Josef Capek (1887-1945) was one of Czech modernism’s most formative protagonists. The artist first studied weaving before finding his métier as both a painter and designer. During a short stint in Paris, he befriended the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who was then the leading theorist of and driving force behind Cubism. Capek adopted the Cubist style, fusing it with moodier elements of Expressionism and Symbolism to create a uniquely Czech take on the style. Alongside his work as a painter, Capek designed several hundred book covers from 1918 until his death in 1945 for Czech publications of early twentieth-century authors such as Apollinaire, Karel Capek, Jan Bartos, Josef Hora, Josef Kopta, Pierre Mac Orlan, Giovanni Papini, Pirandello, Miroslav Rutte and Georg Trakl and nineteenth-century authors such as Flaubert, Goethe, Kropotkin, Sheridan Le Fanu and Arthur Machen. Capek’s designs were much celebrated in Czechoslavakia for their simplicity and their virtuoso use of linocut. Itself a beautiful publication, The Book Design of Josef Capek: Seeing The Book presents a fully-illustrated and complete survey of this rarely seen work.

The catalogue of Gaudí Universe takes us around the spaces and themes of the exhibition, like a detailed guidebook. A text by Juan José Lahuerta, the curator, along with photographs of the works on show, leads us around the exhibition and helps us to understand the trajectory of a man and an artist, from his student years to the period when his artistic and architectural influence was undeniable the world over. The catalogue also offers us an anthology of opinions, articles and texts by Santiago Rusiñol, Viscount Güell (Eusebi Güell), Jules Godefroy, Guillaume Apollinaire, Joaquim Folch i Torres, Joan Maragall, Salvador Dalí, Hermann Finsterlin, Le Corbusier and Juan-Eduardo Cirlot, among many other figures from Gaudí’s times. Like the exhibition, this compilation approaches the art of the inspired architect by analysing his milieu and his times.

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