June 12: OMGaudí

2012/06/12 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1926 Antoni Gaudí was buried.

In the late nineteenth century, Barcelona was swept into the intentional search for an art nouveau along with most of the other great European culture capitals” Paris, Brussels, Budapest, Prague, Vienna; even old lady Florence tried to keep up.  In Barcelona this quest took on a particularly political dimension as an expression of the significant independence movement.  Although Catalan Modernisme comprised lots of great writers, musicians, artists and architects (none finer than Lluís Domènech i Montaner), its unrivaled leader then and now was Antoni Gaudí.

Gaudí (1852-1926) pursued a formal architectural education and standard office experience before striking out in his strikingly original manner.  His earliest famous work, the Casa Vicens (1883), makes a person wonder how he ever got a second chance.  But soon after that train wreck, somehow, he attracted the attention of his great patron Eusebi Güell, and then a bunch of other nouveau riche industrialists.  Casa Batlló (1904) and Casa Milà (1905) followed, and are not without their charms.  But it was the Sagrada Familia, the huge church left unfinished at the time of his death, that was his focus for decades.

It was on the way from that construction site to his church for prayers and daily confession that Gaudí was hit by a tram on June 7; he died three days later, and on June 12 the whole city mourned the loss of their greatest architect.  The tens of thousands who filled the streets to pay their respects illustrates the depth of meaning that Gaudí managed in his singular architecture, drawn as it is from medieval heraldry, Moorish ornament, Iberian ceramics, the craggy landscape and deep blue Mediterranean, dragons and beetles, helmets and bones, and the wispy dream of freedom.

Image: Gaudí’s funeral procession, Barcelona

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