Madrid museums #4: Prado and Reina Sofia

13 05 2010

If I wrote a separate post on each museum, I’d be here for days and readers would quickly tire of such writing! So this post will include two of the ‘power museums’ of Madrid.

#4a Museo Nacional del Prado

As you can tell, being in the fourth post in this series, I wasn’t as fond of this visit as other museums I’ve visited in Madrid. It was the second museum I visited, and was incredibly (as expected) busy with school groups, Spanish tourists and other foreigners like me. That said though, it was fabulous!

Museo Prado

Simply put, this place is huge. It mostly focuses on painting, with some sculpture and only one little room of decorative art ‘treasures’. I found most of it overwhelming actually, mostly due to the game of avoiding the tour groups when they would crowd into a room in front of individual pieces of art, ignoring the others in the room – strange way to experience art in my opinion.

I enjoyed the visit though, especially looking for jewellery as represented over time in art – the visit reinforced my love for the 16th century, particularly German, paintings.

A favourite of the day was ‘Saint Catherine‘ by Fernando Yanez de la Almedia (1510) – the necklace was mesmerising, though I didn’t think saints were meant to be so decorated in earthly jewels! I made a sketch, but without a scanner, I have found an image which I’ll include below.

click on image for original source

One thing that made me chuckle was that there were an awful lot of paintings that seemed to call out ‘look how super fantastic I am at painting drapery’ … some mythological and religious scenes seemed only vehicles for displaying fabric painting! Gorgeous though, but lots of it.

Another interesting aspect were the handful of artists set up with their canvas and paints making copies of art in the museum – this is something I hadn’t seen at other museums and I couldn’t help worrying that their easels were at risk of crazed tourists.

A visit to the Prado when in Madrid is a must-do, and everyone will have their individual focus and highlights.

Museo Nacional del Prado is at 23 Calle Ruiz de Alarcón, Madrid, Spain.


#4b Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

Being the only major museum open on a Monday in Madrid, this place can get pretty busy (my tip would be to get there at or before 10am, to get the shortest queue). This was the first place I visited, as I arrived on the Sunday (after over thirty hours of travel from Melbourne via London) but didn’t do much that afternoon/evening but sleep.

While I started at the top of the half-empty building, most people raced off elsewhere. Here I discovered the magnificent black and white photography of 50s and 60s Spain by Francesc Catala-Roca. Wonderful, and a great display. They reminded me somewhat of an exhibition I saw in Ballarat last year.

group of photographs by Catala-Roca

Photography without flash is permitted in all rooms but the one with Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ (though despite all the signs there are still stupid people who either don’t read the signs or think they’re special enough that they don’t apply to them – they’re in every city!).

I must admit that when I originally entered the museum I had forgotten, I blame jet-lag, that it held this superb artwork. It is quite an experience to see it in person after almost a kind of saturation over time from looking at it in books and recently in a television documentary. I knew it was large, but the scale genuinely surprised me, and when I entered the room it took my breath away. The emotions it elicited were also a surprise.

The rooms around this were full of art expressing experience of the war that pushed Picasso to create this work, both preparatory sketches of his, but also photographs and artworks by other artists. It was a bit too much for me actually, there’s only so much war I can manage at once (and it makes me very grateful to never have witnessed such horror).

This museum is famous for the concentration on Spanish artists, and it does deliver on that. It’s just that while I do love a bit of Dali and of course Picasso, and a bit of Miro, I’m more partial to other artwork…

Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is at 52 Santa Isabel, Madrid, Spain.



One response

13 05 2010

Ohhh…those photographs are stunning! I love Catala-Roca’s style…

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