Barcelona has a long history as an important artistic and cultural hub. Throughout the centuries it has been home to some of the great masters of European art, from early classicism to 20th century avant-garde. Here are five of the most important artists to emerge from the Catalan capital.
Born in Barcelona in 1893, Joan Miró is one of the most celebrated artists to hail from the Catalan capital. A painter, ceramicist and sculptor, he is famous for his somewhat surrealist designs which are reminiscent of childhood drawings. His pallet is rich in primary colours such as reds, blues and yellows -present everywhere from his sculptures to his mosaic work Pla de l’Os on La Rambla. He was involved in the design and planning of his own museum, the Fundació Joan Miró, which sits on Montjuïc hill to the south of the city and houses an avant-garde exhibition room for emergent artists alongside the largest collection of Miró’s work in the world.
Joan Miró Foundation Parc de Montjuïc, s/n, 08038 Barcelona
Sculpture by Joan Miró at the foundation © Susan Fitzgerald | © Susan Fitzgerald
One of the most well-regarded artists of his time, Antoni Tàpies was born in Barcelona in 1923 into a politically and socially engaged family. Story has it that as a young teenager he came across a copy of local magazine D’ací i d’allà which contained reproductions of the work of Picasso, Duchamp and Kandinsky which inspired him to want to become an artist. Later he became a founding member of the Post-War Spanish art movement Dau al Set, which had connections with the Surrealist movement. He gained international recognition in the 1950s and today can be found exhibited in museums and galleries around the world.
Born into a wealthy family in Barcelona, Ramon Casas trained in the arts from a young age and co-founded a magazine, L’Avenç, when he was just a teenager. By his early twenties his work was on show in both Paris – where he briefly lived – and Barcelona. He later travelled throughout Spain and Catalonia, painting the social, economic and political changes and upheavals he saw along the way, including his famous The Charge of Barcelona (1902). He was a founding patron of El Quatre Gats, a bar modelled on the Parisian Le Chat Noir, which organised art exhibitions and also attempted its own magazine. It was also at this time that he adopted the art nouveau style and became a prominent figure of the Modernist movement in Catalonia.
Rarely mentioned outside art history circles today, during his lifetime Marià Fortuny was one the most famous Catalan painters of his era. Having moved to Barcelona in 1852 at the age of 14, he studied at the local art school before winning a scholarship to study in Rome. He was later commissioned by the Spanish Government to depict scenes from the Spain-Morocco war, of which his most famous is undoubtedly The Battle of Tetuan (1862–64). It was during his time in Morocco that he developed a fascination with exoticism and depicting scenes of daily life as he saw or imagined them there.
Although not technically from Barcelona, the great Surrealist master was born in the nearby town of Figueres and has a strong connection with the city. Eccentric, controversial and ambiguous, Salvador Dalí is one of the most recognised artists of the 20th century, famous for his own personal appearance almost as much as his artwork. Perhaps his most famous painting ‘The Persistence of Memory‘, shows pocket-watches seemingly melting in a desert-like setting. Throughout his life he travelled frequently to Madrid, Paris and New-York but returned to his hometown of Figueres in his final years and is buried under the stage of his Museum-Theatre, just meters from where he was born.