Antoni Gaudí

Reaktion Books (2024)

Distributed in the USA by the University of Chicago Press

57 illustrations, mostly b&w photos by Marisa Asensio

This brief biography of the art nouveau architect Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) explores his contradictory genius. Deeply religious and politically right-wing, he nevertheless created revolutionary, lyrical buildings. The book places particular emphasis on the times of upheaval he grew up in, with the rise of Catalan nationalism, which he embraced, the Industrial Revolution that financed his buildings and the mass anarchist movement, which he hated. Born into a family of boiler-makers in Reus, southern Catalonia, today he is Barcelona’s greatest tourist attraction. His unfinished Sagrada Família basilica has become a symbol of the city as much as the Eiffel Tower is of Paris.

The photo on the book’s cover shows an optimistic, red-haired, blue-eyed 26-year-old, something of a dandy. After the death of most of his family and rejection by Pepeta Moreu, the only woman he wanted to marry, Gaudí became obsessively religious. Despite huge professional success, in his last thirty years he cut an austere and lonely figure.

For decades I never thought too highly of Gaudí’s work, religious reactionary that he was; but reading about him and looking closely at his buildings for this book, I came to appreciate his sly sense of humour, the detail in his work and, most of all, his chaotic, colourful and joyous imagination. He fused Gothic, Baroque and Orientalist architecture into a unique style.

A blurb:

“This new intellectual biography explains the complex synergy between the life and work of Gaudí at a crossroads of history: from the awakening of the Catalan bourgeoisie to the shipwreck of his legacy in Barcelona today.”

Carolina García Estévez, Serra Húnter Professor of History of Architecture, Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), Barcelona.

Two benevolent reviews:

“A concise, yet contextual and entertaining overview.” Bookmunch

“A worthy tribute to one of history’s great iconoclasts.” Publisher’s Weekly

 

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