Image by Cristina Gottardi

ART NOUVEAU (Modernisme)


Art Nouveau as an art style was mainly displayed in architecture and the visual arts at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. A particular ideology accompanied this artistic movement,  which is rooted in complex historical pathways and traditions, and strongly influenced by the romantic tradition where ancient cultures, idealism and exoticism combined to make a totally new form of art.


The manifestation of Art Nouveau in Barcelona contributed to a unique period of time in the city's history where artistic effervescence ran parallel to economic expansion and the demolition of the city's original medieval walls. The new bourgeoisie needed to align itself with modern Europe by means of exposing their wealth and power throughout the expression of art. The organisation of two Universal Exhibitions (1888 and 1929) was not isolated from the need to showcase in several representations (notably in the fields of architecture and the fine arts) the emergence of a new artistic movement which emerged simultaneously alongside the development of a new societal distribution of power.


Art Nouveau artists usually specialised in one artistic field but were also, if not masters, able to perform in different artistic disciplines. From well-known architects such as Domènech i Montaner or Gaudí to painters like Casas, Opisso or Nonell; sculptors such as Llimona or Clarassó; and writers such as Rusiñol, the importance of quality craftmanship became essential to adequately achieving the high standards required.


Nowadays, Barcelona's Art Nouveau masterpieces are found scattered throughout the city. Some, especially those designed by archictect Antoni Gaudí, are essential visits for tourists, while others are highly unknown, even to locals.  The area in the Eixample district known as the ‘Quadrat d’Or’ (Golden Square) contains the greatest number of modernist buildings such as Casa Batlló or Casa Amatller. In the old town, the Palau de la Musica Catalana (Palace of Catalan Music) is an auditorium that is often held among the best representations of Art Nouveau's magnificence. In the northern part of the city, the Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau is another of Barcelona's often-visited Art Nouveau masterpieces. 


Fully 9 of the city's Art Nouveau buildings have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Casa Batlló and 6 other buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí, the Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau, and the Palau de la Música Catalana. As a result, Barcelona is one of the European cities where Art Nouveau probably has the greatest presence in the identity and narrative of the city.