SenyeraCatalan culture has developed its own unique and universal identity over the centuries. The innovative flair, creativity, capacity to absorb different influences, co-existence and tolerance values has shaped a culture that is both national and cosmopolitan. Traditionally, art and thought trends seep into Catalonia as a result of the country’s geographic location, open to the Mediterranean and European countries, and also due to the leading spirit and attraction created by Barcelona.
Catalan arts exemplify this national and universal vocation. Ramon Llull, Ramon Muntaner and Joanot Martorell made valuable contributions to the consolidation of the Catalan language and European medieval literature. Jacint Verdaguer, Víctor Català and Joan Maragall, in different genres, contributed decisively to the cultural Renaissance of the 19th Century. The 20th Century was very prolific in talents that still have an extensive international dissemination: from Salvador Espriu and Josep Pla to Josep Carner, Mercè Rodoreda, Manuel de Pedrolo, Pere Calders, Jesús Moncada, Pere Gimferrer, Baltasar Porcel, Quim Monzó, Miquel de Palol and Miquel Martí i Pol.
Catalonia has always been an intersection of cultures and influences. Before the consolidation of Catalan and the other Latin languages, the Christians in the country wrote in Latin, the Muslims in Arabic and the Jews in Hebrew. The current bilingualism can be noted in the number of remarkable Catalan writers writing in the Castilian language, such as Eduardo Mendoza, Joan Marsé, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Javier Cercas, Enrique Vila-Matas and Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
Similarly, Catalonia set the pace in scenic arts. Àngel Guimerà (born in Santa Cruz de Tenerife) brought international recognition to the Catalan theatre tradition. Other authors to be noted are Josep Maria de Sagarra and Santiago Rusiñol. The National Theatre of Catalonia, inaugurated in 1997, does justice to this tradition of dramaturges, actors and directors, and it adds to the group of symbolic cultural and historical venues such as the Liceu, which is one of the most important opera venues in Europe.
Painting and architecture also form part of the Catalan identity. The architectural modernism of Antoni Gaudí, Josep Puig i Cadafalch and Lluís Domènech i Montaner is currently one of the main tourist attractions, as also are the works of contemporary architects such as Josep Lluís Sert, José Antonio Coderch de Sentmenat, Richard Meiers, Jean Nouvel, Norman Foster, Ricard Miralles/Benedetta Tagliabue, Ricardo Bofill, Rafael Moneo and Santiago Calatrava. The incorporation of the most advanced trends in architecture and design at the hand of recognised architects and young professional adults has made Barcelona the paradigm of modernity and the capital of design.
Portraitist Ramon Casas and modernist Isidre Nonell were precursors of the great Catalan contribution to the International pictorial avant-garde with significant talents such as surrealists Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró, informalist Antoni Tàpies and expressionist Joan Hernández Pijoan. Catalonia, land of welcome, decidedly influenced geniuses such as Pablo Ruiz Picasso, who studied for a time in Barcelona, a city with one of the most primordial museums of the work of this painter from Malaga. The Picasso Museum, together with the Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation in Figueres, is among the most frequented museums all over Catalonia. In addition, Barcelona has the most complete Romanesque art museum in the world, the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC), which has numerous frescos, church and hermit altarpiece and works from the Pyrenees.
Musician Pau Casals, tenor Josep Carreras, soprano Montserrat Caballé, pianist Alícia de Larrocha, scientist Joan Oró, doctors Antoni Puigvert, Josep Trueta, Ignasi Barraquer, Valentí Fuster and Joan Massagué and geniuses from other fields such as clown Charlie Rivel have brought fame to the Catalan culture. The innovative capacity and creativity are still priority features for present day artists, whether in contemporary dance choreographies by Cesc Gelabert, the Fura dels Baus theatre group or scenic arts by Calixto Bieito, originally from Burgos.
The most modern trends coexist in harmony with the most deeply-rooted traditions, some of which, such as the Patum de Berga traditional festival, have been declared intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO. The popular festivals are a good reflection on how the people of Catalonia have preserved their cultural heritage: the traditional national dance called the ‘Sardana’ is always present and activities that seemed incredible such as the ‘castells’ or human towers have been perfected, a tradition of the districts of Tarragona that has spread to other parts of the country.