The brothers Joaquim and Marià Vayreda Vila often visited Paris. Their artistic activities lead them to study and develop a well-known type of iconography known as "The Art of San Sulpicio" as since it was developed by a number of artists living in the Parisian quarter which takes the name of the Saint. The painters Joaquim Vayreda and J. Berga i Boix carried out a technical test which was destined to give work to the students of the School of Drawing of Olot, and which offered them the chance to develop their professional artistic talents.
From this mutual co-operation the first commercial production centre of religious imagery was founded. The site was soon to become a central part in the life of the local population as the business became characteristic of the town's craft activities. In 1880 the business was called Vayreda, Berga y Cía, but the name was changed two years later to become "El Arte Cristiano". Numerous artists, including several internationally renowned sculptors, have passed through the workshops of this company, creating images which have lent prestige to the company name and which have been exported to many countries around the world.
The statues made in paste cardboard wood have the affirmative concession on the part of the Sagrada Congregation of ritus and indulgences, and therefore, the consideration of noble and venerable material, according to consists
The industry of the Saints in Olot is the result of several factors:
In 1850, in Olot, the textile industry (cotton and weaving among others) was very important; this activity had its origins in the "Indianas", the Spanish emigrants in Latin America. As a result the town developed the basis of a craft industry.
In order to support this industry, the Escuela Pública de Dibujo, the Public School of Drawing had been founded (on the initiative of Bishop Lorenzana in 1783), and which taught the young apprentices the graphic arts of the "Indianas". The artist Joan Carles Panyó was later the director of the school for many years, and exerted a great influence on his numerous disciples.
At the end of the 19th century however, a period of religious resurgence, a movement already initiated by Balmes, which ensured that iconography became deeply rooted in Western, and especially in Catalan culture. The Vayreda brothers and their grandfather, Berga gathered this legacy and transformed it into a new business: religious statues. The founders of "El Arte Cristiano" took advantage of these circumstances and created an industry which at that time was both new and prosperous, so much so that soon afterwards many other examples of the same business emerged, with up to 20 factories at the beginning of the 20th century.
Currently the company’s goal is to share this cultural heritage that is unique in the world, with more than 2,000 models by world famous sculptors including Ache, Alentorn, Blay, Devesa and Llimona.
The industry of the Saints, which is now seen as something of an anachronism was, in its time, an innovation. Looking at the traditional methods which were used to mould the images and materials in the middle of the 19th century, it can be seen that the Olot "Industry of Saints" and particularly "El Arte Cristiano" were innovators in the use of a new material and new molding techniques. This innovatory material was cardboard-wood plaster compound, a substance which substantially improved the production of the saint figures as it meant less molding time and lighter, more resistant pieces.
By applying basic principles, and by making the most of circumstances, an industry was developed which still continues today. The company experienced its period of splendor and prosperity, as a result of which similar enterprises were developed around the area. At the same time, as with all influential industries, a variety of trades grew up around the area. One of the most important of these was the artistic activity which was to develop into a tradition, one which has been taken up by many of the town's population, some of whom have achieved a well-deserved and far reaching reputation.
Today "El Arte Cristiano" is an authentically traditional company which has comfortably adapted to modern times. It has passed through both successful and difficult moments, but has always been able to develop over time, adapting to the market and to circumstances. This is why we can offer the finest traditional values, backed up by the experience of generations together with the most up to date technological developments.
The combination of Tradition-Experience-Modernity makes "El Arte Cristiano" a model company. Our origins go back over a hundred years of history, from end of the 19th century (1880) to the present day. Throughout this period, production relations have changed, while the production process has stayed almost exactly the same, faithful to its origins.
The computerisation of its warehouses and the change in its moulds and counter-moulds enable the company to manufacture statues in other materials, and therefore offer the possibility new business opportunities and improved manufacturing processes.
The company has been awarded the "Garrotxa Leader" title of business quality, an award based primarily on environmental and social factors.
With the goal of technological innovation that comes with the change in its moulds so that we can now offer this wealth of imagery for outdoor use as funeral art, we have joined forces by working with a cutting-edge company that is a leader in innovation and the development of and research into new technologies in the world of art.