Gaudy is an adjective that means ‘extravagantly bright or showy, so as to be tasteless’.
Synonyms include ‘garish’, ‘elaborate’, ‘lurid’, ‘glaring’, harsh’, ‘ornate’, and ‘flashy’.
Gaudi, as in the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, who is credited with such world-renowned works as Park Güell, Casa Battló (one of my favorite), and La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (the most visited monument in Spain) who lived from 1852 to 1926, specializing in the Modernisme or Catalan-specific Arte Nouveau style incorporating natural with architectural elements and religious symbolism (at times). Seven of his works in Spain have been deemed World Heritage sites by UNESCO.
Yes, clearly I am a fan of the latter.
My question to you is, is the latter the origin of the former and, what does this have to do with culture?
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.
While the two are similar, Gaudi’s work is definitely ornate, leaning toward ‘ornate’ or ‘intricate’ if you are not a fan.
The word actually comes from the 16th century, specifically, the 1580’s when it meant ‘joyfully festive’, which itself is likely a re-using of an early 14th-century noun meaning ‘large, ornate bead in a rosary’. Alternatively, this adjective could come from Middle English or Old French ‘gaudegrene’ from the early 14th century, which was the name of a yellowish-green pigment, transforming from ‘well-dyed’ to ‘bright ornamentation’.
The long and the short of it is that the word is older than the man.
Popular culture is awash in the idea that the word is named after the man. After visiting the Sagrada Familia for the first time I bought a biography of Gaudi that purported this idea as well.
In his time, Modernisme or Arte Nouveau was, in part, a return to the past in response to the industrial revolution and thus stiff forms perpetrating art and design at the time. Politically and ideologically, it was seen as a way for the bourgeoisie (the middle, or capitalist class with its perceived materialistic or conventional values.) to identify with more of their Catalan cultural roots.
It could be that people have been divided by Gaudi’s work from the beginning.
As the BBC’S John Glancy put it in 2014, “George Orwell said it was “one of the most hideous buildings in the world” and rather hoped it would be destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. Salvador Dalí spoke of its “terrifying and edible beauty”, saying it should be kept under a glass dome. Walter Gropius, master of right-angled architecture and founder of the Bauhaus, praised its technical perfection. Louis Sullivan, the great American architect, and “father of skyscrapers”, described it as a “spirit symbolized in stone.”
Over to You
What do you think, tell me in the comments:
Were you aware of the origin of the word Gaudy?
Did you also think the origin of the word Gaudy and the man Gaudi were related?
Have you ever been to see or walk among any of Gaudi’s works in Spain? If so, where did you go and what did you think?