Under the influence of neo-Gothic art and Oriental techniques, Gaudí became part of the Modernista movement which was reaching its peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His work transcended mainstream Modernisme, culminating in an organic style inspired by natural forms.
Modernism in terms of architecture is characterized by the predominance of the curve over the straight line, asymmetry, rich decoration and detail, use of natural and organic motifs and dynamic shapes.
The master of Catalan Modernisme
Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was born in 1852 and showed early promise as an artist when he was young. After serving in the military, he studied architecture in Barcelona. He is often considered the master of Modernisme or Catalan Modernism, although it is difficult to put his body of work into one particular style.
As a person, Gaudí was a private and spiritual man and one who was proud of his Catalonian culture and language. He never married and so devoted his life mostly to his work and his Catholic faith. As a young man, he dressed well, attended social events and traveled. However, as an older man, Gaudí lived frugally and neglected his appearance, wearing tattered clothing. During Gaudí’s final years, he devoted himself entirely to working on Sagrada Família.
In June 1926, Gaudí was struck by a passing tram and was assumed to be a beggar because of his appearance; this assumption may have led to his death as medical treatment was sadly delayed.
A controversial architect
During Gaudí’s life, his work was controversial and not widely appreciated or admired. In fact, his work was criticized by many art critics and architects of his time. It would not be until well after his death that there was widespread recognition and appreciation for his work.
Today, Gaudí is the best known architect of the Catalan Modernism movement and his buildings are known worldwide.
Although Gaudí is best known for his masterpiece, the Sagrada Família, as well as Casa Batlló and Park Güell, there are many other Gaudí works that you can see and visit in Barcelona. Some are well-known, others are seldom visited.
There are also a number of museums and exhibitions that focus on Gaudí and his work that can help provide a great overview and context before you set out to view his famous buildings.
Gaudí found a lot of his inspiration in nature and avidly studied organic and anarchic geometric forms and applied these often to his work. His buildings are distinctive, especially his later works, and used elements and techniques that had never been applied to architecture at the time.
Gaudí didn’t just use the natural world for inspiration. He used it to develop architectural techniques. Gaudí analyzed plants, animals, and geothermal formations to see how they naturally supported shapes and weight.
Between 1984 and 2005, seven of his works were declared World Heritage Sites. According to UNESCO these sites “testify to Gaudí’s exceptional creative contribution to the development of architecture and building technology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries”. The seven buildings included in the UNESCO designation are: Park Güell, Palau Güell, Casa Milà, Casa Vicens, Gaudí’s work on the Nativity facade and crypt of La Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló and the Crypt in Colonia Güell.
This route will assist you in deciding which attractions to visit, help you locate the Gaudí sites in Barcelona, and provide tips on visiting almost 20 different Gaudí sights in Barcelona or near the city.