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Modern art

Culture and businessArt on the streetsHistory of modern art in Barcelona
Famous artists and Barcelona

Relation culture and business

For cultural activities, regional government as well as business is very important. As no other Spanish city, Barcelonas business world supports and finances art and culture. This has been the case since the 19th century when Catalan manufacturers and industrialists supported Modernist artists and architects. Artists and rich aristocrats were looking for a way to express their Catalan identity, as well in politics, architecture, literature and art. They cooperated very well and succeeded in becoming independent of the Spanish traditions. The world exhibition in 1888 and, much more recent, the Olympic games in 1992, meant a revival of art in the city. Lots of projects were started, financed by the business world, and supported by the local government.

Art on the streets

Barcelona houses an overwhelming amount of art, as well in the many museums as out on the streets. During the eighties, the district council started an ambitious art project. City architect Oriol Bohigas and his successor Josep Acebillo have chosen 150 spots in town to design parks and plazas with pieces of art for. The main purpose was to bring the locals in touch with modern art, not to satisfy tourists. For this reason many of the artworks are situated in the suburbs, but however, everywhere you walk in Barcelona you will be confronted with art. It even starts when you've walked just out of the airport, of which a wall is decorated with a huge mosaic of Miró.
More of Miró's work can be seen on the Ramblas, of which he designed the pattern of the pavement, and the sculpture 'Dona i ocel' at Parc Joan Miró near Plaça d'Espanya. 'Dona i ocel' meaning 'woman with bird' is a high sculpture placed in the middle of a water basin in which it reflects beautifully.
The Olympic Village is dominated by Frank Gehry's 'Pez y Esfera', representing a headless fish. It's a very huge structure made in a gold colored material, and you can walk underneath it. At Moll de la Fusta you'll see 'Gambrinus' the giant lobster of Javier Mariscall, and at the end of the street 'Cap de Barcelona', 'Barcelona's head' a sculpture of Roy Liechtenstein.
In the Eixample area there's at Carrer Arago, on top of the Fundacio Tapies, Tapies' Nuvol i cadira', ' Cloud and chair'. This piece of art is made of three kilometers steelwire.
I would consider the decorations on the Modernist buildings, especially Gaudi's, as art too. The mosaic decorations like the bench at parc Güell have more to do with art than with architecture.
In the suburbs, there is at Parc del Clot   'Rites of Spring', a metal figure of Bryant Hunt.
At Parc de la Creueta del Coll is Chillida’s 'Eulogy to Water ' hanging above the pool, there is a totem of Elsworth Kelly and a sculpture of Roy Liechtenstein. Three sculptures are situated at Parc de L’Espanya Industrial, made by Anthony Caro, Pablo Palazuelo and Andrčs Nagel. Richard Serra made a sculpture for Plaça de la Palmera. These are only a few of the many works.
These works in combination with temporarily exhibits make Barcelona a free open-air museum.
Dona i ocel

Dona i ocel

pez i esfera
Pez i esfera
Cap de Barcelona
Cap de Barcelona

nuvol i cadira

Nuvol i cadira

History of modern art in Barcelona

My view on modern art in Barcelona starts at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. At that time Modernism was a movement that involved art, literature, architecture and politics, created to express Catalan nationalism. More about Modernism on the architecture page. Barcelona at that time was a city where artists, poets, musicians, intellectuals and political radicals gathered. Café 'El Quatre Gats' was the place where some of the most important artists of that time, like Picasso, Dalí, Miró, Tapies and Gaudí came frequently. Picasso designed the menu for Els Quatre Gats and held his first exhibition there. All the artists I named are Catalan, and however most of them didn't spent their lives in Barcelona, the city was very important to them. Dalí founded a museum in Figueras, Picasso moved to Paris. Miró lived in Paris and on the island of Mallorca, but founded in 1975 the Fundacio Miró in Barcelona where many of his works can be seen. Tapies kept his works also in Barcelona at his museum Fundacio Tapies.


