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Spanish architect and designer, Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) was an important and influential figure in the history of contemporary Spanish art. His use of colour, application of a range of materials and the introduction of organic forms into his constructions were an innovation in the realm of architecture. In his journal, Gaudí freely expressed his own feelings on art, "the colours used in architecture have to be intense, logical and fertile." His completed works (the Casa Batlló, 1905-1907 and the Casa Milà, 1905-1910) and his incomplete works (the restoration of the Poblet Monastery and the altarpiece of Alella in Barcelona) illustrate the importance of this philosophy. His furniture designs were conceived with the same philosophy, as shown, for example, in his own office (1878) or the lamps in the Plaza Real in Barcelona. The Sagrada Familia (1882-1926) was a monumental project which eventually took over his life (it was still incomplete at the time of his death).
Diego Velázquez (1599-1660) is one of the world's most famous artists. Representative of 17th-century European painting, he worked for the Spanish court and for the most important figures, completing numerous portraits. Yet, passionate about the human figure, his oeuvre also encompasses bodeg#65533;nes, representations of daily life in the taverns and kitchens of Spain. Considered the father of Spanish painting, Vel#65533;zquez inspired entire generations of the artists who followed him, including Picasso, Dal#65533;, and Bacon. His mysterious painting Las Meninas, which contains the essence of his work, is still today an inexhaustible source for writing and research.
Goya is perhaps the most approachable of painters. His art, like his life, is an open book. He concealed nothing from his contemporaries, and offered his art to them with the same frankness. The entrance to his world is not barricaded with technical difficulties. He proved that if a man has the capacity to live and multiply his experiences, to fight and work, he can produce great art without classical decorum and traditional respectability. He was born in 1746, in Fuendetodos, a small mountain village of a hundred inhabitants. As a child he worked in the fields with his two brothers and his sister until his talent for drawing put an end to his misery. At fourteen, supported by a wealthy patron, he went to Saragossa to study with a court painter and later, when he was nineteen, on to Madrid. Up to his thirty-seventh year, if we leave out of account the tapestry cartoons of unheralded decorative quality and five small pictures, Goya painted nothing of any significance, but once in control of his refractory powers, he produced masterpieces with the speed of Rubens. His court appointment was followed by a decade of incessant activity - years of painting and scandal, with intervals of bad health. Goya's etchings demonstrate a draughtsmanship of the first rank. In paint, like Velázquez, he is more or less dependent on the model, but not in the detached fashion of the expert in still-life. If a woman was ugly, he made her a despicable horror; if she was alluring, he dramatised her charm. He preferred to finish his portraits at one sitting and was a tyrant with his models. Like Velázquez, he concentrated on faces, but he drew his heads cunningly, and constructed them out of tones of transparent greys. Monstrous forms inhabit his black-and-white world: these are his most profoundly deliberated productions. His fantastic figures, as he called them, fill us with a sense of ignoble joy, aggravate our devilish instincts and delight us with the uncharitable ecstasies of destruction. His genius attained its highest point in his etchings on the horrors of war. When placed beside the work of Goya, other pictures of war pale into sentimental studies of cruelty. He avoided the scattered action of the battlefield, and confined himself to isolated scenes of butchery. Nowhere else did he display such mastery of form and movement, such dramatic gestures and appalling effects of light and darkness. In all directions Goya renewed and innovated.
Picasso was born a Spaniard and, so they say, began to draw before he could speak. As an infant he was instinctively attracted to artist''s tools. In early childhood he could spend hours in happy concentration drawing spirals with a sense and meaning known only to himself. At other times, shunning children''s games, he traced his first pictures in the sand. This early self-expression held out promise of a rare gift. Málaga must be mentioned, for it was there, on 25 October 1881, that Pablo Ruiz Picasso was born and it was there that he spent the first ten years of his life. Picasso''s father was a painter and professor at the School of Fine Arts and Crafts. Picasso learnt from him the basics of formal academic art training. Then he studied at the Academy of Arts in Madrid but never finished his degree. Picasso, who was not yet eighteen, had reached the point of his greatest rebelliousness; he repudiated academia''s anemic aesthetics along with realism''s pedestrian prose and, quite naturally, joined those who called themselves modernists, the non-conformist artists and writers, those whom Sabartés called "the élite of Catalan thought" and who were grouped around the artists'' café Els Quatre Gats. During 1899 and 1900 the only subjects Picasso deemed worthy of painting were those which reflected the "final truth"; the transience of human life and the inevitability of death. His early works, ranged under the name of "Blue Period" (1901-1904), consist in blue-tinted paintings influenced by a trip through Spain and the death of his friend, Casagemas. Even though Picasso himself repeatedly insisted on the inner, subjective nature of the Blue Period, its genesis and, especially, the monochromatic blue were for many years explained as merely the results of various aesthetic influences. Between 1905 and 1907, Picasso entered a new phase, called "Rose Period" characterised by a more cheerful style with orange and pink colours. In Gosol, in the summer of 1906 the nude female form assumed an extraordinary importance for Picasso; he equated a depersonalised, aboriginal, simple nakedness with the concept of "woman". The importance that female nudes were to assume as subjects for Picasso in the next few months (in the winter and spring of 1907) came when he developed the composition of the large painting, Les Demoiselles d''Avignon. Just as African art is usually considered the factor leading to the development of Picasso''s classic aesthetics in 1907, the lessons of Cézanne are perceived as the cornerstone of this new progression. This relates, first of all, to a spatial conception of the canvas as a composed entity, subjected to a certain constructive system. Georges Braque, with whom Picasso became friends in the autumn of 1908 and together with whom he led Cubism during the six years of its apogee, was amazed by the similarity of Picasso''s pictorial experiments to his own. He explained that: "Cubism''s main direction was the materialisation of space." After his Cubist period, in the 1920s, Picasso returned to a more figurative style and got closer to the surrealist movement. He represented distorted and monstrous bodies but in a very personal style. After the bombing of Guernica during 1937, Picasso made one of his most famous works which starkly symbolises the horrors of that war and, indeed, all wars. In the 1960s, his art changed again and Picasso began looking at the art of great masters and based his paintings on ones by Velázquez, Poussin, Goya, Manet, Courbet and Delacroix. Picasso''s final works were a mixture of style, becoming more colourful, expressive and optimistic. Picasso died in 1973, in his villa in Mougins. The Russian Symbolist Georgy Chulkov wrote: "Picasso''s death is tragic. Yet how blind and naïve are those who believe in imitating Picasso and learning from him. Learning what? For these forms have no corresponding emotions outside of Hell. But to be in Hell means to anticipate death. The Cubists are hardly privy to such unlimited knowledge".
Salvador Dal#65533; (1904-1989) is best known for his unique and striking style with an extraordinary repertoire reaching out across film, painting, photography, and sculpture. Whilst his name may be most commonly associated with Surrealism, Dal#65533; consummately displayed mastery over such broad genres as classical, modernist, and Cubist styles. A crucial figure in art history, Dal#65533; has inspired countless literary works and this edifying Best Of volume gives readers a fascinating insight into the life and career highlights of one of art's most controversial and exciting pioneers.