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Gaudí: a hard worker
The last stage, the old Gaudí and his death
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NECROLOGY OF GAUDÍ
Article by Domingo Sugrañes Gras published in the yearbook of the Association of Architects of Catalonia, 1927
At Gaudí's death architect Domingo Sugrañes Gras was assigned to write a necrology of the master to be published in the Yearbook of the Association of Architects of Catalonia. Sugrañes had been Gaudí's second assistant at the Sagrada Familia since 1902; in 1914 he became his first assistant and in 1926 he became his successor at the head of the works of the Temple.
The text, published in 1927 in the Yearbook of the Association of Architects of Catalonia, is of great interest because the author knew Gaudi very well in his daily work. Sugrañes perfectly knew how to describe Gaudí's fundamental characteristic: his clairvoyance, his capacity for intuition and his indomitable energy, which imposed forms that were directly derived from Nature, understood as a divine creation. Many of the biographies and critical studies about Gaudí are based on the text of Sugrañes', so it is extremely interesting to recuperate this initial source of information:
NECROLOGY OF GAUDÍ
“Though I have to admit my insufficiency, I cannot deny the request to carry out the assignment to redact a necrological note of Don Antonio Gaudí, who has been in life an eminent colleague and master, hoping that others with more authority will provide a critical study about the relevant personality of the great architect who has disappeared from our world by a common accident. Don Antonio Gaudí was born in Reus in 1852. After his high school degree he moved to Barcelona in order to study at the recently founded School of Architecture . Gaudí started working very soon to be able to pay his studies and support himself, because his family was of a very humble position.
Since he was very young Gaudí had demonstrated the very exceptional qualities God had gifted him with; as a student he already revealed the faculty that would characterize him his entire life. I refer to his intuition about things, his special internal vision that made things show up by themselves without the necessity of a profound study or long meditation.
Because of this sudden vision he always had about everything, Gaudí was a bad student in the sense of scholarly discipline. It tormented him to abide by the explanations and demonstrations of what he had already seen from the very moment the teacher pronounced the matter which would be studied. So he frequently skipped classes, though he never stopped studying and spent his time mainly consulting the books the incipient upcoming library of the School was nourished with.
He brightly passed the subject “Resistance of Matter”, which made him gain the approval, esteem and consideration of professor Don Juan Torras, who had already understood the value of the boy, who's capacity to resolve mechanical problems announced the great constructor.
By contemplating the reproductions of the antique monuments in the thick volumes of the Canina1 and other classic works that constituted the basis of the library, Don Antonio acquired his accurate knowledge about for the Greek art towards he has always felt admiration.
Thanks to his innate superior sense of plasticity his artistic education was not based on reading: he directly contemplated the reproductions of the monuments and works of art which the past generations have handed us down. He did not only possess these visions of knowledge in the field of art, but also as it comes to scientific questions and geometrical or mechanical problems. Since he saw the solution intuitively, he always defined it before any reasoning, which he used as verification a posteriori.
His sudden vision about things and the powerful light with which his intelligence clarified any matter, always turned a conversation with Don Antonio into something impressive; no matter the subject, he always exposed his unexpected points of view with sentences that retorted as firelights enlightening the matter of discussion.
I would like to cite an anecdote that reveals this intuitive vision. I could cite many anecdotes but this one refers to a matter very distant from his own field of plastic arts. At the same time it indicates Gaudí's concept about vision. It happened in Mallorca, when at the table of bishop Campins one was talking about the excellence of the senses and someone said: “According to Saint Paul , the hearing is the sense of Faith”. Then Don Antonio promptly replied: “If the sense of hearing is the one of Faith, the one of the view is superior, because it is the sense of glory”. His affirmation was completely approved by the bishop, who hadn't participated in the conversation up to then and said: “Right”.
Such an eminent facility of solution vision could have lead the great architect to be improvisator but in fact it was the total opposite; although he saw the solutions instantly, he would not accept them without submitting them to a large refinement process enhancing the initially intuited proposition. The enormous labour he dedicated to each of his works made that those were not exceptionally abundant; they gained in intensity what they lost in extent.
Gaudi's work follows a straight and ascending trajectory, without deviations neither oscillations. For this reason we can't talk about a Gaudí style, because it is commonly understood that a style always implies a certain affection which one cannot find not even from a distance in the constantly evolving work of Don Antonio. What really marks each of the masters' works is his relevant personality, his very particular vision of the problem and the right solution for all the complex aspects an architectonic work always presents.
It is not up to me to praise or even less judge Gaudí's artistic personality. There has been and there will be written a lot about it in works that are pinnacles which will rise in the history of art.
On the other hand, it is the right moment to point at the man behind the artist, as Gaudí is no longer among us. As we have had the immense fortune to know him more or less intimately, it is our duty to write down his excellent qualities of goodness, intelligence and professional integrity.
He has always been a colleague and master at the same time, it is true that he has never practised as a teacher, but his conversation was instructive, he was enthusiastically consulted by many colleagues who can testify about how he went on during those relaxed conversations among friends. His words flew precisely and correctly, he revealed the marvellous conceptions he created in his powerful imagination to his listeners, he suggested unsuspected relations between geometric forms or criticising styles and he pointed out their qualities and defects with admirable precision. At the end each of his observations about any matter constituted a lesson, or better, a ray of very vivid light that completely clarified the question.
He was profoundly modest and resolutely avoided any attempt of exhibitionism, although he defended with lots of energy his deeply-rooted convictions without allowing any impositions and considered it as his duty to always tackle the last conclusions.
He practised his profession as if he were a priest and never thought about what he might get out of the project; his eyes were always fixed on the ideal of perfection he wore in his soul and which was the motive of all his actions.
Because of this and despite of his constant work until not long before the accident which has cost him his life, the benefits produced by his work were very limited and besides his generosity drove him to renounce his legitimate fee in order to save his beloved work from the serious economical crisis it was going through. He did not only renounce his fee but he even physically went out to ask for alms in order to avoid the stagnation of the works of the Sagrada Familia to which he had dedicated his entire activity since a couple of years.
At the end his renunciation to secularity was so remarkable that he even took the look of a pore mendicant; more than once he had received a coin from people who thought they were doing some good deeds.
Providence has wanted to culminate his humility and renunciation to the vain mundane glory with his death. At the same time, it has prepared the surrounding circumstances which have contributed to provoke the magnificent apotheosis and glorification of his funeral celebrated among the citizens.
Let our deplored friend and master rest in peace and his example be the North and guide that leads our steps.”
Related article: “Homage to the architect Domènech Sugrañes Gras in Reus”, written by Maria Teresa Pitarch i Morell
1. Luigi Canina, Italian architect and archaeologies (Casale Monferrato, 1795 – Florence, 1856). He was a student of F. Bonsignore in Turín, and moved to Rome in 1818. Among his works we find the monumental entrance of Villa Borghese and the casino Vagnuzzi in Rome . He is also the author of important historical and archaeological studies.