You’ve got your Pablo Picasso and your Salvador Dali; you’ve got your Joan Miro, Xavier Cugat (cha-cha-cha), and Pablo Casals … and don’t get me started on George Orwell or Barcelona soccer heroes. But right up there in the firmament of Catalan cultural supernovas is Antonio Gaudi, architect, visionary, and possible future saint.
In 2002, a celebration of Gaudi was inaugurated in Barcelona, which spread to far corners of art and architecture. Time magazine provided this snapshot~
Born in 1852 and run over by a Barcelona tram 74 years later in 1926, Gaudí would probably be embarrassed by so much fuss. A vegetarian bachelor who washed in cold water and wore tattered suits, Gaudí avoided publicity. He left few personal papers, most of his architectural records were destroyed during the Civil War, and there are only a handful of black-and-white photos of him, which can’t show the intense blue of his eyes. When not at building sites Gaudí spent much of his time kneeling in prayer.
And spent much of the other time breaking up tiles in intricate patterns, or following the forms of nature to arc the spires of his Sagrada Familia catedral up toward the heavens and into eternity (or at least into a perpetuity of construction). Even now the Sagrada juts out of its Modernisme landscape, aiming to be the tallest cathedral extant.
Other beautiful Gaudi works and flourishes gird the streets and neighborhoods of Barcelona, such as Parc Guell and Casa Mila. Genius, certainly; eccentric, of course. This anecdote may give a flavor of his brilliant madness as concerns a tenant of one apartment of Gaudi’s Casa Mila, the rooms of which were shaped such as “no normal furniture would adapt”:
Mrs. Comes i Abril complained to the crabby genius that her grand piano, try as she might, would not fit what was to be the music room. Gaudi visited her and attentively looked at every part of the salon, gravely nodding his silver head. ‘”Who plays this instrument?” he asked at last. Senora Abril said that she did, a little. “Miri, toqui el violin,” said Gaudi, abruptly. (“Look, play the violin.”)
[Excerpted from Portrait of the City as Genius, by Robert Hughes.]