It may be a great background for this beauty shot, but at the time I took it the broken background was my intended subject, but when this young lady photo-bombed me I wasn’t going to object, but it does bring me to the last piece of vocabulary that is relevant to Catalan Modernisme and an essential one at that.
In many of the posts to come but especially those about Gaudi, you will see surfaces covered in white or brightly-coloured mosaic. It’s a feature of much of his work, but why the need for another word when mosaic already exists?
Trencadis is a more specific type of mosaic. Whereas the great mosaic artists of Venice used Murano glass in their work, trencadis is made up of broken ceramics, usually tiles or dinnerware. Many of the examples that you see around Barcelona are actually made from discarded pieces that Gaudi gathered from factories around the area, though that may not have been his original intention.
If you’ve ever tried to tile a bathroom you’ll know that you need a perfectly flat and even surface to begin with if you’re going to produce a good finish, conditions that are a rarity in a Gaudi design where curves are all important. One option might have been to have specifically moulded designs fired, but this would have been complex, time-consuming and very expensive. Instead, when working on the Güell Pavilions, he took tiles and broke them into smaller pieces which he could then wrap around the convex and concave whilst still retaining something of the original pattern.
Some of the square plaques in Park Güell demonstrate the origins of the technique but it’s clear that there is beauty to be found, even in the broken.