Antoni Gaudí

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Living in Southern Europe I embrace a regular tendency to want to visit those national memorials celebrating the icons of local culture. One of the finest examples of this is the work of the Catalan Modernist architect, Antoni Gaudi. I am not talking solely about the trophy building, the outstanding and outrageous – if a little claustrophobic if you’ve ever tried to climb one of the spires – La Sagrada Família – but whilst magnificent there is much more to his wonderful work.

Gaudi’s place in the history of Architecture and his influence in a pantheon of modern art, including the likes of the fourteen year old Picasso, who moved to Barcelona in 1896 and into Gaudi’s circles, was immense. Gaudi’s work – much of which is now classed as World Heritage Sites stems from an era of the Renaixença (or Renaissance) in Barcelona of prosperity and vision. His work remains much appreciate by the likes of the writer Lorca and the artist, and fellow Catalan, Salvador Dali, as a vibrant legacy to this era.

Born 25 June 1852  the son, grandson and great-grandson of boiler workers from the Baix Camp (Catalonia). Growing up appreciating the fusion of copper and iron enabled Gaudi to claim that when he imagined in three dimensions, which became core to his fluid and evolutionary work. Indeed, he rarely created detailed plans preferring models of his proposed buildings. Similarly, he was enraptured by the perhaps conflicting mysteries of nature, especially that of his beloved Mediterranean coast, vegetarianism and his profound Roman Catholic faith.

After school, where he excelled in art, in 1868 Gaudi moved to Barcelona to study teaching followed by some time of compulsory military service which was punctuated by ill-heath. In 1878 Gaudi graduated from the Llotja School and the Barcelona Higher School of Architecture having funded his training by working as a draftsman to various notable but local architects.

Gaudí rise was meteoric. His first important commission was Manuel Vicens i Montaner, the Casa Vicens, a Moorish revival palace, which, after 130 years as private home, recently reopened to the public.

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Over the subsequent thirty years his work and Barcelona were synonymous. The City changed, and under the patronage of Eusebi Güell, Count Güell – a Catalan industrialist – fine examples of Gaudi’s best work can be seen including:

The Parc Güell:

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The Crypt at Colonia Güell

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Palau Güell

 

Casa Batlló – commissioned in 1904, by Josep Batlló, Gaudi’s task was to design and renovate this extraordinary property, to create a house like no other. Gaudi completed the project in 1906, becoming a masterpiece on Barcelona’s, Passeig de Gracia.

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The Casa Milà commissioned in 1906 by Pere Milà – a developer – and his wife, Roser Segimon, the widow of a wealthy Indiano coffee plantation owner.

In 1883, at the age of 31 Gaudi was appointed to the Sagrada Família project, after original designer quit, becoming Architect Director in 1894. From 1915 until his death on 10th June 1926, following being struck by a tram at the age of 73, Gaudí focussed his entire creative energy on the development and construction of this amazing building.

See below a model of the finished Basilica. Please also see this amazing video compiled for the UK newspaper The Daily Mail highlighting what the Sagrada Familia will look like at completion – please click the link – Sagrada Familia – Completed

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Said to be the most important piece of Gothic architecture in Europe since the Middle Aged, Gaudi combined Gothic and Art Nouveau forms together in the Sagrada Familia with naturalistic and flowing details of plantlife and cleaver uses of light throughout.

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I am also a massive fan of another Modernist Architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, about whom I posted on Aestheticons before, celebrating his body of iconic work – see here our previous post – Charles Rennie Mackintosh 

One of the few projects that Gaudi undertook away from Catalonia was the minaret-like country lodge – a fine example of his oriental influences – of El Capricho in Comillas (Cantabria, Northern Spain). It was built between 1883-85 as a summer home for a returning Indiano Maximo Diaz de Quijano (The Marquis of Comillas and Father in Law of Count Güell). Atypically for Gaudi’s work the stained glass, wood rafters and metal work are exemplary. The emblematic flowers, oriental and stylised ceramics look like they may have come straight from the pallet of Mackintosh. It’s thought that Gaudi and Mackintosh never met, though they died two years apart, but their naturalistic work replendent with great drama, vision and charm is firmly rooted in the same Modernist and Art Nouveau movements.

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Whilst we learn in Dan Brown’s excellent “Origin”, set almost exclusively in Gaudi’s Barcelona, that the Roman Catholic Church has not funded either Gaudi’s final resting place nor the building surrounding it, the Sagrada Família. The work on this fine building has been halted over the years whilst additional funds were collected. It is anticiapated that construction will be finally complete by 2026 to coincide with one hundredth anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

My hope is to have whetted your appetite to know more about Gaudi and his work. Two very useful resources are the following books, please click the Amazon link below the image in each case.

