Saturday, January 31, 2015

Our Favorite Catalunya Art and Architecture


Is it the water?  Maybe the wine? Or perhaps a combination of Mediterranean air mixed with vermouth, olives and jamon?  In any case, whatever it is that gives Spanish architects and artists their unique perspective and vision, it is wonderful.  Whether it be the curvy Modernist lines and sand castle aesthetic of Antonio Gaudi, the surrealism of Dali, or the iconic artistry of Picasso, Miro and countless other artists of Catalunya, they captivate you. Even from 30 years ago the buildings and streets stay in your memory as a city that you can simply take walks and be completely exhilarated.  Love this city!

Mesmerized by the narrow curving sidewalks of the Gothic (Barri Gotic) and Born Quarters, we sit in small cafes and bars loving the vibrancy of romantic plazas.

"La Rambla" 
Continuing a nearly 400 year tradition of promenading with your loved one down a 1.2 km tree-lined boulevard of  architecture, shops, flower stalls,"pick-pockets," assorted artists, and musicians. Incredible!

Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia,
otherwise known as the Barcelona Cathedral, this 15th century Gothic beauty with it's gargoyles and animals must have influenced several artists over the years.


Walking the streets of Barcelona, you see the impact that Antoni Gaudi has had on the city and continues to have.  All of Nature seemed to be the primary inspiration of his creativity, and though he is an architect, he seems more of an artist to me.  I have to admit, we didn't get to all of his work,  (a reason to come back) but what we did see are stunning examples of imaginative creative genius:

Gaudi's Casa Batllo.   
 This building was built in 1904 and is called by the locals the "House of Bones".  The balconies look like skulls and the roof is arched like the back of a dragon.  Inside everything seems to flow like water - even the staircase appears to move like undulating waves.  There are no sharp edges anywhere, including all the furniture and accessories he  designed - beautiful!

Another of Gaudi's buildings, Casa Mila or La Pedrera - like his Casa Batllo the building is all rolling curves inside and outside...

Gaudi's unfinished cathedral The Sagrada Familia (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), is the most unique piece of architecture that you either love or hate.  It was started in 1882 and  unfortunately, Gaudi was hit by a tram and died before it was completed.  Supposedly, it will be completed in 2026...

Views from the top of Sagrada Familia and walking down a very narrow staircase with Renata - Rich was smarter and opted for the elevator and is a tiny dot pictured bottom right!

Pictured above is the opposite side of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia - personally, I do not think it is really Gaudi, and he would be rolling over in his grave if he could see the work today...

Park Guell was originally a real estate development that was given to Gaudi to draw up plans for in 1900.  There was supposed to be 60 plots with views of the sea - only 2 homes were built  (1 that Gaudi lived in) and all that land became a very large private garden designed by Gaudi.  The site  went from a private estate to a public park and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Most imaginative and incredible park I have ever been to!

We go from Antoni Gaudi an architect who loves curves, to Picasso an artist who loves straight lines and geometric forms:

Waiting in line outside the Museu Picasso (note Rich with a bag of churros in hand).  Picasso spent time in Barcelona and as a youth went to the School of Fine Arts.   The museum has an extensive collection of over 4,200  pieces of his artwork.  
I was drawn to the room that showed his early work and the first major works he did as a 14 and 15 year old...

Picasso painted The Communion when he was 14 years old - (I was pretty good at drawing stick people at that age).   He was a prodigy and his early years showed his extraordinary talent, but we all know he was part of the Cubist movement and spent most of his later life breaking from the traditional figurative paintings he was trained on early in life.

Leaving the Museu Picasso - we came out more enlightened about the art and life of this extraordinary artist...

As a teenager, Picasso hung out with all the young avant-garde artists, writers and radicals at the Els Quatre Gats (The 4 Cats) - in fact, he had an exhibition of his drawings here.  
A cool place in the early 1900's!  
We went in for coffee and for me, it had the feel of a tourist hangout (just look at those 3 guys posing in front) - I guess the artists and radicals of today are hanging out somewhere else...

Salvador Dali the famous Surrealist Painter was born 23 years after Picasso:
I fell in love with Dali when we were in St. Petersburg, Florida and visited the Dali Museum there - so of course, we were not going to miss his hometown museum!

...We rented a car and drove north to Figueres where Salvador Dali was born.  The visit to his  museum was indeed surreal - the outside of the museum is decorated with giant eggs and bread buns (sorry for the bad photo)

The Persistence of Memory (The original oil painting is in New York) is Dali's most famous work..."time is meaningless"...

...The highlight for me is furniture that is arranged to look like the face of Mae West, as viewed from a giant magnifying glass 0n a ladder...

...We stopped for lunch in Cadaques, a beautiful fishing village where Dali and other notable artists spent time - a very special village in art history!  Maybe the water or the wine as Rich mentioned earlier - so we thought we would at least give the wine a try...

...after the wine, Eric and I both are feeling the spirit of Dali, hoping for some spark of creative genius...

...I think we had too much wine... and since Renata,  just had the water - she was better able to channel that creative genius and thus came up with our new 
 "Two Pigs & A Suitcase" business card! 

Adios for now! 
(a gratuitous selfie into a Dali like mirror ball) - we leave the Catalunya and head to southern Spain!