“Old-fashioned” modernista

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Fireplace at the Hotel Espana by Eusebi Arnau

A reminder that Barcelona modernism is not the same as modern. The fireplace above, for example: I find it hard to include anything with gambolling babies/cherubs in my understanding of a forward-looking approach to interior design, but I guess I’ll just have to expand my definition to cope with it.

This decorative panel, too:

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Gaspar Homar, 1906, ceramic, mosaic, porcelain

Its subject matter – women in a sylvan setting – is very conventional, despite the contemporary dress. The porcelain faces are unusual and, to my mind, a bit creepy. Flowers, swans . . . even the purely decorative function of the piece seem very staid and old-fashioned, yet Homar was one of the key modernista designers.

And some of the furniture I’ve seen – for example a piano covered in Japanese-inspired decoration (storks, bamboo, blossom, fans) – has made excessive use of marquetry and the pattern book. The greatest paradox has got to be the ultra-fancy light fittings with stained glass shades or symbolic figures like peacocks . . . and electric bulbs! It’s that mixture of the new technology of the late nineteenth century with the almost mediaeval decorative and symbolic motifs that confounds me.

But, as I said, I’m confusing modernism with modernity. Bauhaus it ain’t.

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