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Antonio Gaudi: Master Architect

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Gaudi: A Biography

Enjoy Dan Brown’s page-turner “Origin” by clicking the Amazon link below the image of the book 

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Origin: (Robert Langdon Book 5)

STOP PRESS: 

In April 2019 it was reported, after a two year dispute, that the Sagrada Famila, which has seen over 139 years of construction and is visited annually by 4.5m, had now received its final planning permission from Barcelona’s City Hall!

Ironically, the City Hall only agreed to pass the final permission for the Basilica, provided that the Catholic Church, which owns the site in Central Barcelona and has spectacularly failed to contributed towards the development costs of the wonderful Basilica, paid €34m towards local community projects.

The predictions are that 2026 is still an achievable completion date for the iconic UNESCO World Heritage Status building.

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Image Credits – with grateful thanks http://www.archdaily.com/Rory Stott, The Barcelona Tourist Association, The Gaudi Foundation and The Daily Mail

Salvador Dali by Dominic Baker

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This week Aestheticons’ regular contributor, Dominic Baker, waxes his moustache, suspends disbelief and the forces of nature to celebrate the work of the “Man from Figueres” the irrepressible talent of Salvador Dali

Strap yourselves in its about to get weird….

Salvador Dali where do we begin – his unconventional childhood, his schooling, film and theatre, the symbolism within his many works, his unconventional relationships, his references to science or maybe his politics or religious views? All of which were possibly as vivid and vivacious as his actual works – if not more so.

Unusual by the fact, unlike so many earlier Masters, he was one of the most famous painters that was not only posthumously celebrated, but he managed to experience fame and notoriety during his lifetime. As he dominated the abstract and surrealist worlds for decades and was, arguably, the first celebrity modernist. He made modern art both more accessible and much more popular.

I think it is important to start with his childhood – it had such a profound effect on his state of mind.

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech was born in Catalonia, Spain in 1904 . His would be older brother, also named Salvador, had died 9 months before. When he was five years old he was taken to his brother’s grave, where his parents told him that he was the reincarnation of his dead brother, something he later  believed!

Dali education was tumultuous. He discovered painting in 1910, having had a rather impressionistic foray into art from the age of six. Following the trauma of his Mother’s death from breast cancer in 1921, he moved to Madrid in 1922. Whilst studying at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando along with his studies of the techniques of the Dutch Masters – he was already a fine painter – he began to experiment with Cubism and Dadaism, but managed to get expelled in 1926 being accused of causing unrest.

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In 1929, he met his future wife, Elena Ivanovna Diakonova (later to become Dali’s muse called “Gala”) who at the time was married to surrealist poet Paul Eluard. She was ten years older than Dali and a Russian. The romance drove a wedge between Dali and his father. Dali’s completion of a highly controversial religious painting, bearing the inscription ‘Sometimes, I spit for fun on my Mother’s portrait’ was the final straw and his father forcibly ejected Dali from his family’s home and threatened to disinherited him. His father’s wrath eventually ebbed and he eventually accepted his son’s lover.

In 1931, Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” (MOMA) – our featured image – was completed, possibly the most important piece of the entire Surrealist movement. The dripping clocks seemingly reject the idea of time being rigid.

With the Spanish Civil War and Second World War in the 1930/40’s, Dali moved to the US where he was an instant hit with his own style of self advertising. He met many famous and influential people including heroes, Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud. Whilst in the US he developed his iconic appearance with his famous moustache influenced by a 17th century Spanish painter, Diego Velazquez.

He collaborated on films and photography working with Alfred Hitchcock and Luis Bunuel and designers like Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli and Christian Dior.

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By way of payment to his secretaries he often gave them paintings, later to be worth millions.

In 1936 he attended at a surrealist lecture in London dressed in a full diving suit – symbolic of plunging into the depths of the human mind.

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In 1937 in Paris he completed the stunning “Metamorphosis of Narcissus” that is thought, in part, to have been influenced by Dali’s recognition of the success he had enjoyed in the US.

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The same year his beautiful “Swans Reflecting Elephants” was completed and seized by the Nazi’s following the invasion of France in 1940.

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In 1948 Dali and Gala returned to their home on the Catalonian coast at Port Lligat where they settled for over thirty years. In 1951, the celebrated “The Christ of Saint John of the Cross” (owned by Glasgow Museums) was painted. Inspired by a 16th century sketch and his own “cosmic dream” it carries a remarkable and evocative message.

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In 1952 Dali’s fascination with the atom and nuclear physics led to his depiction of his muse, Gala, in “Galatea of the Spheres”.

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In 1969, somewhat curiously, Dali designed the logo of Spanish lollipop business “Chupa Chups”.

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I will finish with the fact that in 2017 Dali is still a cultural icon; his self-portrait and his iconic moustache are now the subject of an many artists. Almost an exercise in branding, a poster boy for a whole genre with their artistic interpretations of him – it is what he represents, the avant guard, the weird, the ground breaking, the popular and, of course, the surreal.