Modernisme (Catalan pronunciation: [muðərˈnizmə], Catalan for “modernism”) was a cultural movement born in association with the search for Catalan national identity. It was active from roughly 1888 (the First International Exhibition of Barcelona) to 1911 (the death of Joan Maragall, the most important Modernista poet).
The Modernisme movement had its center in Barcelona, and is best known for its architectural expression, especially the work of Antoni Gaudí, but it was also significant in other art forms, such as sculpture, poetry, theatre and painting.
Modernista artists wanted Catalan culture to be regarded as equal to that of other European countries.They also rejected bourgeois values, which they thought to be the opposite of art. Consequently, they adopted two stances: they either set themselves apart from society in a bohemian or culturalist attitude (Decadent and Parnassian poets, Symbolist playwrights, etc.) or they attempted to use art to change society.
Like the currents known in other countries as Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Stile Liberty, Modern Style or Sezessionstil, Modernisme is basically derived from the English Arts and Crafts movement and the Gothic revival. As well as combining a rich variety of historically-derived elements, it is characterized by the predominance of the curve over the straight line, by rich decoration and detail, by the frequent use of vegetal and other organic motifs, the taste for asymmetry, a refined aestheticism, and the dynamic shapes.
Palma de Mallorca at dawn; photograph, Christina Rahm/MallorcaImages