Published: February 27, 2007
“Barcelona and Modernity: Gaudí to Dalí,” on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Tisch Galleries March 7–June 3, is the first comprehensive exhibition of its type ever mounted in America to explore the diverse and innovative work of Barcelona’s artists, architects and designers in the years between the Barcelona Universal Exposition of 1888 and the imposition of the Fascist regime of Francisco Franco in 1939.
“Barcelona and Modernity” offers new insights into the art movements that advanced the city’s quest for modernity and confirmed it as the primary center of radical intellectual, political and cultural activities in Spain. Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí and Antoni Gaudí are among the internationally renowned artists who contributed to the creative vitality of Barcelona and the flourishing of Catalan culture. The exhibition will feature some 300 remarkable works in a range of media — painting, sculpture, drawings, prints, posters, decorative objects, furniture, architectural models and design.
“La Vie” and “Blindman’s Meal,” two of the greatest paintings from Picasso’s Blue Period, portraits by Ramon Casas,; Isidre Nonell’s depictions of gypsies, Miró’s “The Farm,” Dalí’s surrealist paintings, as well as furniture designed by Gaudí and an original BKF (“butterfly”) chair are among the masterworks gathered from museums and private collections around the world for this major exhibition.
The exhibition was organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in association with Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona.
“Barcelona and Modernity: Gaudí to Dalí” presents Barcelona as a booming industrial city with conflicting politics and revolutionary works of art, architecture and design. To explore the relationships among the visual arts, broader cultural activity and political events of the era, the exhibition is organized in nine thematic sections, beginning with the origins of the Catalan Renaissance.
The remaining sections focus on the major artistic movements that followed: Modernisme, Noucentisme and other avant-garde idioms such as Surrealism, with a final section on works of art influenced by the Spanish Civil War.
The exhibition begins with an introduction to the revival of Catalan culture in the Nineteenth Century, when Barcelona expanded rapidly, becoming the largest, most industrialized and most culturally advanced city in Spain. Highlights in this section of the exhibition include Ildefons Cerdà’s (1815–1876) “Plan for the Enlargement of Barcelona,” 1861, and Lluis Domènech i Montaner’s (1850–1923) iron sculpture “Rooster Greeting the Dawn,” 1892, designed for the Café-Restaurant of the Universal Exposition.
Modernisme: Painting and Sculpture explores the broad Catalan cultural movement that emerged in the 1880s and lasted into the 1910s. Highlights include Santiago Rusiñol’s painting “Café de Montmartre,” 1890, Joaquim Mir’s “The Rock in the Pool,” circa 1903, and Josep Llimona’s (1864–1934) sculpture “Grief,” 1907.
In 1897, Els Quatre Gats (The Four Cats) café became the focus of bohemian artistic activity in Barcelona and was the site of meetings, exhibitions, poetry readings and puppet theater performances. Picasso, at age 18, became a regular member of the group and held his first solo exhibition there in 1900. Highlights include Casas’ painting “Ramon Casas and Pere Romeu on a Tandem,” 1897, and Picasso’s portraits of his fellow artists at the café, 1899–1900.
Modernisme: Art and Society explores the raid industrialization of Barcelona at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Highlights include Ramon Casas’ “The Garroting,” 1894, as well as Picasso’s 1903 oil paintings “La Vie (Life)” and “The Blindman’s Meal.”
Modernisme also found expression in architecture, design and the decorative arts. Highlights in this section of the exhibition include Josep Puig i Cadafalch’s “Ceiling Lamp from Casa Amatller” (1898-1900) and Antoni Gaudí’s “Dressing Table from Palau Güell,” circa 1899, and “Two-Seat Sofa from Casa Batlló,” circa 1907.
During the 1910s and 1920s, Catalonian art and design was characterized by a return to order known as Noucentisme or “Nineteen-hundreds Style.” Highlights include Torres-García’s “Project for the Fresco ‘The Eternal Catalonia,'” 1912, and Enric Casanovas’ (1882–1948) sculpture “Persuasion” (1912–1913).
Avant-Gardes for a New Century examines how, beginning around 1916, international artists flocked to Barcelona to pursue inventive new art forms influenced by Cubism and Surrealism. Highlights include Miró’s paintings “Self-Portrait,” 1919, and “The Hunter (Catalan Landscape),” 1923–1924, and Dalí’s paintings “Accommodations of Desire,” 1929, and “The Dream.” 1931.
Section Eight, The Rational City, outlines the new group in architecture and design that emerged in the late 1920s, which rejected historically rooted styles in favor of starkly minimalist rationalism. Highlights include models of Casa Bloc, 1932–1936, by GATCPAC and the “Central Antituberculosis Clinic,” 1934–1938, by Josep Lluís Sert, Joan B. Subirana and Josep Torres Clavé; and the BKF (“butterfly”) chair by the Grupo Austral.
The exhibition’s last section, The Spanish Civil War, will feature a selection of important works responding to the horrors of the conflict, including paintings by Dalí and Miró, sculptures by González, and Picasso’s studies for “Guernica,” his famous painting commissioned by the Spanish Republican government.
The exhibition is accompanied by 540-page catalog, and the Met will present an array of educational programs in conjunction with the exhibition, including gallery talks, lectures and films.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is at 1000 Fifth Avenue. For information, 212-535-7710 or www.metmuseum.org.
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