“Nature is a temple in which living pillars / At times give voice to confused words: / man traverses it through a forest of symbols / that look at him with familiar glances. / Like prolonged echoes that intermingle from afar / in a dark and profound unity / vast like the night and like the light / the perfumes, sounds and colours respond.” (Charles Baudelaire, “Correspondances“)
|Santiago Rusiñol: "The Old Faun" (1912)|
Sometimes, the credit side of an economic boom even boasts a heightened development of culture and the arts beyond the bulk sale of kitschy consumer goods and other desperately needed commodities. During the second half of the 19th century, when the Industrial Age kissed the Sleeping Beauty Catalonia awake with a vengeance and Barcelona became the largest textile producer in the whole Mediterranean region and a centre of Spanish industrialism, the boom caused a downright explosion of the arts. The most tangible remains of the Modernisme Català, Catalan Modernism, are certainly Gaudí’s architectural masterpieces, but, as elsewhere in Europe with the Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau, Jugendstil and Secession, Modernisme captured all forms of artistic expression, from the decorative and visual arts to literature and music. And all things considered, of all related European movements of the day, Art Nouveau reached its most progressive form in Catalonia.
|Santiago Rusiñol: |
"Portrait of Ramon Casas"
|Ramon Casas: |
"Portrait of Santiago Rusiñol"
It was a fortunate coincidence that the Catalan bourgeoisie was still enchanted by the early 19th century idea of Renaixença, the revival of Catalan culture and received Modernisme as something genuinely local, identity-establishing and of high cultural value and art patronage flourished. And some of their scions chose to become artists themselves, like Ramon Casas and Santiago Rusiñol. Born with a silver spoon in their mouths, they founded their own hatchery of Modernisme in Barcelona, the Els 4 Gats (or Els Quatre Gats, the “four tomcats”) café and produced masterpieces on their own, migrating, as befitting for a true bohemian, between Montmartre and their native Barcelona, creating masterpieces and being culturally of high value all by themselves. In Rusiñol’s case, besides painting, the artist excelled as novelist and playwright and, quite fin de siècle, became a morphinist.
|Santiago Rusiñol: "La Morfina / The Morphinist" (1894)|
Influenced by Impressionism, Symbolism and morphium, Rusiñol created some of his best-known works like “La Morfina” and “La Medalla”, became one of the few contemporaries who did not have a relapse after a morphine withdrawal treatment but experienced a significant change of his style and sujet afterwards. With a growing naturalistic approach, Rusiñol focused on the depiction of gardens and parks after 1899, usually devoid of humanity, and usually conceived en plein air from Mallorca and Ibiza to Valencia, Girona, and Cuenca. He remained faithful to this choice of motives until death claimed him while painting a garden in Aranjuez in 1931 at the age of 70. Modernisme was outdated already by a long time back then and new Catalan artists like Picasso and Dalí dominated the art scene, who were, nevertheless, influenced by Rusiñol and the pioneering groundwork he did for the establishment of modern Catalan art.
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