Humans have been making art since prehistoric times. Sometimes I imagine how those marks were made, some over 700,000 years ago, and marvel at the tenacity of archaeologists who dig up this evidence for us. Perhaps, back then, people had a lot of time on their hands and experienced joy in the creative process. It is a matter of opinion whether life was simple then or simpler now. I wonder if artist’s had patrons then.
History teaches us that great art was made because of the patronage of people of influence, resources and status in society. The process of creating art, regardless of whether it is a painting, a piece of music, a sculpture or a monumental building takes time, tenacity, intelligence and the undying belief the artist has in his or her own abilities. Many a time, the artist’s genius may only be recognized by a man as crazy as the artist himself.
Now that I have crossed over from the left- to the right-sided activities of my brain, I am more aware of the importance of these sometimes unsung patrons because of whom we are able to witness the genius of the greats in music, art and architecture.
On our recent trip to Spain, we had the privilege of visiting some architectural wonders. I had never seen anything like the works of Antoni Gaudi a Catalan, a devout catholic and genius from Spain. Instantly, I was in love, in awe and wonderstruck all at once as we visited one site after another. I wanted to travel back in time and get into this brilliant mind to learn how he thought and where his ideas came from. He was known to be gruff, did not conform to the norms of society and had a mind of his own. As I read and learn about artists, I find that many of them were criticized and ridiculed for their thought process and creations. As the story goes, when the owner of Casa Mila was shown the building upon completion, she hated it, was very upset and cried even, yet continued to live in the building. It is said that when Gaudi was commissioned to build anything, it was understood that he would build it his way or the highway. The building that was a site of ridicule and a butt of jokes then, today stands as a world heritage site.
At the sight of the Sagrada Familia – Antoni Gaudi’s magnum opus – suffice it to say I was brought to tears by the sheer grandeur and beauty of the building and its design. The construction of this magnificent church started in 1882 and is planned to be completed in 2026, the 100th death anniversary of the architect of this exquisite temple. We made a promise to visit it again.
The point of this story is that Gaudi could not have created his masterpieces without the support and patronage of his patrons. Eusebi Guell deserves special recognition, for he essentially gave Gaudi a blank check to fuel his creativity. If it were not for him, we would not have The Sagrada Familia or the Park Guell.
It is therefore the responsibility of society to support the artists who create the art. It should not be restricted to the elite in New York, London or Paris, but should percolate everywhere, in little towns and big villages. You never know from whence another Gaudi or a Giotto might grace our presence.