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Julio Antonio and Richard Wagner On the bicentenary of the birth of the composer



Richard Wagner (Leipzig, 1813-Venice, 1883) German composer, orchestra conductor, poet and musical theorist.
A creator of the musical drama and renovator of the operatic genre, Wagner almost entirely composed for the stage, yet his influence on music is irrefutable.

The major musical trends that arose after Wagner, from expressionism to impressionism, through continuation or reaction, have their true origin in Wagner, so much so that some critics claim that Tristan und Isolde marks the origin of all modern music.

In 1912, Julio Antonio received a commission from the Sociedad Wagneriana of Madrid to create a monument to Wagner, to be installed in the presidential palace, La Moncloa. The project came into being thanks to the enthusiastic response of the Prince of Ratisbor, the German ambassador to Spain at the time.

We do not know whether Julio Antonio was familiar with the sculpture of Beethoven, produced by Max Klinger in 1902, but the influence seems evident. In order to carry out the commission, Julio Antonio requested a portrait of the musician and to listen to his music.

As soon as the artist came into contact with the works of Wagner, he started to design his initial studies. We are familiar with his small sketches, some of which are very schematic, although there are a couple which coincide with what would become the final project.

Julio Antonio decided that a monument to Wagner would require a monumental scale and that the musician would have to appear alone, nude, seated on a rock, and wearing only a drape that covered his lower legs. 

The final sketch is 94 cm high; the artist, to create the effect of a monumental work, began work on a clay model in its final measurements, eight metres tall, which he began in his own workshop and later transferred to the Codina Hnos. Forge, where the final work would be cast.

The First World War ended the project. The French-speaking members of the Sociedad Wagneriana decided to withdraw their support; the lack of resources delayed the project and the clay model deteriorated over time and was eventually destroyed. Only the head remained, which the Museum of Modern Art of the Diputació of Tarragona had cast in order to preserve it.
Today, this sculpture is displayed in the permanent exhibition halls of the Museum dedicated to the work of Julio Antonio, accompanied by some of his initial drawings.