Designers / Decorators:
Joan Baptista Alòs i Peris
Lluís Brú i Salelles
Mateu Culell i Aznar
Josep Lluís Pellicer
L. Planas i Calvet
Francesc Quer i Selves
Alexandre de Riquer i Ynglada
Some architects with ceramic decoration
Gaudí i Cornet
Domènech i Montaner
Josep Font i Gumà
Gallissà i Soqué
Puig i Cadafalch
Joaquim Raspall i Mallol
Torres, Mauri y Cia.
In Arenys de Mar:
In Esplugues de Llobregat:
Pujol i Bausis
Manufacturers (in the Païs Valencià):
In Castelló de la Plana:
Falomir e Ibañez
Gomez i Soriano
Joan B. Segarra Bernat
Josep Gimeno Planells
José Maria Martinez
Francesc Monera Gil
La Campana de
Segarra i Gimeno
Hijos de Justo Vilar
Manufacturers (in Mallorca):
Pere Joan Aguiló Forteza
Vicenç Llorenç Rubí
art of ceramics is one of the oldest known decorative techniques and is
applied frequently in architecture of the Catalan
During the period of Art Nouveau, the architects were expanding its scope, since its initial function toward the project and
direction of the construction, until assuring also a coordination of the
exterior and interior decoration, activity evolving to an
essential element of its work.
It is known that often a building is defined as Art Nouveau more by its
decoration that by its structural characteristics. This gave an extraordinary
importance to the ceramics being one of the most used
decorative elements. Really, the Art Nouveau character of a building does not
given by the design or the techniques utilized, but by the
ornamental elements decorating their facades or their interiors.
The decorative elements as the pavements, the stained glasses, gypsum, stone
carved, the locksmith and, above all, the ceramic coverings, are determinants
to attribute this art nouveau character to a building.
role of the artists:
sketchers and decorators, therefore, have a very important role (along with
the architects themselves) in the ornamental design process. This role has
been historically undervalued, but more is discovered every day about the
worth and the very important role that these artists developed thanks to the
work of numerous researchers specializing in this field. We refer to figures
such as Alexandre de Riquer, Adrià Gual,
Mario Maragliano, Joan Baptista Alós or Francesc Quer, to say nothing of the
very important contributions in this field of architects such as
Gaudí, Domènech i Montaner,
Font i Gumà, Puig i Cadafalch,
and many others.
Many bold experiments with painting and color on ceramics were made during the
Art Nouveau period, in stark contrast to the academic and rigid nature of
eclecticism – against which Art Nouveau was a reaction – that led to among
other things the artistic revival of exterior decoration (Batlló House,
Palau de la
etc.), and most importantly the interior decoration (Institut
Pere Mata, Hospital de Sant Pau,
etc.), of buildings. Within this decoration there is an intense application
of ceramic inlay. The combination of art and industry, situated within the
ideology of the Arts and Crafts movement and aided by the technical advances
of the second half of the nineteenth century, allowed for the elaboration of
extraordinarily creative and innovative models and their widespread
El castell dels
tres dragons (The Castle of the Three Dragons):
The workshop known as the Castle of the Three Dragons, founded by Lluís
Domènech i Montaner, was a pioneering initiative created with the goal of
recovering older (ancient) arts and methods, among them ceramics, to be
applied to the new architectural style of Art Nouveau.
The workshop was
created on the heels of the World’s Fair of 1888, the most important
development in late nineteenth-century Barcelona. Once the Exposition closed,
demolition of its temporary pavilions and buildings began. However, some were
preserved, among them the Café-Restaurant of Domènech i Montaner, popularly
known as the Castle of the Three Dragons.
Since the building had not been finished for the Exposition, the City Council
charged Domènech with turning his Cafe into a Museum of History. Domènech
accepted the offer, and to complete his task, he finished the tallest tower –
the Tower of Homage – the decoration, and other necessary modifications.
A decisive development for the future of Catalan Art Nouveau was the
establishment of many artists who would later have an important presence, such
as the sculptor Eusebi Arnau, the glassmaker Antoni Rigalt, or the ceramicist
Pau Pujol i Vila (factory Hijo de Jaime Pujol i
Bausis), and the architects Gallissà and
Josep Puig i Cadafalch.
Revival of traditional methods:
All the artists mentioned had an interest in reworking the methods used by the
old master craftsmen, to recover them, adapt them, and apply them to the Art
Nouveau architecture that was beginning to take flight. The contacts made
between these artists and artisans would prove highly beneficial, allowing
them to share experiences, discuss ideas, and develop models.
Many ceramicists worked on the renovation of the Café, including Pau Pujol i
Vila, Baldomer Santigós, and Josep Ros, the latter of whom helped advance the
ceramic technique of lustre painting to achieve a metallic reflection.
Unfortunately, the Three Dragons workshop ended once the Museum of History was
installed in the Café, proving a short-lived experiment in Art Nouveau
All the knowledge accumulated during the conversion of the Café is today
present throughout Catalunya, in hundreds of buildings by Art Nouveau
architects – Gaudí, Domènech, Puig i Cadafalch, Gallissà, Font i Gumà,
Bassegoda, Jujol – which are in many cases still well-preserved and with a
beauty justifiably inscribed in the history of Catalan art.
The Pujol i
The abundance of information remaining on the Pujol i Bausis
has permitted the reconstruction of the origins and destinations of a majority
of the ceramic production of the era to such an extent that today it is
possible to know which artists and designers collaborated with the factory in
decorating a large number of Art Nouveau buildings in Catalonia.
An attempt has been made here to differentiate between the role of the artists
(architects and design sketchers) and that of the manufacturers, despite the
fact that the lines between the two are often blurred and the technical and
artistic viewpoints often overlap.
base and the decorative technique:
The base to be decorated generally consisted of clay tiles in various sizes
(calcareous clay or ferrous clay). After being fired, a coat of oxides and
colorants is laid over the tile base. A second firing seals in the colors
with glaze. If the clay base had a transparent glaze applied, the tile would
keep its dark brown background. Therefore, a white glaze of tin oxide and
other elements needed to be applied to the clay after the second firing. Over
the resulting white surface, different colors of paint could be applied by
using a trepa (stencilled sketch),
by hand or by hand with an estergit (silhouetted stencil).
The tiles were generally fired in Arab kilns.
estergit, the trepa and other procedures:
The drawings done by artists, architects (Domènech i Montaner, Antoni
Gallissà, Puig i Cadafalch, etc.), or design sketchers (Lluís
Joan B. Alós, Francesc Quer, etc.) were handed over to the factory, which
produced the estergit, a piece of paper with perforations corresponding
to the intended design. The paper served as a stenciled sketch which
the factory workers then sprinkled with carbon powder to trace the drawing.
This procedure was normally used to create unique, one-off tiles and tiles
that would not be repeated frequently.
of transferring drawings to tiles was by using a trepa,
waxed paper with the design to be transferred cut into it like a
This procedure was used to mass produce tiles.
method called the aresta (edge) or conca was also used,
in which the design was cast in a plaster mold with the outlines in relief
(imagine making a stamp template). The raised lines prevented the colors from
mixing, which made painting the tiles easier.
Tiles with repetitive themes could infinitely reiterate a design. They were
used most frequently in doorways, stairways, passageways, and similar places
because of their great beauty and hygienic quality. One common example is
their use in arrambadors (supports). They allowed for multiple
variations on a single drawing, simply changing the color, the intensity, the
One little-known technique totally different from ceramics, but with the same
applications, was the cardboard lithograph. Hermenegild Miralles developed
this technique with some commercial success during the first years of the
Two samples of
repeated tiles with variations