Sunday, September 9, 2012

More Madrid Museums!

In addition to the CaixaForum, I have so far seen the Prado and the Thyssen-Bornemisza. My friend Linda pointed out that I actually met one of the sons of that family who was touring PureCycle, a company where I worked in Boulder back in the mid 70s.

The Thyssen-Bornemisza is housed in the family's original mansion, now completely revamped in its role as museum, with an additional large building for Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza's personal art collection. One single floor took two and a half hours to see, going at normal museum speed. The earliest works are mostly Italian religious art, but exquisite. I've never seen so many Madonna and child paintings. Most were oil on wood panels so they have survived for hundreds of years. In the Prado, the Madonnas were often nursing the baby Jesus, and in one painting her breast squirted milk across the sky to "create the milky way", and in another the milk dripped down onto the faithful, a group of grown men. Apparently a religious order was created out of a dream the founder had of suckling milk from the Madonna.

The Prado had every Spanish painting I'd ever seen in my Spanish class in highschool, when, as part of the fourth year program, we had to critique art in Spanish. Most of that language, I've long forgotten. But I never forgot the paintings themselves. The famous Las Meninas, which features the Infanta Margarita and the artist Velazquez painting a canvas, is the signature piece of the Prado itself. It is also one of the most analyzed paintings in the world, due to the strange relationships between the posed figures and the odd juxtaposition of the King and Queen in the mirror, as if they are standing exactly where you, the viewer, are standing.

An interesting aside....I was on the metro when a man about my age got on with his four year old granddaughter. She was curious, bright and so chatty. She also looked like the Infanta Margarita in Velazquez' painting. She had a big bow in her hair in the same place as the Infanta's flower. I told her grandfather that I saw the resemblance, and he said, yes, people have said that about her.

In the Prado, there are many rooms devoted to Goya, another of the great Spanish painters, and a couple more with El Greco paintings. I was so surprised to find that El Greco painted with such an impressionistic quality to his work, almost as if he were ahead of his time. Knowing little about such things, I wondered if his style influenced any of the Impressionists or not.

In the Thyssen-Bornemisza there are far more modern paintings by impressionists and more Flemish, German, French, and Dutch painters. Gauguin, Degas, Picasso, Van Dyke and many others were represented. It was overwhelming. I went outside for an hour or so, just to rest and close my eyes before going back to drift through the second floor. They had a special Edward Hopper exhibit in another part of the building, with an additional entry fee. Fortunately for me, it was sold out on Saturday. I may need to go back once more to see that as well.

The museums sell a multi-pass ticket to the three major museums, including the Reina Sophia. That one is on the plan for tomorrow, and since a pass came with the ticket, I will return to the Prado one more time to see what I missed before, and to linger on a few of my favorites.

Outside the Prado, a man played classical guitar, several pieces by Rodrigo, so beautifully, it brought tears. In many ways I've been disappointed that Madrid is not more "Spanish". It seems like a bustling modern city, not unlike New York or Philadelphia. To hear Rodrigo played beside the Prado created the Spain I had been longing for.