06 Apr History of the Barcelona Bohemians
What does it mean to be Bohemian? A highly debatable term that for the most part I feel is generally misunderstand there are many ways to talk about bohemians. More than anything I think it is way of being. An openminded view and an appreciation of the mystery of everyday existence.
Where Does Bohemian Style Come From
Nowdays we see the word bohemian everywhere. We use it to talk about long flowy dresses and hipster cafes but if we really want to understand bohemianism we must begin with the original bohemians. The word finds it’s origins in the Czech Republic where there was once a tribe of nomadid people called the bohemians, but that;s another story and today I’m trying to get us to Barcelona so I’ll move quickly. In the 1800’s the word found a new meaning in Paris when it was taken up by writers and philosophers to relate to population of Parisian creatives who lived alongside the Seine. Again another story that I would like to look more into, but today what I want to talk about the lesser known Barcelona Bohemians.
Less known than it’s Parisian counterpart Barcelona has long been home to an array of creatives and a long lasting bohemian culture. Barcelona is a city filled with creative inspiration. From the artitecture to the art to the floral tiles that line the streets. Inspiration can be found everywhere when you start to pay attention. The city is seeped in this creativity. The casual cafes and quiet parks and the moody alleyways lend themselves to creative inspiration, and wandering shadow strewn streets it is easy to imagine it’s previous inhabitants.
Much like in Paris the cafes of Barcelona were far more than mere businesses, they were creative meeting points and a constant source of inspiration.
Bohemian Cafes Barcelona
When we look for the origins of the Bohemian movement in Barcelona, fittingly it began with a bar. Els Quatre Gats to be exact. Catalan for, “The Four Cats” the name was chosen to represent the creatives who frequented this bar, “Els Quatre Gats” was an expression for the outsiders, for the unique group of individuals who met there. Much like it’s Parisian counterpart Le Chat Noir, Els Quatre Gats was a creative meeting point, a melting pot of ideas and debates that formed the perspectives of the bohemians of Barcelona. The bar was designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch, a well known Catalan architect known for his modernist ideas and contributions to the Art Nouveau. The bar became a meeting point for the artists of the day, among these Paublo Picasso, Santiago Rusiñol and Ramon Casas. Like typical creative friends everyone contributed something to the space. The artist Ramon Casa i Carbó painted did a painting for the interior, himself and his friend and owner of the cafe, Pere Romeu on a tandem bicycle. And inscribed on the side of a painting like a secret message, “To ride a bike, you can’t go with your back straight.” Reflecting the attitude of the cafe’s founders who quote is a reminder, breaking tradition is necessary to making something great; and my own personal interpretation, you need friends along the way.
El Quarte Gats Barcelona
Among the other creatives that frequented the bar was Antoni Gaudi and the sculptor Julio Gonzalez. It was a space of newness and innovation. Where the artists would gather to discuss concepts and philosophies and it was the birthplace of many modernist ideas. A 17 year old Picasso even did the posters for the restaurant, a modern concept as at the time many industries were shifting into new ideas and realizing the importance of visual communication.
El Quarte Gats Picasso
Piscasso poster for ‘El Quarte Gats’
‘Laziness’ Ramon Casas
Although not much of a financial success the cafe was an artistic landmark of bohemian culture and after it closed in 1903 Ramon Casas and Miguel Utrillo continued writing a literary review inspired by the cafe. The cultural significance went far beyond the business and in someways it is a reminder, some people are better at certain things than others but the important thing seems to be to follow what comes most naturally to you. These artists did not lead conventional lives, they didn’t meet up to social norms and maybe of them didn’t even receive the acknowledgment that their work may have merited, at least while they were alive. But what mattered is what they did do and they led exceptional lives.
The inhabitants of ‘El Quarte Gats’