Famous artists and Barcelona
Joan Miró :

Joan Miró was born on the 20th of April 1893 in Montroig, not far from Barcelona. As a child  Miró loved drawing, and at the age of seven he started taking his first drawing-lessons. As a young person he studied, to please his parents, to become a merchant and combined it with art studies. After he finished studying, he was 17 then, he worked as an accountant but he got sick, and got dismissed. He didn't mind it as he hated the job, and from now on he could devote himself to art. From 1912 till 1915 he took lessons at the academy of artist Fransesc d’A Gali. Miró wasn't satisfied with the way he pictured objects, and he wanted to improve his technique. His excellent sense for colors and forms was already obvious. He liked to stay with family on the countryside of Montroig, where he painted landscapes and scenes of farm life. Miró liked to work quietly and isolated. He wanted to show his love for the Catalan way of life to the rest of the world, and he wanted to give an impulse to modern Catalan art. At first he was influenced by realism, later by the colors of fauvism and the forms of cubism. His first exhibition took place in 1918, and in that year he founded with some friends the movement Agrupacio Courbet to run counter to the conservative art scene in Barcelona. In 1920 he moved to Paris, where he had a lot of contact with like-minded artists and writers, whose texts and poetry gave him inspiration. His financial situation was very bad, but artistically he was flourishing. During this period he mixed cubist and detailed elements in his works. A good example of this style is his work The farm (1921-22). The subjects are still very obvious, but painted in a weird way. His works get during the following years more and more populated with strange creatures. He told he saw these creatures during hallucinating from hunger. Fauvist and cubist influences disappear as he now painted colorful, geometric forms and creatures who seem to float against the background of the painting. His work becomes surrealistic. Typical for this movement were the 'dream creatures', and the fact that the painting got formed while being painted. In 1929 he married Pilar Juncosa, and one year later their daughter was born. At the end of the twenties, he visited Holland, and as he admired the works of the old masters, he started to copy them in an abstract way. At the beginning of the thirties, he experimented with material he had found and made collages with paper, wood, sandpaper and copper. In 1932 he returned to Barcelona with his family, as the group of Paris's surrealists had fallen apart. The Spanish civil war broke out in 1936, and had great influence on his art. The dark paintings of creatures in pain were typical for his so-called wild period. From 1936 till 1940 he lived back in Paris, where he wrote poetry for some time because he didn't had a room to paint in. He was asked to make a huge wall painting for the world exhibition in Paris in 1938. During the forties he was influenced by classical music and the stars, the works he made were part of a series called  Constellations. The beginning of WW II was the reason why he escaped back to Spain. During the war he worked mostly on paper as other material was scarce, but he wrote down ideas for later. He wanted to work as well with ceramics, sculptures and graphical applications.  After the war he wanted to start earning good money with his works to be able to buy a studio. In 1947 he went for the first time to the United States, where he worked during a few years, painting large works for example for hotels. In 1955 he worked with ceramist Josep Llorens Artigas at two walls for the Unesco headquarters in Paris. This meant a real breakthrough for him. He won some important awards like an important graphics award in Venice and in 59 he got the Guggenheim award for his work at the Unesco building. During the fifties he was able to buy some land and a house on Mallorca, and commissioned his friend, architect Josep Lluis Sert to build a studio. In 1956 he moved to this house and studio, and now he had finally the room to work on different things at the same time.During the sixties he made a lot of humorous sculptures and ceramic works, his paintings got emptier. In 1964 opened Foundation Maeght in St. Paul de Vence, France and in 1976 the Fundacio Miró in Barcelona was founded, dedicated to his works.
Miró died on December 25th 1983 in Palma de Mallorca. He kept working until his death. He had been very productive : he made at least 2000 paintings, 500 sculptures, 400 ceramic works, 5000 drawings and collages, and about 3000 pieces of graphical works.

Practical information about Fundacio Miró.




