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.