Born to a wealthy family in Barcelona in 1866, Casas dropped out of school in 1877 to study art under Joan Vicens. He became a well-known portraitist amongst the intellectual and political elite as well as one of the most prominent graphic designers of the time, pioneering the Catalan art movement known as modernisme. Casas founded Els Quatre Gats along with Romeu in 1897 as a meeting place for the emerging modernista art world. The bar hosted tertulias—social gatherings of artists and writers—as well as rotating art exhibits, including one of the first solo shows by Pablo Picasso. Casas’ work at Els Quatre Gats launched a flourishing commercial design career. He adopted the art nouveau style that would come to define modernisme and his work adorned everything from cafe signs to cava bottles, cigarette papers to champagne ads. Simultaneously, Casas’ painting career continued to blossom, with the Spanish committee choosing two of his full length oil portraits to exhibit at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. Talk about a real Renaissance man.
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