To mark Antoni Gaudí’s (Reus, 1852 - Barcelona, 1926) 150th anniversary the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and the Centro de Cultura Contemporánea de Barcelona are recreating in this extensive exhibition the universe of the central figure in Catalan Modernism and architect of international prestige. This exhibition is a journey through the influences, history, creative works and impact of Gaudí's work on a wide outlook built through more than four hundred works ranging from the early nineteenth century until the mid-twentieth century.
The conceptual framework of the collection is developed around three central themes: “Las cosas vistas (Things seen)" “El Taller (The Workshop)" and “La Fortuna (Fortune)". Gathered among them are drawings, paintings, photographs, sculptures, models and books under the curatorship of Juan José Lahuerta, a Gaudí specialist.
The first section covers the conceptual heritage of this figure in the development of modern architecture. Among his influences are some British authors essential in the shaping of his artistic and architectural thought in the second half of the nineteenth century like August W. N. Pugin, John Ruskin, William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites. Gallery rooms are devoted to the contributions of Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and Richard Wagner, which refer to the importance of symbolist painters like the Belgian William Degouve de Nuncques and Joaquín Mir. Also present is the late century concept of maison d’artiste employed by author Edmond de Goncourt and which finds its culmination in Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo’s Venetian palace. It also includes the series of Charles Garnier’s new Opera and Paul Abadie’s Sacré-Coeur basilica photographs, taken by Louis-Émile Durandelle. Also exhibited in this section are drawings by Gaudí when he was a student, as well as the work he did when he finished his studies as an assistant to other teachers and architects.
The second part of the exhibition contains a collection of drawings related to the Sagrada Familia. Gaudí used his own workers and their children as models for the Nativity façade sculptures. The result is in full communion with what was called "miserabilism" an iconography depicting human beings emphasising horror, poverty and decay. This section focuses on the workshop where artistic practice finds its privacy. Antoine Bourdelle and Jean-Leon Gérôme introduced the issue of diverse artistic techniques used during that period as an imitation to what is natural, the controversial plaster moulds from nature or photography. Also alluded to is Gaudí’s interest of crucifixions through the work of artists like Pablo Picasso, Georges Lacombe, Fred Holland Day and Pierre Dubreuil. Rodin stands out as a paradigm of art from the turn of the century. Photographs of the monograph devoted to Gaudí in July 1926 by the publication Gaseta de les Arts are also displayed. This section closes with the drawings of architects who worked with Gaudí or were influenced by him such as his assistant Francesc Berenger.
The third and final part of the exhibition shows Gaudí’s interest in biomorphic forms by reviewing the contributions of Hermann Obrist and German Expressionist architects. The influence of Gaudí in Surrealism through the figure of Salvador Dalí or the Rationalism of Le Corbusier, also has a place in these rooms dedicated to the influence of the Catalan architect in the European avant-garde. Authors like Kurt Schwitters and André Bretón were fascinated by Gaudí’s architecture who was also a source of inspiration for photographers like Man Ray, Brassaï or Joaquim Gomis.
All the rooms of the exhibition Universo Gaudí display the originality of the works of an artist who was a cultural driving force in his time and marked a before and after in the universal history of modern architecture.
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