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Palma – the place to go for art nouveau

Palma – the place to go for Art Nouveau

August 25, 2014Next

A hundred years have past since Art Nouveau was at its peak. Spurred by the industrial revolution, it was the product of a new generation of talented artists and designers attempting to fashion a new style appropriate to the modern age. For a brief moment, this international movement of art and design encompassed everyday life, from the architecture to the furniture. Mallorca boasts its fair share of Art Nouveau buildings and façades, reminiscent of a time when Spain played an intricate role in this scene known as modernista.

Quoted as being “the architect of architects”,  Spain’s eccentric modernist Antoni Gaudí not only influenced the face of Barcelona’s architecture, but also left his personal fingerprint in Palma’s Cathedral when in 1899 he was approached by the Bishop of Mallorca, Pere Campins, and was asked to contribute in its restoration. Campins, so impressed by the clarity of Gaudí’s ideas, proposed that he take over the management of the restoration project. Gaudí’s most important contributions include the furniture and the stained-glass windows, for which he used a new method of giving colour to the glass, testing this technique before implementing it in the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. A giant "wrought-iron chandelier” representing the baldachin, which surmounts the altar symbolising the Crown of Thorns is also the work of Gaudí.

Although his work dominated the Spanish art scene during this time, it was actually the influence of his friend, the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, which brought a wave of Art Nouveau style buildings to Mallorca. The Gran Hotel in Plaça Weyler in Palma, his creation, is one of the most important examples of Catalan art nouveau style on the island. With its beautiful balconies and columns, and sculptured façade, it was the first luxury hotel the city had seen when it opened its doors in 1903. Restored by Fundació La Caixa in 1993 and now a World Heritage listed building, ironically, it does not provide accommodation for the islands influx of tourists, but is a cultural centre and art gallery with a chic café, housing a permanent exhibition of paintings by the modernist artist Hermen Anglada Camarasa.

Domenech i Montaner’s work inspired many creations in Palma, where several early twentieth century buildings are sprinkled with decorative Modernista architecture: the colourful façade of Forn del Teatre pastry shop opposite the Gran Hotel, numbers 13 and 14 of the Plaça del Mercat and C’an Rei at the Plaça del Marques de Palmer, adorned with gargoyles and ceramics.

Sóller was also strongly marked by this movement, as a brief visit to the Church of Sant Bartolomeu in Sóller’s main square – La Plaça de la Constitució will show. In 1904, a new façade was added to the church, the works led by architect Joan Rubio Bellver a student of Gaudí, who also designed the modernist Banc de Sóller in the square.  The town’s railway station, which proclaims to be the oldest railway building in the world, was also subjected to similar renovations, providing a fitting journey’s end to those who wish to ride the town’s famous train.

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