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The City as a Muse

Casa Milà by Antoni Gaudí

Turisme de Barcelona/L. Bertran

Casa Milà is one of Antoni Gaudí's celebrated buildings.

Barcelona has served as the birthplace, home and inspiration to some of the world’s most celebrated artists. Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Antoni Gaudí each created some of their greatest work while inside the city limits. As a result, these artists used Barcelona as a showcase of their best pieces. These sites, such as La Sagrada Família and Museu Picasso, are among the most visited places in Barcelona. Each of these men had a distinctly unique style, but all were tied together by their connection to the city that became their muse.

Pablo Picasso

One of the most famous artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso credits a lot of his success to his upbringing in Barcelona. Born in Málaga, Spain in 1881, Picasso received artistic training from his father, showing promising skill at an early age. When he was 14, his family moved to Barcelona where he enrolled in the Llotja School of Fine Arts. While his family moved to Madrid a few years later, Picasso considered Barcelona his home. Over his career, Picasso created around 22,000 works of art in several mediums representing different artistic periods. He is best known for founding the Cubism movement, which uses multiple viewpoints to show its subject in greater context. Picasso’s formative years, spent in Barcelona from 1895 to 1904, were instrumental in his transformation from academia to his emergence as an artist.

When a lifelong friend of Picasso’s suggested setting up a museum of his works in Málaga, it was Picasso that proposed Barcelona instead, citing his long standing connection with the city. The museum first opened in 1963. While the original collection contained 574 works, that number has exceeded 3,800 today. One of the most extensive collections of his artwork, particularly his early years, the Picasso Museum is one of the most popular and most visited museums in Barcelona. Montcada 15-23; Tu.-Su. 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; $12.50 (approximate)

Salvador Dalí

In 1904, Salvador Dalí was born in the town of Figueres, which is a two-hour train ride from Barcelona. After developing an interest in art, he enrolled at the San Fernando School of Fine Arts when his family relocated to Madrid in 1922. It was here where Dalí started to thrive artistically, drawing attention for his Cubist-style paintings. Dalí was expelled in 1926 when he stated that no one on the faculty was talented enough to examine him. Shortly after, he visited Paris for the first time, where he met with Picasso. Through his career, Dalí used both classical and modernist techniques, establishing himself as one of the founding figures of surrealism. By 1929, Dalí had crafted a personal style that channeled the world of the unconscious found in dreams. In 1931, he painted one of his most famous works, The Persistence of Memory, featuring the surrealistic images of soft, melting pocket watches. From 1948 to his death, Dalí spent his time in his native Catalonia, where he developed a museum for his life’s work.

The Dalí Theatre-Museum is housed in the former Municipal Theatre of Figueres, where Dalí had his first public exhibition in 1919 at the age of 15. In 1970, Dalí began efforts to transform the theater into his personal museum and gallery, which eventually opened in 1974. It contains a broad range of the artist’s work, from his earliest creations to pieces from his final years. The museum itself can be considered a work of Dalí’s art, as he created some exhibits specifically for the museum, such as the Mae West Room. Crafted to serve as a window in the world of Dalí, the museum contains approximately 1,500 pieces of art. Gala-Salvador Dalí Square, 5 Figueres, Spain; November-February: Tu.-Su. 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; March-May: Tu.-Su. 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; June: Daily 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; July-September: Daily 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; October: Tu.-Su. 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; $15 (approximate)

Antoni Gaudí

Antoni Gaudí was born in 1852 in southern Catalonia. In 1869, he moved to Barcelona to begin studying architecture. Only nine years later, Gaudí opened his own office. Throughout his career, Barcelona’s architectural landscape became dotted with his unique work. While his first works were designed in the style of gothic and traditional Catalan architecture, he soon developed his own distinct style. He incorporated angles and curves found in nature into his designs. Eventually, Gaudí would become known as one of the greatest figures of the Art Nouveau, or Modernisme, period.

There exists no central museum for Gaudí’s work, but his masterpieces of design certainly fill that void admirably. One of Gaudí’s loyal clients, Eusebi Güell, commissioned him to design a garden city community. While initially planned as neighborhood of 60 houses, the venture evolved into a municipal garden known as Park Güell. Featuring breathtaking views of Barcelona, this park is home to a wide spectrum of Gaudí’s design creations, such as mosaic tiles and reptilian sculptures. Gaudí made a home in the park his residence, which now contains drawings and furniture he designed personally. Another landmark of Gaudí’s work is La Sagrada Família. This giant church has been under construction since 1882 and is the most visited attraction in Barcelona. Gaudí dedicated his later years to this project and is buried on site. Also located here is La Sagrada Família museum, which features photos of the building’s development, as well as models depicting its finished look. The third milestone work of Gaudí’s in Barcelona is Casa Milà, otherwise known as La Pedrera. This building is the largest civil building designed by Gaudí and is one of the most visited museums in Barcelona. Constructed between 1906 and 1910, it was Gaudí’s last work before he devoted himself solely to La Sagrada Família. The exterior of this building features rippling balconies that look like a series of waves. Casa Milà is considered unique because it breaks from traditional architecture by not using a single straight line.

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