Friday, September 21, 2007

The Van Gogh Museum Presents Barcelona 1900 - The Creation of a Modern City

The Van Gogh Museum Presents Barcelona 1900 - The Creation of a Modern City


Santiago Rusiñol (1861-1931), Morphine, 1894, Museu Cau Ferrat (Consorcio del Patrimonio de Sitges).

AMSTERDAM.- Barcelona 1900. The creation of a modern city on show at the Van Gogh Museum. This autumn the Van Gogh Museum presents a landmark exhibition Barcelona 1900 which will celebrate the astonishing transformation of this vibrant city between 1880 and 1909. In this period Barcelona underwent an impressive architectural development and flourished socially and artistically. The exhibition, on view from 21 September 2007 to 20 January 2008, will provide an insight into a city which continues to intrigue visitors and inspire artists and architects to this day. Barcelona 1900 takes the visitor on a tour of the significant places in the city from the Ramblas via the Palau de la Música Catalana and the Hospital de Sant Pau on to Gaudí’s Park Güell and the church of the Sagrada Familia. Some 200 works of art including paintings, drawings and sculpture and also furniture, jewellery, scale models, films, stage scenery and tile panels reveal the remarkable breadth of artistic creation. All the leading artists of that period - Pablo Picasso, Isidre Nonell, Santiago Rusiñol, Alexandre de Riquer and Ramon Casas - as well as the architects - Antoni Gaudí, Lluís Domènech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch - whose legacy is still so powerful, are represented often by works that are rarely on view to the public.

The world expo of 1888 and the birth of Modernista Catalana - The rise of industry in and around the city generated an increasingly wealthy bourgeoisie who, in turn, commissioned artists and architects. The resulting extraordinary artistic boom fostered a climate in which artists were emboldened to strike out in a new direction encouraged by the success of the Exposicío Universal in 1888 that brought the isolated city of Barcelona into contact with the modern world. Young artists travelled to Paris and as a result of the inspiration and knowledge garnered there Barcelona gave birth to its own version of Art Nouveau, known as Modernista Catalana. Typical of this style are the representations and objects characterised by elegant forms and imaginative figures.

Visual and applied arts - In painting, a new style was evident in a subtle play of lines and the use of sparkling colours. The exhibition will feature paintings by many of the leading artists of this period, including a series of 12 portraits on paper by the young Picasso of himself and his artist friends. This series has been reunited especially for this exhibition, with international loans from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museu Picasso in Barcelona. Also on show are cityscapes by Picasso as well as paintings offering a striking rendition of the bohemian atmosphere in the Els Quatre Gats artists’café. However, the new elegance of Modernista Catalana was particularly evident in the applied arts, striking examples of which will feature in the exhibition, such as a complete interior by designer Joan Busquets, bewitchingly beautiful jewellery by Lluís Masriera and extravagant pieces of furniture designed by Antoni Gaudí.

Architecture and urban development - In architecture, the influence of Modernista Catalana was evident in its combination of new materials with the Catalan tradition, such as wrought iron, mosaic tableaux and ceramics. It is the fantastical architecture of Antoni Gaudí, Lluís Domènech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch that has contributed to the city’s fame and its magical feel. Engineer Ildefons Cerdà’s urban expansion of Barcelona is widely considered to be one of the most visionary architectural innovations of the 19th century and is still viewed as an important example to modern architects and city planners.

Street life - The exhibition also sheds light on the other side of Barcelona’s economic prosperity. Industrialisation lured people to the city to work in the factories, where their poor living conditions served as a breeding ground for socialist and anarchist movements. The social unrest led, among other things, to a bomb attack on the Teatre de Liceu - symbol of the bourgeoisie - and to the Setmana Tràgica in 1909, a massive popular uprising against church and state. The exhibition shows the grim yet often picturesque reality of life on the streets through photographs and films of the time and through, occasionally humorous, drawings and paintings.

Catalogue: The Barcelona 1900 exhibition catalogue, edited by guest curator Teresa-M. Sala (Professor Titular d’Universitat de Barcelona), will be available in English and Dutch: Van Gogh Museum/ Mercatorfonds, 196 pages, 160 illustrations. Price € 29.95 (paperback). The book will also be available in French, Spanish and Catalonian. Price € 39.95 (hardback). Available in the museum shop, via and quality bookshops.

Visitors' guide - Accompanying the Barcelona 1900 exhibition is a free booklet (available in English and Dutch). This travel guide leads the visitor through the exhibition. A combined audiotour is available for both the exhibition and the permanent collection in English, Dutch, French and Spanish. Price € 4. Every Saturday and Sunday there is a variety of workshops for children. For more information, visit

Friday nights - On Friday nights the Van Gogh Museum stays open to 10 pm. During the Barcelona 1900 exhibition the Friday nights will focus on Barcelona today with a multifaceted programme featuring design, architecture, literature, Barcelona's artistic food culture, lots of music and much more besides. For more information, see

Rabobank is sponsor of Barcelona 1900. This sponsorship is the result of a long-term collaboration between Rabobank and the Van Gogh Museum.

Barcelona 1900 is the first major exhibition about this city in the period 1880-1909 and is the fourth in the series covering cities around this pivotal year staged at the Van Gogh Museum. The previous exhibitions were Glasgow 1900: Art & Design (1992-1993), Vienna 1900: Portrait and Interior (1997) and Prague 1900: Poetry and Ecstasy (1999-2000).


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