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Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926)


Gaudí sought out stimulus for his creations in medieval books, in the gothic art that was then experiencing a renaissance, in illustrations of oriental structures and in the organic shapes of nature. The straight line, rigidity and order in forms was broken with the arrival of Arte Nouveau at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century.

Gaudí was not insensitive to this change, and developed a style of his own. The theoretical writings of Englishman John Ruskin, who in 1853 taught that ornament was the origin of architecture, greatly influenced him. He was also significantly influenced, at a younger age, by Viollet-le-Duc's book on medieval French architecture from the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries, and by books by other authors, such as William Morris.

Military Service

He fulfilled his military service requirement from 1874-77. His file reveals that he was a draftsman, but doesn't mention his place of birth. He enlisted at the age of 22 (July 7, 1874) and was assigned to the Army Infantry in Barcelona, where he continued in December, 1876, as assistant in Military Administration. He paid 37.25 pesetas for the uniform. He was declared Benemérito de la Patria ("Glorious Son of the Motherland") at the end of the carlist civil war, even though he was never in combat.

Personality and Appearance

Gaudí had a bad temper (there is a Catalan saying: "Gent de camp, gent de lamp," which means "People from the country are quick-tempered people"). He said that his bad temper was the one thing he was never able to control in his life. On the other hand, Gaudí took interest in the social problems of the workers, and felt attached to the people.

His blonde hair, deep blue eyes, fine features and rosy skin made him appear Nordic, but he always retorted to whomever told him so, showing his pride for being Mediterranean.


In order to pay for his education, his father had to sell a family property, and Gaudí himself had to work for some Barcelona builders. As a student, his first projects were drafting for Professor Francisco de Paula Villar, working on the apse and niche of the church of the Monastery of Montserrat; with builder Fontseré, on the Ciutadella; and precision-drafting the machines of the Padrós i Borrás company.

But as soon as he completed these projects, he tried to enjoy everything that he had gone without during his education. He had a reputation as a "dandy": he liked to dress well, in the latest fashion, and to be surrounded by high society. He bought his hats at the Casa Arnau, one of the best stores in the business. His business card was carefully designed, and Audorand, the barber, groomed his beard. Only his shoes were second-hand; he found new shoes uncomfortable, so he got his brother to wear them for awhile first.

At that time, there was a resurgence in Catalan nationalist sentiment, as the nationalists claimed their rights after years of suppression. Gaudí felt profoundly nationalistic and closely followed all the nationalist events of the time, as shown by his membership in the "Catalan Association of Scientific Excursions," which was dedicated to visiting Catalonia's historic monuments. On these excursions he increased his knowledge of the ancient architecture of his land. In many of his buildings, we can also see shields with four bars (the crest of Catalonia) or sculptures in honor of St. George, the patron saint of Catalonia.

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