Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona
Gaudi's career will always be inseparable from the Catalan city of Barcelona, as it is here that most of his significant works can be found. The groundbreaking architectural style that he implemented in various locations around the city remains remarkably fresh even in the present day. Whilst architecture, and art more generally, can sometimes struggle for attention in today's technology-dominant world, no tourist can visit this wonderful city without becoming aware of the impact made by Gaudi over the course of his career. There is even a trail around the city that covers the highlights of his career and is also an excellent way of enjoying the sights and sounds of the city in your own time. The less mobile can take advantage of the transport system that serves these landmarks well and generally caters for several different international languages.
La Sagrada Familia spearheads the vibrant architectural array on offer in Barcelona and also represents the pinnacle of Gaudi's own career. This mammoth project had begun before his involvement and will continue for many years to come, but his involvement has always been seen as key to the overall style and construction of this complex design. It also helps to remind us of the importance of religion within Gaudi's life, as demonstrated by his carefully preserved bedroom in the Gaudí House Museum which features a Christian cross on the wall, with very few other elements in this surprisingly modest interior. Nature and God remained the inspiration for most of his buildings throughout his lifetime and he would never deviate far from his deeply held faith, whatever success and fame he may have achieved.
An extraordinary achievement for Gaudi is that seven of his architectural projects are now listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This has brought with it a greater prominence for the city of Barcelona within the world of architecture as well as further strengthening support for the preservation of his different building designs that are dotted around the city. It also helps to draw further attention to the Catalan art scene, as a whole, which includes several other world famous artists such as Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí who themselves were predominantly involved in sculpture, painting and drawing. The vibrant colours in this region are reflected in much of the work of these artists, including the bright hues found in the building facades of Gaudi. The advantage that he has is that most of his creations remain in the city of Barcelona and can be accessed relatively easily and cheaply.
Influences on Gaudi's Artistic Style
The earliest influences on Gaudi came during his studies of Asian art which came via a number of European artists who had already investigated these topics in considerable detail. Japanese art had long since inspired a number of notable European painters and illustrators and Gaudi was also interested in the qualities of Chinese, Indian and Persian art too. Whilst studying at the School of Architecture, this budding student was able to look over a considerable number of photographs covering a diverse collection of different artistic styles, such as those mentioned here. There was also Egyptian and Mayan art examples as well and he would go into the finest detail possible in studying these different approaches in order to get ideas for his own later projects. One can see elements of these cultures within some of his most famous architectural designs. Much closer to home were the historic sculptures of the Moorish people, which he also spent time understanding and learning from, both in terms of technical skills and also the symbolic ideas behind their constructed forms.
Gaudi was by no means an artist who concentrated on aesthetically-pleasing designs that would not function in reality. His buildings were well-researched and technically solid. He studied a whole plethora of different architectural ideas during his studies and was also interested in drawing in as much from other cultures as possible. Besides their artistic styles, he also examined the building styles of these groups from right across the world, including several inventions from Islamic regions. Several European authors had studied these different periods in detail and the library of his school contained several publications that would help to draw his attention to what could be learnt from outside his own native Europe. There was also a revival in the use of Gothic styles across France and this was also to be a great influence on the young student, though he believed there was still room for development and fine tuning of this style of architecture.
Modernisme is the term generally used to describe the members of the Catalan art movement who helped to develop new ideas within European art and architecture. Catalan modernism was predominantly focused on architecture but was also involved at times in a wide variety of other disciplines, with the common theme of promoting the merits of Catalan identity and culture persisting throughout. Many other significant artists have achieved the same, without being a part of this group, but the timing of a number of notable contributors at around the same time made this group particularly significant. Naturally, Gaudi was the leading name in this group, but there was also notable work from Salvador Dalí, Antoni Gaudí, Joan Miró, Joaquín Sorolla and Antoni Tàpies. You may notice from this list that Modernisme has been a somewhat umbrella group which contains all manner of styles matched together due to their geographic connection.
Gaudi could not have accomplished everything that he did without being an accomplished draughtsman. Although his work in the discipline of drawing was not particularly well recognised during his own lifetime, there has been an increasing interest in this art form more generally over the past few decades. Indeed, specialised exhibitions that focus on the drawings of famous architects and painters have become more and more frequent in recent years. They seem to be particularly relevant to portrait artists, who use this medium to practice their depictions of the human body, which is famously challenging to depict accurately. Even the likes of Michelangelo and Da Vinci would work tirelessly to practice their anatomical drawings before taking on larger fresco or sculpture projects. As an architect, Gaudi's drawings were, of course, aimed at planning his future buildings. He would produce sketches at varying levels of detail, sometimes focusing on the overall building, other times delving deep into the detail of a creative flourish, such as a sculptured feature on a balcony, for example.
Gaudi was not someone who could simply put together these extraordinary buildings and then hand over the task for furnishing them to someone else. He worked on designs for the interiors of most of the architectural projects that were completed. His involvement also ensured that there was a consistency between the interior and exterior of these landmarks, that otherwise may not have been the case. An alternative furniture designer would likely have taken some inspiration from the building work but also taken things in a new direction, such is the whim of a creative professional. One interesting aspect of Gaudi's furniture is the extraordinary variety of items that he produced, from tables to bookcases, chairs, doors, benches and dressing tables. Pretty much any type of furniture that you could possibly imagine was tackled by Gaudi at some point in his career, and his particular choices at any one time would be dictated by the needs of the property and also the type of building it was.
The confident and multi-skilled Catalan artist would also take on the interior design requirements for many of the buildings that he worked for. He did not consider an architectural project complete until every last detail was covered, including the gardens, furniture and decoration inside as well as the finest of touches to the external facade. Some would call this obsessive, but the end result was a number of extraordinary experiences for those with a wide-ranging taste in the discipline of art and architecture. This ambitious desire to work across so many different disciplines is rare, even more so to find those that have successfully accomplished this to a high standard right across this wide variety of art forms. The most obvious example of an artist who took on interior design successfully would probably have to be British illustrator, William Morris, who was most famous for his floral designs.