MADRID, Prado, Reina Sofia Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Contemporary and Old Art Reviews

MADRID, Prado, Reina Sofia Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Postby jasperjoffe » Wed May 22, 2013 12:10 pm

It surpises me the number of art lovers who haven't been here. For pure joy of seeing painting it is the greatest city in the world. Within 10 minutes walk you can see 100 Velazquezs and Goyas, Guernica, and overwhelming masterpieces of El Greco, Bosch, Titian, etc and some very good moderns. For fuel a cafe con leche and a piece of tortilla will set you back less than a Macdonalds.

Imagine the National Gallery multilplied by ten or twenty, and next door, a far superior Tate Modern. Ok enough of the hyperbole. All this great art asks questions of the artist. What is this joyful, agitating experience of looking at 16th Century king or queen on a horse How come Velazquez painted so many, many masterpieces, how was he so consistently brilliant? What was Velazquez like as a person? Is Guernica a good painting because it shows suffering in some unique way, or just because Picasso was a genius? Why are the rooms of Goya's paintings for tapestries, scenes of brightly coloured everyday life so quiet? How did Madrid get so lucky with art?

Well I don't have many firm answers, but certainly Madrid might be a good place to begin the inquiry. At the Reina Sofia an excellent Latin American Modernism show CONCRETE INVENTION (with an excellent catalogue) Of course some stupid richo has attached their name to it, as thought patronage can really allow you to touch the hem of the artists robes! The beautiful spare paintings, with their very simple and pure visual effects are a palette cleanser to all the oily paint. If a couple of squares can create the buzz, why go to all the hassle of painting all those patterns and realistic faces?

To Guernica: rather crammed into one of those overlycontextualised spaces, hemmed in by the madding crowd, survives. I thought of Picasso, supremely talented, arrogant, unable to empathise with mere bored/boring humans, how could he really paint tragedy from the perspective of a life of triumph. I thought it didnt matter the painting was still something that can be returned to over and over again, it's jittery lines and grays and patterns, not too far from Velazquez. Why didn't Picasso paint more really big paintings?

And the big question do we need more of this, this art that holds narrative, ideas (of the political or social sort), and viewpoint so badly? Is it worthwhile to make some more of them? In bold face, with the cliche of the martini at sunset, or the nightlife to 5am, perhaps the lust for immortality is most imaginable as painting mute and centuries long. The diecast toy plane which allows us like Icarus to look down on the clouds with sweating palms, can take us to a place where you might forget the grind of menus and false choices, and sore feet, and growing old.
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Re: MADRID, Prado, Reina Sofia Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Postby CAP » Sat Jun 15, 2013 12:42 pm

Why didn't Picasso paint more really big paintings?

Guernica was not his largest or last effort at The Big Theme. In the late 40s I think Pabs bought an ancient deconsecrated chapel in Vallauris, just outside Nice, (in The French Revolution it had been used as an oil press, it's probably at least Medievel in origin). I think it's part of the castle estate where he lived, actually. Anyway he covered the brick walls of the ex-chapel with enormous murals (in oils) on the theme of War and Peace (1952-4) and renamed it The Temple of Peace. Bit of a hippy. These are just under 5 meters high, just over 10 metres long, dwarfing Guernica. Pabs was comfortable with the grand concept. I expect it's still there.

But of course by the 50s he had well and truly moved on from the overlapping/intersecting planes of Guernica, and was going more for silhouettes, funkier angularity and bright colour. The mythic subject matter is a bit more classical, a bit pedestrian frankly, which is probably why the chapel has never attracted the sort of attention that Guernica gathered, but also timing is everything. At best the chapel nods to The Korean War. Guernica responded promptly to a modern war atrocity, albeit on a metaphorical level (beasties with women caught inelegant) and the violence was supposedly more formal than content-driven. As a kid I wanted the Stukas and strafing and felt thwarted. As an adult I realise they wouldn't have told the whole story anyway. The real violence is what goes on in your head.

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