Woman with sun






Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dalí was born on the 11th of May 1904 in Figueras, Spain. Even as a child he showed an impressive artistic talent, and he made his first paintings at a very young age. At school, he was a bad and  very difficult pupil. His parents encouraged his talent and when he was 14 they let him spent much time with their friend, the impressionist painter Ramón Pitchot, who encouraged the boy. During this time he painted portraits and landscapes in an impressionist style.
At the age of 17 he started studying at the art academy of Madrid, but he was thrown off after a few months because of his difficult behavior. Dalí must have been a strange man. He was a rebel, very eccentric in his looks as well as in the way he behaved, he wanted to be in the middle of attention, and he was more or less mentally disturbed. After he got sent off school, he returned to Cadaques, tried to calm down and devoted himself seriously to painting. He even got readmitted to the academy for some time. His paintings were influenced by cubism, until the twenties, when they became surrealistic. This style was great for him as he could express   his hallucinations, fears and dreams trough his paintings. Dream analysis was very important for him, he tried to influence his dreams, and as soon as he woke up, he painted what he had been dreaming. The atmosphere and situations of his paintings are very unreal, but the subjects are reproduced very realistic. His paintings are very complex, and you have to look at them very attentive to discover all the details. His first exhibition took place in 1925  in Barcelona. His paintings were immediately popular By the public, what strengthened his belief in his own genius. From 1927 he left Cadaques regularly, to stay in Paris, where he lived among other surrealists like Picasso, Miró, and filmmaker Buńuel. Buńuel and Dalí made two surrealistic films together, "Un chien Andalou" in 1929, and "L'Age d'or" in 1930.In 1929 he met his wife Gala, she was the love of his life and his greatest source of inspiration. During the same year he joined the group of surrealists, and held his first exhibition in Paris. Dalí wanted to earn big money with his art, and did everything to attract attention. At the beginning of the thirties, he was influenced by De Chirico, by architect Antoni Gaudí and by the classical works of Vermeer. Dalí didn't only paint, but made sculptures and absurd appliances too.
During the thirties his works became a little more realistic. Later on he had an enormous fascination for distorted parts of the body and bones. When nazism made his entry Dalí expressed his sympathy for this movement, which made him very unpopular by the surrealist movement. ( Surrealism and modern art in general were rejected and forbidden by the nazis.)
Just before World war II broke out, Dalí fled with Gala to the United States. Meanwhile he had become popular in the States too, through his exhibitions and lectures at the MOMA ( Museum of Modern Art ) in New York. During this period Dalí wrote a lot at his biography. His paintings changed, geometry, mathematic figures, anatomy and perspective became very important. During his stay in America, he met film stars and celebrities, whose portraits he painted. At the end of the forties his classical period began. His colors became more romantic, and the forms lost their sharpness. Dalí became more religious and started making religious works. He returned to Port Lligat in Spain, and in 1958 he got married with Gala in church. During the sixties he wrote a lot and his paintings showed molecular figures. The Dalímuseum in Figueras opened in 1974. Gala died in 1982, and this meant the beginning of the end for Dalí. Meanwhile he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and he had to give up painting in 1983. He pined away and didn't want to live anymore. When a fire broke out in his bedroom he just wanted to stay inside and die, but he survived badly injured.
Dalí died on January 23th of 1989, at the age of 84, after a period of severe disease and being bedridden.



Durability of memory


Painting made in 1947


Tale of a swallow




Antoni Tŕpies

Antoni Tŕpies was born on the 13th of December 1923. During the civil war he stayed in Barcelona. In 1940 he got a heart attack, after which he stayed for two years in the mountains to recover. He finished his law-studies which he had followed for three years in 1946, to dedicate himself to painting. He is a real self-taught man. During the years he got more experienced and the countries he traveled to gave him inspiration. His home was and still is in Barcelona. He is very much interested in other cultures, Oriental religion, philosophy and art. In 1948 he was one of the establishers of the surrealist group "Dau al Set", and he made illustrations for their magazine of the same name. One of their goals was to give an impulse at Catalan modern art. Until the fifties his works were influenced by the surrealist works of Miró and others.
After a few successful exhibitions he received a scholar ship from French government to come to Paris. In 1954 he married with Teresa Barba Fabrega and later they got a son and a daughter.
Tŕpies is best known for the abstract works he made from 1953 on. He uses all kind of materials like rope, plaster, sand, glue, wood and ironware. This style is called "material art" a form of abstract expressionism. The colors he uses are quite gloomy lots of brown and gray with a few brightly colored accents, against a background that often looks like a plastered wall. his themes are usually revolt against the Franco-regime, reluctance against industry, and a strong desire for the natural. Symbols and objects he uses are a chair, a cross and hieroglyphs. The old wall he often uses as a background symbolizes transitoriness and aging. From 1956 on he participated regularly at international exhibitions. In 1958 he received an important award in Venice. Starting at the end of the sixties he made anti-aesthetic art. During the sixties and seventies he wrote articles to defend freedom of expressing creativity, and his autobiography. During the seventies and eighties he made illustrations for books and designed posters.
In 1990 his museum Fundacio Tŕpies opened his doors. In this beautiful modernist building his works are displayed in a very nice environment. On top of the building stands his sculpture Nuvol i cadira,(cloud and chair) made out of kilometers of iron wire.
He died February 8 in 2012.

