I never thought I would be the one writing a blog post about art museums, but here I am thinking about how much I enjoyed my museum experiences in Madrid. Truth be told, I still can get bored and have to fight off urges to touch the art, but as I worked my way through the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Reina Sofia, and the Museo del Prado, I found myself appreciating not only the individual works of art, but also how they so clearly intersect with religion, politics, and history. I wasn’t just pretending in front of my kids, I was really viewing and reflecting with only brief mind wanderings to the upcoming NBA draft, the Yankee’s rotation, or my next meal.
There is something about being in a country, or a whole continent for that matter, with such a long tradition of art, religion, politics, and history that makes it hard to not to immerse yourself in these endeavors. Plus, the fact that these great museums are easy to access for free or affordable prices does not hurt!
We started our museum visits at the Thyssen. Formerly a private collection, the Thyssen provides a great survey of European and North American art from the 13th century to 20th century pop art (http://www.museothyssen.org/en/thyssen/coleccion). Here we were able to move from early Italian art with its dark and somber depictions of the Holy Family on through to the Renaissance, Impressionism, Surrealism, and the wildly colorful work of Roy Lichtenstein.
A few days later, Sue and I took advantage of the free evening hours at the Reina Sofia. Known as one of the top modern art museums in Europe, the Reina Sofia is the place to take in your fill of Spanish artists including Picasso and Dali. The featured piece here is Picasso’s Guernica. Covering much of a large wall, this mural depicts Picasso’s response to the Spanish Civil War. While Guernica is cleary the focal point of the museum, each of its three collections (http://www.museoreinasofia.es/en/collection) calls out the tension between industrial progress, war, and political and civil unrest. Lots of brain power required to make sense of it all.
Lastly, we descended upon the Prado, a seemingly never ending collection of pre-20th century European art. To say we were overwhelmed here is an understatement. Room after room of works by famous artists such as Rubens, de Goya, El Greco, Titian, Caravaggio, and many others began to blur into each other after the first hour. Oddly enough, one of the highlights of this visit was a special exhibit of 10 Picassos on loan from the Kunstmuseum Basel in Switzerland; the only works on display from the 20th century. (https://www.museodelprado.es/en/exhibitions/exhibitions/at-the-museum/diez-picassos-del-kunstmuseum-de-basilea/).
While I had some museum fatigue set in by the time we finished the Prado, I left Madrid a slightly more aware viewer and eager for our next art museum – the Uffizi in Florence – stay tuned!