Yesterday someone asked me what it is that makes me love Barcelona so much so quickly. there are lots of answers I tossed out. The food, the weather, the architecture, the language, the people….but really it comes down to a certain aesthetic. I don’t know if it’s a result of being a place where so many cultures converge (Catalan, Spanish, French, Italian, Arab…and more) or if it is something else. But today it hit me while I walked through the streets that everything here is designed with a sort of beauty that really speaks to me from the garbage cans to the toilets to the street lights to the buildings.
One of many beautiful works by Montaner
I’ve been a guy that feels compelled to express himself through art, music, words, and more for all of my life. In particular, I have always been drawn to the work of Picasso and Miro. You certainly don’t need to hear from me that these are great artists, but what I am saying is that this particular art has always spoken to me more than say the now departed Andrew Wyeth or Renoir. Now, in a city that both called home and where both are revered, it’s not terribly surprising that I am surrounded by a comfort and warmth (in an artistic sense) that feels very good.
Today I visited the Museu Picasso. Sorry, no photographs allowed in this one, but if you want to see his work you can see the multiple photos I took at the Chicago Institute of Art, The Met, and MoMA.
The Museu Picasso de Barcelona is the chief reference point for knowledge about Pablo Picasso’s formative years, and bears witness to the close relation between the artist and the city. Five Gothic mansions house this museum which, in addition to works from the artist’s youth and later life, such as the Blue Period, also contains the magnificent Las Meninas series.
Same goes for Miro. I was going to visit la foundacion de Miro today but I found out that the Mercury fountain is closed for the season, so I decided to let that visit wait for another time.
I did however, take some pictures of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.
Antoni Gaudi Cornet (1852-1926)
Antoni Gaudi Cornet was born in 1852 in Reus to a family of coppersmiths from Riudoms. The smallest of five brothers, he moved to Barcelona in 1873 to study architecture, which he finished four years later. It is said that on awarding him his degree, the Director of the School of Architecture, Elies Rogent, muttered “Who knows whether we have given the degree to a madman or a genius: only time will tell.”
His first professional assignment was to design the new buildings of the textile cooperative for which he conceived unusual catenary arches of wood and a giant bronze bee (symbol of the cooperative). In the same year, he designed a glass and crystal ware cabinet decorated with wrought-iron, mahogany and marquetry for a Catalan glove manufacturer, Esteban Cornell¡, to display his products at the Universal Exhibition of Paris. The display cabinet seduced Eusebi Gell, an industrialist, aristocrat and rising politician, who was to become the patron of the young architect. Gaudi’s first commission for GÃ¼ell was to design the furniture of the pantheon that the Marquis of Comillas, the all-powerful father-in-law, possessed on the outskirts of Santander. This assignment was followed by another, a pergola decorated with globes and hundreds of glass pieces. From then on his career and his work, which in the course of time became one of the most famous symbols of Barcelona, were intimately linked to the Gell family. In 1883 the Church commissioned him to build the Sagrada Familia, which was to become the great work of his life, and in which he invested all the efforts of his last years. This gradual concentration on the great expiatory temple ran parallel to the consolidation of a fervent Catholicism, an aspect which had not been apparent in the young Gaudi. In his maturity, the great Catalan architect was known to be a frugal and solitary man who devoted all his energy to the profession through which he expressed his two great passions: Christianity and Catalan nationalism. His obstinate defense of Catalan identity even led to his arrest by the police in 1924 on Catalan National day (11th September), for refusing to submit to an officer who ordered him to speak in Spanish.
On 7th June 1926, Gaudi was hit by a tram when he was crossing the Gran Via. Initially on his admission the staff of the hospital, who struggled to save his life for three days, took him for a beggar because of his humble attire.
And here are a few randomly snapped photos in no particular place of importance that perhaps illustrate a little of what I mean by this Barcelona aesthetic.
These are street lights on one of a multitude of pedestrian walking areas
This graffiti actually works here. Barcelona is filled with incredible graffiti
I was handed this flyer while walking on Las Ramblas
(originally posted 1/20/09)