Antoni Gaudi Facts
Antoni Gaudí y Cornet (1852–1926) was a Spanish architect whose idiosyncratic work, characterized by undulating curves and richly colored scrambled textures, won wide international recognition only after the mid-20th century.
Antonio (Antoní is the Catalan spelling) Plácido Guillermo Gaudí was born in Reus, in the Catalan region of Spain, on June 25, 1852.
As a young person he went to nearby Barcelona, where he studied at the school of architecture. There he did architectural work to help support himself, and thus acquired actual experience.
The great Gothic cathedral in Barcelona and the many neo-Renaissance secular buildings in the city were major sources of inspiration for Gaudí, who remained in Barcelona for the rest of his life.
By the time he completed his formal studies, Gaudí had already begun to develop his unique style—blending elements of Gothic art, art nouveau, known as modernismo in Catalonia, and functional structure.
His favorite forms were inclined columns to add stress to ceilings, paraboloid arches, thin edge-butted tile vaults, and the richest, most colorful textures possible, often mosaics made of broken tile scraps.
Soon he found rich patrons in Barcelona who favored his elaborate style with art nouveau whiplash curves and its exuberance of colorful textured surfaces.
For shipping magnata and textile manufacturer Eusebio Güell Bacigalupi, his most important patron, Gaudí built a palace (1885–1889), now a museum. The building is marked by its fantastic roof line, parabolic arched entrances, and lavish ironwork.
Among his other works for Güell are the brilliantly imaginative park, the Park Guell (1900–1914) and the lower part of a chapel (1898–1915), remarkable for its thin shell vaults held up by inclined pillars.
He had other patrons who were also resident in Barcelona and for whom he constructed the Casa Vicens (1878–1880) and the Casa Batlló (1905–1907).
It was the almost outlandish Casa Milà (1905–1910) in which the artist carried his double-curved walls to their most extreme limits.
Gaudí died in Barcelona on June 10, 1926, after being hit by a streetcar. His greatest project, the Church of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, was left unfinished at the time of his death. He had begun work on the church as early as 1884. From 1910 to 1926, however, he devoted his efforts exclusively to his masterpiece.
Although its construction continued haphazardly and at a slow pace through the 1990s—and will most likely do so into the 21st century—the vast church, with its hyperbolic paraboloids (saddle-shaped curves) and wealth of decorative elements, stands out as one of the 20th century’s great religious edifices.
The great American architect Louis Sullivan said in 1922 that Gaudí’s Church of the Sagrada Familia was “spirit symbolized in stone.” At that time few people could appraise his statement, for although well known in Catalonian Spain, Gaudí’s work was neglected outside his native country after the mid-1920s.
Partly owing to the surrealists who were fascinated by the fantastic element in his work, but mostly owing to architects and art historians, Gaudí’s genius finally became widely appreciated, although this did not occur until more than 30 years after his death.