Manuel Rocamora Vidal was born in Barcelona in 1892. Belonging to the Catalan bourgeoisie, he was one of the city’s most important collectors, in addition to being a painter, writer and patron.
He is known in large part due to being a clothing collector, but we could also define him as a “collector of collections”, as he brought together many other compilations, such as paintings, bookplates, ceramics and figureheads, just to give a few examples.
He studied Fine Arts in Barcelona’s Llotja School under the supervision of the painter Félix Mestres. He cultivated all genres of painting, with a preference for landscapes and still lifes, holding individual and collective exhibitions in many of the city’s galleries.
He was related to the painters Ramón Casas and Anglada Camarasa, and he interacted with the leading artists and intellectuals of Catalan Modernisme, such as Picasso, Rusiñol, Apel·les Mestres and Enrique Granados. Among his closest friends, we can name the sculptor and illustrator Ismael Smith, the singer Mercè Plantada and the ceramic artist Josep Maria Gol. He had also stayed in contact with renowned celebrities such as Pablo Picasso and Josephine Baker.
He was a founding member of the Amics dels Museus de Catalunya (Friends of the Museums of Catalonia) and the principal promoter of the renovation of Carrer Montcada as a cultural and museum focal point.
He passed away in Barcelona in February 1976, having received the Medal of Cultural Merit and the Gold Medal of the City of Barcelona as recognition for his distinguished career throughout his life dedicating efforts and resources to collecting.
As a painter, he cannot be considered an amateur. After studying Fine Arts in Barcelona’s Llotja School under the supervision of the painter Félix Mestres, he held numerous individual and collective exhibits in the city’s galleries.
His work is extensive, covering oil on canvas, watercolours and engraving. His style was realist and decorative, with a decisive French influence, and in many cases with details that remind us of Paul Cézanne. He covers many topics: landscapes, still lives, vases and figures.
A renowned expert of the great and small History of our region, the collector was also a great writer. His books, listed below, reveal the topics that interested him the most: aerostatics, botany, fashion, music…
He also wrote different catalogues, especially for his clothing collection when it was exhibited to the public, and he collaborated in different art journals and newspapers.
Rocamora could be defined as a book lover and an avid reader. His important legacy also includes a library with more than 5,000 volumes on diverse topics, with particular notable interest dedicated to the history of clothing.
Since he was very young, he was found of collecting, as his parents’ house was full of works of art and dresses that his mother kept each season. He started out by collecting ceramics, but due to the fragile nature of the material, which led to the loss of several precious pieces from Alcora, he principally turned his interest to ancient clothing.
Over 55 years, he managed to bring together more than four thousand pieces between dresses, footwear, socks, gloves, gloves, purses, hats, fans and dolls of the period. He specialised in women’s clothing from the Renaissance until the start of the 20th century, always choosing exquisite pieces, which he acquired while travelling throughout Spain, Europe and part of America. He also received donations, such as a dress which belonged to Grace Kelly.
He donated his clothing collection to his city, the origin of the now defunct Rocamora Clothing Collection Museum, located in the Palacio Marqués de Lió on Carrer Montcada. Currently part of his collection is exhibited in Barcelona’s Design Museum.
Other notable collections include the visiting cards, bookplates, objects related with aerostatics, books, advertising fliers from old Barcelona shops, documentation from other centuries, engravings, figureheads, porcelain, Alcora ceramics, paperweights, medals, playing cards, autographs and signed cards, stamps… nothing escaped his refined collector’s instinct.