at Garriguella. 

Maria Teresa, not particularly talkative, a smiling, shy adolescent, needed to communicate and did so with the means within her reach. I watched her as she drew the lines which became shapes, almost always faces, which Maria Teresa perceived in intimate extasy in some vague place in her subconscious mind. At that time, despite the girl’s precocious talent, she didn’t seem to think of taking up art; but when the urge to do so courses through the blood, it ends up overcoming all obstacles. And that is how Maria Teresa had to accept that she had been born an artist and this discovery led her to train in technique in order to attain an exactitude of expression, although as it were transfigured”.
The main obstacles which the elderly priest mentioned would soon arrive: the first, on 15th November 1958, was the death of her uncle and tutor which suddenly modified their plans. The worst, on 9th September 1959, was the death of her father, Miquel Vallmajo, so that within a few months the family was bereft of the fatherly protection so necessary in those times. The mother, Maria Riera, whose own musical vocation had been frustrated, left alone to manage the business and with four young children, needed all the help of the elder ones, and Teresa, at fourteen, spent more time in the kitchen than drawing. But all roads lead to Rome, when there is a vocation. 


“Here and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose loving heart beats and sobs after an unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed among hindrances, instead of centering in some long recognizable deed". Prelude to Middlemarch by George Eliot. 


Having received basic training at the Sagrat Cor school, the Riera household encouraged the girl to continue her studies at the Academia, a private, Catalan institution where prestigious men such as Brugulat and Sanz enriched the cultural life not only of their students but of the whole town. Teresa, eager to learn, completed her secondary school studies in only two years, and obtained her teacher training diploma in Girona, while her mother took her to the Escola de Belles Arts in Olot to receive official training under Juli Batallé. The rest of the way was to be followed alone, learning for herself, increasing her culture, training her eyes and hands by seeing as many exhibitions as she could, not only in Gerona and Barcelona but in Madrid, Paris, Vienna, London, Athens, Saint Petersburg.... a Grand Tour which ran the length of her whole life and which would carry her far beyond her beloved August Renoir, to include Matisse, Gauguin, Rothko, Cy Twombly, Barnett Newman, Clyfford Still or Fantin La Tour, and even into the Iliad and Don Quixote.


When she had finished her standard training, she married Rafel Cuenca i Juncà on 23rd April 1968, and began as supply teacher of drawing at the Pere Alsius Secondary school in Banyoles. But without making too much of a fuss, or affirming her own character, she ended up giving priority to her role as a mother, spending most of her time caring for her family, although she was always open to what the world had to offer in the way of painting and drawing, reserving a place in the home where she could work in a rather solitary, but never, isolated, way. 

After her first show at La Caixa d’Estalvis i de Pensions, in Girona, the couple decided to open an art gallery at their own home, on the ground floor of 3, Carrer Major, the very place where she acted as mother all day long, so as to show her work regularly without having to travel too far, combining this with teaching at the Club Guspira first, and then at the Escola de Belles Arts at the Centre Excursionista in Banyoles later. Outside her own home, in Carrer Major in Banyoles, she was shy of showing her own work except a few exceptions in l’Artistica in Girona and the Casa de Cultura, in Santa Coloma, Pineda, Amer...

“Jo no sóc ningú! Qui ets tu?
No ets – Ningú – tampoc?
Aleshores ja som dos!
No ho diguis! Ho xerrarien – saps!.
Que trist – ser – Algú! 
Que públic – com una Granota – 
Dir el teu nom – tot el sant mes de juny –
A un Pantà que et reverencia!”                    

                                                                                   Emily Dickinson (traducció de D.Sam Abrams)



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