Tàpies was born in the bosom of a bourgeois Catalan family of booksellers. With an indefatigable artistic career extending over more than six decades, his production arose in a convulsive historical moment. Between 1936 and 1939, Spain lived immersed in a Civil War that birthed a dictatorship lasting until 1975. For Catalonia – a territory in the northeast of the Peninsula which speaks a different language and contains cultural and historical differences – the new political regime implied limitations on their freedoms. For him and his family, who during the sociopolitical conflict had positioned themselves on the side of the defeated, it represented a turning point that would mark both the artistic and vital trajectory of young Antoni. Since then, he became concerned with social struggles and his work acquired a denouncing and critical tone that he never abandoned.

Practically self-taught, his first works were influenced by magical surrealism as seen in the work of artists such as Joan Miró, Paul Klee and Max Ernst. In his early years, he participated in the founding of the avant-garde magazine and movement Dau al 7, led by the poet Joan Brossa and linked to the surrealism and the Dada.

The decade of the fifties, parallel to the new European currents, gave way to the informalist styles in which materiality was gaining prominence. His particular alphabet came to be in this time where each one of his signs acquired a concrete meaning. The A and T refer to his initials but also to those of his name and that of his wife, Teresa. The X helped him to cross out and indicate enigmas. The cross transcends its Christian connotation to unite shamanism, Hindu cultures and/or Egyptian mythology. Over the years, Tàpies was constantly renewing his artistic methodology. Yet his underlying concerns stayed consistent, with small variations, throughout his career.