Modernism

Art Noveau in Barcelona

At the end of the 19th century, and as a result of the industrial revolution and its technological advances (electricity, railways, etc.) a new way to live appeared throughout Europe. Barcelona also followed the principles of the industrial revolution, the city boosted, and it gazed towards a modern society.

In the mid-19th century, the medieval walls that surrounded the city of Barcelona were demolished. The land outside the wall, which until then had been used as agricultural fields and military areas, was built up according to the Cerdà plan, which would create the Eixample. The Cerdà Plan (1859) intended to create and establish channels of communication between Barcelona and nearby towns. The project proposed broad streets and avenues without class differentiation and houses with a maximum height of three storeys. The Catalan bourgeoisie widely refused the project for economic reasons and because of the non-differentiation of classes. But finally, the Cerdà plan was put into effect by creating the Eixample, which became the centre of residence for this illustrious bourgeoisie.

In the second half of the 19th century, Barcelona saw spectacular urban and industrial development, as well as economic development, with the growth of the new industrial bourgeoisie, who had a high purchasing power and increased cultural interests. After the Spanish disaster of 1898 and the loss of Cuba, the so-called "indians" returned with large fortunes, cultural concerns and an air of modernity. But the transformation of the city was mostly as a result of the organization of the World Exhibition, which took place in 1888.

The 1888 World Exhibition did not only have consequences on the urban and architectural levels but also caused a cultural transformation through a type of artistic renaissance. This literary movement, which aimed to renew Catalan as a language and to recover the history of the country, gradually turned into a cultural movement influencing all artistic manifestations, but with an important emphasis on architecture and the applied arts. The new Catalan bourgeoisie had concerns, a new nationalistic awareness and a need to claim their new social status. This new cultural movement is what we call Modernisme, which longed to transform Catalan society into a modern society.

Modernisme wanted to break with the ways of the past and create new art. It was an eclectic movement, which had an important effect on architecture. Modernist architecture represents a renewal of shapes inspired by nature, the use of new materials and a nationalistic sentiment. In Catalonia, the Catalan Art Nouveau takes on its own personality differentiated from the rest of Europe, with the geniouses of Lluís Domènech i Montaner, Antoni Gaudí and Josep Puig i Cadafalch. This cultural movement was filled with all the arts and sought to recover Catalan culture and modernise the country. Other artistic expressions were undertaken by such important figures as the painters Santiago Rusiñol and Ramon Casas, the sculptors Eusebi Arnau and Josep Llimona, the cabinetmaker Gaspar Homar, the glassmaker Lluís Rigalt...

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