Practical information about the  Fundacio Tŕpies.



White and orange 1967
Detritus 1981


Nuvol i cadira

Nuvol i cadira

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Ruiz Picasso was born on the 25th of October 1881 in Malaga. As a three year old child he could better draw than talk. When he was eight he made his first oil painting. His father was a good painter who taught at art academies. When Picasso was fourteen years old, they moved to Barcelona where he started studying at the arta cademy.( Barcelona would be very important for the young Picasso, that's why I mention him on this page.) During this period he made a lot of religious paintings. Thanks to the financial support of his family, he left in 1897 for Madrid to study at the best academy of Spain. Until a few months later when he became seriously ill and had to leave Madrid, he hang around on the streets and in bars and didn't go to school. During his recovery he lived on the countryside and painted idyllic landscapes. A big contrast were his paintings of his "Black period" which followed this period and when he painted dark sad creatures as a result of the death of some people he loved. Around 1900 the café el 4 gats was very important to him and to many other famous artists of that time. He held his first exhibition here, painted a poster and the menus for the bar where he spent a lot of his time. When he was nineteen he left for the first time to Paris, where he lived on the streets and in bars. He met an art dealer who was interested in his work and who offered him a job. His life was very turbulent, he moved constantly from Paris to Barcelona, to Madrid, to the coast of France. The same for his love life, he had lots of mistresses, and lovers sometimes, got married, separated again, got three children. He was depressed many times, because lots of the people he knew died young. He was fickle, needed a lot of attention, egocentric and possessive but was very inventive, talented and could be very charming. His art changed like his moods, when he was happy with a new woman his paintings were optimistic, but when he was depressed his paintings showed angry, dark, distorted figures. His art can be divided in different periods. The "Black period" at the end of the 19th century. He painted dark sad creatures in front of a dark background. The"Blue period" lasted until 1904. He painted fringes and beggars in blue.
The "Pink period" was situated in 1905. It was a joyful period, and he painted all kinds of circus artists and harlequins in bright, warm colors. Around 1906 he was fascinated by three-dimensional objects, and made such paintings.
Picasso is also one of the most important cubist painters. Starting at 1907 he and   Georges Braque started experimenting with blocks and lines. Between 1907 and 1914 he painted cubist works in dark colors.
After 1915 his style changed completely, now he painted realistic portraits and paintings of open windows in a neo-classical style. During the twenties he first made lots of portraits of his young son but then changed to painting monstrous and frightening figures in a surrealist style. His goal was to show the ugliness behind the glamorous world he lived in. At the end of the twenties he works with wrought iron too. Around 1930 his works got more classical again, but soon would change again as in 1936 the Spanish civil war broke out. All the horror of the war was expressed in Guernica a very large painting he has made for the world-exhibition in Paris. By this time Picasso was famous around the world.
During world war II he kept painting distorted figures, especially women, with angry faces. His art was prohibited by the nazis, but although he had a difficult time he refused to leave Europe. He decided to become a member of the communist party. When the war had come to an end his paintings got less gloomy and he started to work with ceramics. He was commissioned by the peace movement to design posters and all kind of gadgets, with the pigeon as their symbol. From the fifties on he showed his interest in the works of old masters. Through the years he kept painting sometimes dark depressing paintings in dark colors.
On April the 8th 1973 Picasso died of lung-and heartproblems in Mougins, France.
Picasso had been very productive and versatile, he changed styles very often. He was (and still is) admired by many people and got very rich with his art.

Practical information about the Picassomuseum in Barcelona.




Painting made in 1909-10
Made in 1925
Ulysses and the sirens



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