Dau al Set was a heterogeneous grouping with a considerable range of interests and concerns centred on widening Barcelona’s restricted artistic panorama, committed to reviving the Catalan avant-garde artistic tradition that had been suddenly interrupted in 1939, using the magazine Dau al Set as a platform to put forward their artistic and intellectual interests. The painters Modest Cuixart, Joan Ponç, Joan Josep Tharrats and Antoni Tàpies; the poet Joan Brossa and the philosopher Arnau Puig formed the group. Tharrats took charge of the printing and distribution of the magazine from which the group took its name, published between 1948 and 1956. The magazine Dau al Set –which had a print run that oscillated between one hundred and two hundred copies, which in those days were distributed to subscribers– allowed the various members of the group to put forward their ideas, whether in the form of words –in the case of Brossa and Puig –or images– Tàpies, Cuixart, Ponç and Tharrats. At the same time the magazine was open to other like-minded individuals –Juan-Eduardo Cirlot, Carlos Edmundo de Ory, Rafael Santos Torroella and others– who published their writings in it and thereby helped to create an intellectual climate favourable to the artistic activity of Dau al Set.
Although the members of Dau al Set worked together from 1946 on, their most intense activity concentrated in the years 1948 to 1951, when Dau al Set took part in various exhibitions and engaged in a highly significant publishing project. The year 1953 has been suggested as the date of the group’s dissolution, even though we have only the personal impressions of those involved to indicate when it actually broke up.
The members of Dau al Set exhibited together on two occasions: the first was in 1949, in the Institut Français in Barcelona, and the second in the Sala Caralt in Barcelona, in October 1951. The first show was organized by the Cobalto 49 group in collaboration with the Institut Français in Barcelona, an institution that offered the only medium of international cultural exchange possible in the Barcelona of those years, and which provided grants to artists to finance stays in Paris. This first exhibition was devoted to the work of the painters Antoni Tàpies, Joan Ponç and Modest Cuixart. The second exhibition, which was entitled Dau al Set, included work by all the members of the group, as well as pieces by Arnau Puig and Juan Eduardo Cirlot.
The members of Dau al Set regarded themselves as the heirs and followers of the surrealists, since in fact they coincided with the final stage of surrealism, whose last International Exhibition to Paris in 1947. The style of Dau al Set is not derived from any specific pictorial techniques or literary sources, but reflects a shared body of iconography. Within the group it is possible to find roots that reach back to the Catalan avant-garde of before the Civil War and to figures such as Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró and J. V. Foix. The strong influence of Brossa was evident in the group’s penchant for surprise and transformation. Another very important influence was Paul Klee, to whom the magazine devoted a special issue in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of his death.