Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. – Albert Einstein
Anything created by human beings is already in the great book of nature.– Antoni Gaudi
Do you wonder too, if with this novel and principal idea, did Einstein inspire the Art Nouveau movement? I wouldn’t go that far, although this thought of aligning art with nature seemed to be the most popular idea among geniuses in the late 19th century. From Victor Horta in Brussels to his contemporary Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona, these artists had created masterpieces that continue to amaze us more than a century later.
While I have seen, observed, written and shared about Art Nouveau marvels in Brussels, there is a big repository in Catalunya (particularly Barcelona) as well. The Art Nouveau movement began in Catalan around 1888 and was named ‘Modernisme.’ Propagated majorly by Gaudi in art and architecture, this was also a literary movement until 1911. Gaudi is, of course, the most famous, since he managed to create a unique personal style outside the realm of Modernisme during the period. Born in Reus in 1852, Antoni Gaudi i Cornet always wanted to study Architecture and did so, graduating in Barcelona in 1878.
Gaudi believed that he had Mediterranean heritage and was deeply influenced by the nature and art there. If you notice the motifs and shapes closely in most of his works, there is a distinct flavour and fragrance off the sea – its waves, the flora and fauna. This set of seven tiles, repeated in a pattern to create this Mediterranean atmosphere is no less than a work of astounding art. They include fossil shell, starfish and algae. These tiles were meant to be used in Casa Batlló, but the plan was scrapped and they were installed in Casa Milà instead. I probably missed clicking these tiles on the Passeig de Gràcia, the footpath right in front of Casa Batlló.
The motifs and symbolisms in Park Güell are better examples of Gaudi’s work in this phase of naturalism. From the iconic mosaic Salamander to benches in shape of a sea serpent, Gaudi has bared his love for nature in this park commissioned to him by the industrialist Eusebio Güell. If you notice the bench closely in the photo below, there are little holes to collect rainwater for the park, designed by Gaudi. The bench has strategic curves too for hosting conversations between the visitors to prevent eavesdropping. If that does not display the genius of Antoni Gaudi, I possibly cannot fathom what else would!
Trencadís – This beautiful art of mosaic with broken and irregular pieces of tiles is called Trencadís. It is said that this form of recycled art was invented by Gaudi and his associate Josep Maria Jujol, while they were working on the Park Güell project. I think this, along with the various shapes/angles created by Gaudi are best described as his signature styles.
Gaudi was deeply religious too, which motivated him to take the responsibility of an enormous project like the Sagrada Familia. He blended religion with nature and created designs based on the concepts from nature. If you stand beneath the ceiling of the Sagrada Familia, it imparts an atmosphere of a canopy of trees in a forest. The double-twisted columns are designed on the basis of Oleander branches. On the exterior, the columns at the Passion façade resemble Sequoia trees. The door of the Nativity façade is, of course, very heavily loaded with floral motifs. There are quite a few bronze ants and ladybugs to spot too!
Gaudi was fascinated with the forms and angles of the human body. He used skeletal references in both the Casa Batlló and Casa Milà. The chimneys on the roof of Casa Milà resemble medieval knights. Take a look below! Some of them have eyes and noses that look a bit eerie and dystopian from a distance.
The entire ensemble on the façade of Casa Batlló appears very interesting. There are pillars resembling human bones and cavities that look like a human skull. The small balconies on the top look like giant eyes and noses poring over visitors. The others on the side are oblong and appeared to be like human organ cavities to me. The Casa Batlló looks resplendent at night, we missed visiting it in the daylight.
Gaudi was also a master of intricate designs on iron and bronze. The grillwork on the stark quarry-like façade of Casa Milá are shaped like small waves from the ocean. I could spot a beautiful iron lattice window on the façade of Palau Güell too. At the very top stands a Phoenix, a mythical animal that is an emblem of the economic and cultural renaissance experienced by Catalan society.
These are a few examples from the vast repertoire of Gaudi’s work that we could visit, observe, admire and chronicle now. There’s still a lot more of his work to be seen and I plan to go back to Catalunya sometime for that. The masterpieces of Gaudi deserve millions of applauses and need to be reflected upon more frequently.
If you have seen Gaudi’s works, let me know which ones are your favourites and why.