Puig i Cadafalch Year celebrates the 150th anniversary of Josep Puig i Cadafalch’s birth and the centenary of his accession to the presidency of Catalonia through the Mancomunitat government.
The Museu del Disseny de Barcelona (Barcelona Design Museum) joins in with this cultural and civic celebration through the present exhibition. In it, the Ramon Manent i Rodon, a photographer specialising in images of art and, like Josep Puig i Cadafalch himself, from the town of Mataró, suggests his own, personal view of the architect’s works. Through this unusual gaze, then, Manent’s camera reveals to us some of Puig i Cadafalch’s most outstanding works.
Josep Puig i Cadafalch is a key figure in the history of Catalan art around the turn of the twentieth century, the period that led from Modernisme to Noucentisme. His many architectural works, however, cannot be seen in isolation from his complex personality, as he was not only an architect, but also a town planner, a Catalan nationalist politician, a governor engaged in developing public infrastructure, an archaeologist, an art historian and a promotor of cultural enterprises. Nor should we forget the political importance of his work as president of the Mancomunitat association of municipalities from 1917 to 1923. With its origins in the Generalitat, or autonomous Government of Catalonia, the Mancomunitat was the Catalonia’s first national governing body in the twentieth century.
However, architecture was Puig i Cadafalch’s first profession, and he practised it always in consonance with his multi-faceted interests. In his creative contributions, he aimed to define a unique, modern style in Catalan architecture, one adapted both to the resources available in contemporary construction and to the traditions established by historic styles. He achieved this during his Modernist period, when he gave his buildings a medieval air, often with roots in northern traditions and including features found in languages from in other times and other cultures. As the twentieth century progressed, he gradually assimilated the new philosophy of Noucentisme, adopting classical solutions, particularly from baroque art. Puig i Cadafalch was a moderniser in terms of techniques and construction materials, one who also helped to renew architectural typologies. Above all, however, as Ramon Manent’s camera shows in this exhibition, Puig i Cadafalch masterfully fused artistic resources and craft traditions in his work, creating outstanding expressions of artistic freedom.
Ramon Manent i Rodon (Mataró, 1948), a photographer specialising in art and architecture, reveals enormous sensitivity as he captures objects, light and space in his work. Throughout his professional career, which also reflects his life’s trajectory, we note certain approaches to the art of the image in such media and themes as anthropological reports, classical Greece, the skyscrapers of Manhattan, everyday life in the late-twentieth century, and so on. Manent has always been interested in Modernist architecture. While he has often focused on the work of Gaudí, he now turns his attention to the life and work of Josep Puig i Cadafalch, sensitively exploring the architect’s works through his use of form, texture and the nuanced colour.
Ramon Manent has published more than one hundred and fifty books. The Manent Archive, which contains more than 300,000 photographs, enables us to explore his world in greater depth.