One of the forms assumed by "fin de siècle" art is Modernism, which can be regarded as the Catalan variant of the radical innovating currents which appeared all over Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century: art nouveau, art 1900, modern style, Sezession, Jugendstijl or Liberty. Catalan Modernism is one of the most complex forms of this movement, and expresses itself with particular force in the richness of Catalan architecture, because of the distinctively political flavour which European modernism acquired in the region (e.g. the synthesis of the arts, empathy with nature, the free manipulation of historical reference, etc.). Architecture was seen as having a major role in nation-building, by emphasizing one of the most glorious periods of Catalan history, the Middle Ages. From the beginning, the new approach was marked by its abundant use of Romanesque and Gothic elements, in which medieval solidity was subtly blended with softer interiors, adapted effectively to "modern" life and often sumptuously decorated. In its origin Modernism was essentially a literary movement, as was the movement which followed it, Noucentisme. The term Modernism was, indeed, adopted contrary to the wishes of the architects and artists concerned, by association with the literary group of the same name, which was promoting the idea of a general renewal. Nevertheless, the differences in attitude were considerable, notably with regard to history. Whereas the literary group advocated a total break with the past, the architects and artists proposed, on the contrary, to use the heritage of earlier cultures as the starting point for the exercise of their creative freedom. The architect Puig i Cadafalch preferred the label, "The Barcelona School", but the works in question were already known as "Modernist".
   Given the hostility of the Franco regime to any expression of nationalism other than Spanish, Modernism, as a powerful manifestation of Catalan cultural identity, had become politically marginalized by the 1940s and 1950s. The name nevertheless survived, with two distinct meanings, which continued to coexist: one, which has wide currency in the History of Art from the 1920s on, describes the evolution of art and architecture around Cubism and abstract art. The other refers to Art Nouveau as practised in Catalonia, which was at its height between the years 1880 and 1915. Catalan Modernism, in essence, denotes an aesthetic peculiar to the city of Barcelona, encapsulating a whole cluster of ideas and cultural attitudes which have deep roots in the Catalan context.
   The theoretical framework of Modernism took shape long before the heyday of the movement, in a programmatic essay published in 1878 by Luis Domènech i Montaner. Domènech's later activity as Director of the School of Architecture, political leader and author of a series of influential writings, enabled him to disseminate his ideas among a large group of disciples, including Josep Puig i Cadafalch, himself in turn leader of a school, and an important figure in the first two decades of the twentieth century. The best-known Modernist is Antoni Gaudí, whose spectacular work occupies a special place in the history of European art, and who gave Catalan Modernism an international reputation. Among Gaudí"s many disciples was Josep Maria Jujol, who collaborated in Gaudí"s masterpieces such as the Parc Güell or the Casa Mila. Jujol himself developed Modernism a stage further by blending the idiom of Modernism with new forms of artistic expression, thereby giving a new boost to the movement. His work is regarded today as an important moment in the evolution of the twentieth-century avant-garde.
   The legacy of Catalan Modernism is what gives contemporary Barcelona much of its distinctive atmosphere and character, in the form of well-preserved buildings which make up the greatest collection of Art Nouveau in the world. They are eloquent testimony to how seriously the "synthesis of the arts" was taken at the time of their construction. The combined efforts of sculptors such as Eusebi Arnau or Miquel Blay, painters such as Santiago Rusiñol or Ramon Casas, cabinet-makers like Gaspar Homar and other craftsmen, ensured the success of Modernist architecture as a collective project. Moreover, the whole subsequent development of Catalan architecture was influenced by the liveliness of the debate stimulated by Modernism, its willingness to experiment, and its openness to new ideas.
   Further reading
   - Bohigas, O. (1973) Arquitectura Modernista, Barcelona: Lumen (an important study by a practising architect).
   - Cirici Pellicer, A. (1951) El Arte Modernista Catalán, Barcelona: Aymà.
   - Domènech i Montaner, L. (1878) A la recerca d'una arquitectura nacional, Barcelona: La Renaixansa (the foundation text of Modernism).
   - Loyer, F. (1991) L'art nouveau en Catalogne, Paris: Biblio. Arts, Le Septième Fou (the most upto- date study of the movement).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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