Sitges was the city where the great expansion of the modernist movement began in Catalonia. The modernist processions held in Sitges to receive paintings by El Greco are famous. These were carried in a secular procession from the station to Cau Ferrat.
Modernism was a cultural and aesthetic movement that broke with previous movements by exalting the beauty of nature and everyday things, incorporating new techniques like glass and iron. It had different names in different countries; Jugendstil in Germany and Nordic countries, Sezession in Austria, Nieuwe Kunst in the Netherlands, Liberty or Floreale in Italy, Modern Style in English-speaking countries, and Art Nouveau in France and Belgium.
Modernism aimed to encompass all aspects of life and therefore attached great importance to beautiful objects. It gave a significant boost to decorative arts. Having beautiful chairs, furniture, glasses, spoons, brooches, and paintings was important.
Barcelona is one of the great modernist cities, although it spread throughout Europe, serving as the basis for new avant-garde movements during that era, such as surrealism.
Starting from post-Impressionism in painting, there was a convergence of artistic interests among Spanish post-Impressionists (Ramón Casas, Santiago Rusiñol), who were the leading figures of this artistic movement in Spanish painting.
Santiago Rusiñol was a true cultural agitator, not only through the articles he published but also through the books he wrote and the paintings he created.
His life was truly an ongoing attempt to "Épater le bourgeois" (shock or astound the bourgeoisie).
Together with the other modernists in Barcelona, Rusiñol advocated for Sitges to rise to modernist stardom, making it a meeting place for bohemian life and initiating the beginning of European tourism to Sitges. This was facilitated by its microclimate, proximity to the sea, and the mentality of its inhabitants.
There are very important examples of modernist architecture in Sitges.
If you stroll through the streets of Sitges' historic center and head towards Cau Ferrat, you can enjoy encountering these works.
Here, I propose a modernist route of the buildings and monuments in Sitges:
At the beginning of his career, he included the human figure, but later, influenced by the Impressionists, the theme of his work focused on landscapes, portraits, and symbolic compositions inspired by the modernist movement.
Orphaned at a very young age, he was raised by his grandfather, whom Rusiñol later depicted in "L´Auca del Sr, Esteve." His grandfather tried to instill in him the values of respect, discipline, a well-thinking attitude, and bourgeois values, but Santiago Rusiñol was always a bohemian. A bohemian who couldn't afford to be one without going through the miseries of the Bohemian lifestyle of that time.
He spent his entire life in constant conflict with the "Phoenicians" who only valued things for their price, as noted by Antoine de St Exupery in "The Little Prince." Rusiñol became a well-known figure in Barcelona for his habits, style of dress, hairstyle, tastes, and defiant attitude. In Barcelona, he frequented the gatherings at the "Café Els Quatre Gats."
He also wrote for La Vanguardia and L´Esquella de la Torratxa.
Thanks to his social position, he was able to make several trips. He lived for a few years in Paris, Montmartre, where he settled with other Catalan artists (Ramón Casas and Zuloaga) and had mentors such as Puvis de Chavannes and Carrière. The only works he wrote in Spanish were "Impresiones de arte" and a series of articles titled "Desde mi molino." Zuloaga sparked his interest in El Greco.
A special mention goes to Cau Ferrat. In 1892, Rusiñol bought a fisherman's house, and the following year, the adjacent one (from the 14th century). On the resulting plot of these two buildings, he had Francesc Rogent build his studio-workshop. He named it Cau Ferrat because "Cau" means a hideaway for poetry lovers to take refuge, and "Ferrat" for his collection of forged ironworks. Here, he hung the paintings he acquired in France by El Greco.
Its official inauguration on July 25, 1894 (Saint James' Day) featured a performance by the municipal band of Sitges.