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The originality of Catalan Modernisme is the result of an apparent contradiction between tradition and modernity. It represented the re-examination of Catalonia's own history and traditions by a society that wanted to be cosmopolitan and modern. During the decade of the 1890s, architects and designers revived the past with styles which were simultaneously medieval, archaic and cosmopolitan.

After 1900, there was an added preference for the abstract sinuous forms of the European Art Nouveau. The neutral standing of Spain during the First World War and a certain economic well-being derived from this, allowed Modernisme to continue right in to the 1920s, which is another of the peculiarities if this Catalan movement compared to its European counterparts.

Modernisme spread across the territories of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencia, appearing as the definitive style of the bourgeoisie in the new industrial cities and in the provincial capitals. Houses, summer villas and public buildings as well as factories, industrial complexes and agricultural co-operatives became identified with abstract Modernista forms.

The construction of the Eixample district in Barcelona took the city beyond its ancient walls, thus extending the urban limits. Economic prosperity encouraged investment in construction and the modification of the municipal by-laws in 1891, changes in urban typography and many new decorative licences.

In the city of Barcelona the three great names in architectural Modernisme left some of their best works: Antoni Gaudi with his abstract conception of architecture, Josep Puig i Cadafalch with a more historical perception and Lluis Domenech i Montaner who surrounded himself with a whole band of artisans and industrialists. But there were many other architects including Enric Sagnier, Domenech i Estapa and merchants and industrialists such as the Count of Guell family and the Marquis of Comillas dynasties who were enthralled by Modernisme and acted as important sponsors of these architects and in particular of Gaudi and Domenech i Montaner.

Antoni M. Gallissà i Soqué


Antoni Gaudí i Cornet


Juli M. Fossas i Martínez