Photo Credit: Jennie
"Human life is a sad show, undoubtedly: ugly,
heavy and complex. Art has no end, for people of feeling,
than to conjure away the burden and bitterness."
Gustave Flaubert 1821-1880: letter
to Amelie Bosquet, July 1864, from The Oxford Dictionary
of Phrase, Saying, & Quotation,. Elizabeth
Afterglow: Madrid and Barcelona
My goal is to visit every art museum on the planet, and last
year's birthday gift from my husband was an April visit to Spain.
With a few days in Madrid, followed by a few days in Barcelona,
I faced a familiar dilemma: which art museums should I plan to
see? For weeks, I was in a state of suspended anticipation while
reading guidebooks, learning Spanish phrases, watching art videos/DVD's
and making lists.
Report: Madrid was all good.
To an art addict, Madrid means the Museo Nacional del Prado.
Fra Angelica's Annunciation! Bosch's Garden of Earthly
Delights! Dürer's Self Portrait and Adam and
Eve! Titian's Danäe and the Shower of Gold! I
could barely contain my happiness as paintings from art books
came to life and allowed me to examine their true colors and brush
work. I could swear that every person present in Las Meninas
was looking right at me, including Velázquez himself.
As my friend, Rodney Gorme Obien predicted, I was overwhelmed
by entire galleries filled with El Greco, and Velázquez,
and Goya. It makes sense that the foremost 12th-19th century Spanish
artists would be well represented in the largest museum in the
capitol city (www.museodelprado.es).
There is a special power in seeing many artworks by one artist,
which is the point of temporary exhibitions. Ironically, several
paintings from the Prado's permanent collection are currently
on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for El Greco to
Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Philip III - April
20-July 27 (www.mfa.org). You
can bet we will be planning a drive to Boston.
Conservators lifted Goya's series of fourteen Black Paintings
from the walls of his home, transferred them to canvas, and in
1881 the Spanish government placed them in the Prado. The truth
contained in these allegories of the human condition, in which
darkness and violence dominate, will forever haunt me.
Five hours in the Prado, with its galleries full of Goya, were
not enough for me. In a neighborhood one Metro stop from our hotel
is L'Ermitage San Antonio de la Florida, a chapel where Goya is
buried and where he painted the walls and ceiling with frescoes
Surrounding Goya's tomb are saints and angels in their celestial
glory, with panels of Spaniards observing them in awe. Large mirrors
aimed at the ceiling are placed in corners of the chapel to help
stave off neck aches. It was a thoughtful gesture to be sure,
but I ignored them because I did not want anything mediating my
contact with those frescoes.
Another day and another five hours begins to describe our visit
to the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, a former hospital that houses
modern art, with an emphasis on Spanish artists (www.museoreinasofia.es).
The major visiting exhibition occupying four sections on three
floors was Picasso: The Collection of the Museé National
Paris. In a word, it was "huge," in another, "comprehensive."
This exhibit also complimented the Riena Sofia's own Picasso art-magnet,
"Guernica." To prepare yourself for this icon of 20th
century art, I recommend the video "Pablo Picasso's Guernica"
from the Discovery of Art series (www.kulturvideo.com).
The permanent collection is magnificent, with artwork by Julio
Romero de Torres, José Gutiérrez, Juan Gris, Rafeal
Barradas, Francis Picabia, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró,
and as the expression goes, more!
Next month's journal will be about Barcelona. It, too, was all
good. While Madrid is a great lady, she takes herself very seriously.
Barcelona is her wild and crazy sister, the one who will make
you laugh and stays in your memory and imagination.
If you have had art experiences that have left you with an afterglow
and want to share them, please contact me at email@example.com.