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Art Discussion Group - Malta


Esprit Barthet - Painter & Master

Birth Centenary Celebration

A wonderful collection of Esprit Barthet works are exhibited in the spacious open plan of the House of Representatives, Freedom Square, Valletta between Wednesday February 12 and Thursday March 12, 2020. A unique show and national event projecting 76 works by the master that is quite different from the retrospective exhibition of 124 works, in 14 sections organized at Cavalieri Art Hotel that was inaugurated on Saturday November 16, 2019 during the launch of the book: Esprit Barthet: A Critical Appraisal by E. V. Borg. The exhibition is sponsored by Malta Arts Council and Heritage Malta with the cooperation of the House of Representatives.

The exhibition of chosen works at the House of Representatives (improvised into an art gallery) in a unitary space broken only by glass walls includes ‘The Farmers’ (1944) and ‘Msida Creek’ (1945) and the last works: ‘Still Life: Roses’ (1999) and ‘Shades of White’ (1999) the last unfinished work. In between there is a representative spectrum of works (1944-1999) that include still life, portraits, rooftops, nudes, abstract, collage, geometric abstracts and sculpture made from found objects.

The verse in the heart-felt lyrical song by Leonard Cohen Love Itself :the light came in through the window straight from the sun above’ sums up the vision and concept of Esprit Barthet’s expression. As early as 1945 the light of the sun entered in his studio window and simultaneously lit the rooftops on the Valletta skyline. This light became his love, his life, the warmth that stimulated the lyrical poet in the man as Barthet loved nature with all his heart and nature loved him back. But he never looked back as he realized that light, love, life and warmth are the elements of all art. He understood that darkness and cold spell death and death he feared. ‘Until it (light) breached an open door and love itself was gone’. Light for Barthet was love.

Esprit Barthet overwhelmed and hypnotized reacts to this plasma that we call air, transparent, liquid, fluid, without a smell or weight that he passes through every day of life’s journey. It is so spectacular, so mesmerizing, without friction, without effort but temporary and ephemeral that might in a split second change into tragedy or comedy. Yet it stimulates and inspires him to capture the essence and preserve it into a permanent and tangible image and transform such experience into a lyrical paean of astounding beauty. Lest it escapes him as grains of sand through his fingers and lose it for ever.

As in Dante’s epic poem Esprit moves on towards the light, towards the sun of our life, towards eternity, towards infinity, as mortals appreciate and enjoy his works.

Barthet had all the traits associated with creative people. He got easily bored, was a risk taker, coloured outside the lines, thought with his heart, made lots of mistakes, hated, broke but studied rules, worked independently, changed his mind often, could be regarded as an eccentric and dreamt big. He was human and humane, humble, honest and sincere, deeply passionate, compellingly enthusiastic, open to the world at large, loved life, enjoyed nature.

Barthet has become an uncontested myth. His fear of death, of losing this spectacular and overwhelming beauty that is life spurred him on to capture it for ever as a concrete image.

E.V. Borg

  • The Farmers (1944)
  • Msida Creek (1945)
  • Still Life – Roses (1999)
  • Shades of White (1999)

The art exhibition Esprit Barthet – Artist & Master is being held under the patronage of the Hon. Anġlu Farruġia M.P., Speaker of the House of Representatives, Parliament of Malta. This event is being held in collaboration with Arts Council Malta and Heritage Malta.

E.V. Borg