My husband and I arrived in Barcelona after spending a few days in Madrid. I was still spinning with inspiration after touring the “Il Prado” Museum for two days where there was an visiting Rembrandt exhibition, not to mention the world’s largest and most impressive collection of European masters’ paintings. I couldn’t imagine Barcelona could impress me more. I was sooooo wrong!
Barcelona is a seaport city. When you enter the city, an almost unbelievably towering sculpture of Columbus in planted in the central turn-about. He is pointing to sea, some say towards the Americas, but others told me it was just a symbolic gesture (since he is pointing in the wrong direction for America). It doesn’t take long to comprehend that the Spaniards love their monuments, art and sculpture.
The harbor is tranquil and the shoreline dotted with buildings that are hundreds of years old, including the decorative yellow and white Port Authority Building. There is always something going on around the non-commercial docks. The slips are filled with a variety of yachts, pleasure boats, and lots of sailboats; completely picturesque and charming next to the antique buildings, shorefront shops and pleasant walkways. There are benches everywhere. One is expected to languish, to visit and enjoy the calm scenery.
On weekends there is a regular antique fair by the docks; here one can browse through tables of small relics, old books, posters, and other small collectables. The vendors are used to tourists and don’t really pay any attention to them until someone waves their newfound treasure at them and shows the money. Bartering is not appreciated here. Everyone works hard. Money is scarce and Americans are rich – is the dominant belief.
On a cool, sunny, Sunday morning early in the fall we approached the tables of relics. I could have spent hours looking over every item, but I knew time was limited so I tried to hurry it up, Still, I was mesmerized by the objects people had chosen to “save” that were now available for someone else to treasure; a little silver box with a braided silver edge, vintage posters of Elvis, the Beatles and bull fighters; old Spanish fans, silver spoons, a tortoise shell comb, vintage cigarette lighters, old keys, old sheet music, a nautical lamp, costume jewelry, and so on.
I love natural stones and purchased some small, vintage silver forks with natural agates on the end of the stems – little treasures. I couldn’t help but wonder who they had belonged to; someone like me perhaps that liked to entertain and make a pretty table. I also purchased a little silver box, some old keys, and a bag of 150 year old crystal chandelier pieces. My husband was pleased, but only because I was so pleased with my purchases – he has no desire to collect such “old stuff”.
Something to think about: if you could choose a handful of small objects from your personal possessions; things you could pass on to another generation, what would they be? I asked myself this question and decided I would choose my collection of pens. I love them, and some of them are works of art. I’ve collected them from all over the world, so I keep them out where I can see them. I also use them every chance I get.
Everything about a pen is special because of their purpose; they are instruments of communication, thus making a way for us to connect to others. They create poetry, art and all manner of documents, words and letters – and what about the mighty signature? I love writing instruments.
I’d also leave my grandmothers little box of treasures for yet another generation to ponder over. It’s filled with Victorian miniature dice, a stork broach with a tiny blue pearl dangling from it’s beak, some special vintage buttons, a decorative hair clip, and an empty lipstick case from the 30’s.
Antonio Gaudi in Barcelona
Have you ever heard something described as being “gaudy’? It implies something that is over-ornate or too lavishly decorated; just like the works of the “father of modernism” as he is often referred to, Antonia Gaudi. Gaudi lived in Barcelona at the turn of the century in the early 1900’s. He was born in 1852 and died in 1926. He was a visionary who built wild structures using organic lines, brilliant hand painted tiles, and amazing metal works. He broke with Victorian traditions which were full of classical imagery and line. Instead, he used free form shapes and curving lines, arched doorways and hand sculpted elements. He loved organic materials such as glass, tile and stucco. Color was king in Gaudi’s world and his windows, tiles and sculptures are proof of his genius ability to combine elements and colors that were never seen before on such a scale.
The Spaniards and particularly the Barcelonans loved (and still love) Gaudi. Many of the streets in Barcelona are paved with tiles he designed and every day thousands of people go their way, trudging streets that are paved with beautiful little works of Gaudi art. The city still reproduces the tiles for replacement purposes, and you will go to jail if you try to dig one up and take it with you. They are public property for everyone to enjoy.
Gaudi designed many public and private buildings and was a great success in his own lifetime. One of his famous architectural projects – a project he himself worked on over forty years, has never been completed, and is in a state of constant renovation and upkeep; it is the Sagrada Familia Sanctuary. Privately commissioned and still owned by the Sagrada family, this building was designed to be a place of tribute and religious worship. When I first laid eyes on it I was struck with the ultra symbolic and modernistic imagery – totally out of character for the times, and totally mesmerizing in design elements, with piles of cement fruit and vegetables perched on the tops of spires; chiseled religious figures, and huge words and verses embossed all over the interior and exterior walls. There is an iron door with thousands of words on it and beautiful stained glass windows in traditional archways. The inside is full of pointed arches, pillars, and winding staircases that reach into the towers. There are no pews, no alters and no rostrums.
I could not resist climbing the 65 meters straight up inside one of the towers to gaze out over the city. What a view, and what a climb! My knees have never been the same…getting down was even more brutal than getting up all those winding stairs. Still, I did it, and I just wanted to stand where Gaudi may have stood and see what inspired him to build such a bizarre structure. It’s like nothing I have ever seen before in modern architecture. I cherish the experience of being able to hike the innards of this amazing building.
Not far from the Sagrada Sanctuary is a park—an amazing park that Gaudi designed next to his primary residence which is simple, if you don’t count the hand carved furniture, breath-taking windows and chandeliers.
Still, the amount of work he was able to produce is astonishing; a tribute to his driving and passionate spirit of creativity. Many other modernistic designers would follow such a Frank Lloyd Wright, Picasso, and Dali – but Antonio Gaudi opened the doors to a whole new movement in design that swept the planet and continues to thrill us today.
Gaudi imprinted on everything in his world. Every wall and gate in his garden was spectacular, every chair in his house, a work of art; even his toilet seat was sculpted. To him, there was no such thing as an “everyday object”; the things around us were meant to be things of beauty and interest. He brought his imagination into reality and left behind a legacy of innovation, beauty and design that is incomparable. Imagine, living every day in such a creative way, and seeing your passion brought to life in works of art. I find him one of the most inspiring artists of all time. Bravo Modernism and the genius of Antonio Gaudi!