Archive for June, 2014

I recently returned from two beautiful weeks exploring several focused areas of Spain, specifically Madrid, Ibiza, Costa Brava and Barcelona. First stop, Madrid and the art collections. An array of bucket list items were checked off in four short days there, along with experiencing an energy and rhythm that only a city with such history and flavor could exude.

To start, the Museo del Prado, Spain national art collection…and its most acclaimed work, Las Meninas by Diego Velasquez. The building and its location along the tree lined boulevard nestled among several key historic museums and government buildings reminded me of walking to the National Gallery and the Smithsonian layout along The Mall in Washington, DC. Inside, the main central galleries reminded me of the Louvre. It was more open, not as overwhelming as the Louvre, but one could spend days exploring and finding so many treats and historic feasts. https://www.museodelprado.es/en/

2014 Spain 016With limited time, (jet lag got the better of us that morning and I woke just  as the native Madrianos were taking siesta), I knew I would focus on some key works. The first, Las Meninas. As one friend referred to it, the Mona Lisa of the Prado, this painting commands attention. It is large, you have to be patient to wrestle the tour groups and constant crowd to get close. The placard is way too small given the gravity of the work. The small side gallery in which it resides is filled with other important Velasquez portraits, well worth the time to absorb and enjoy. The immediate trait that connected them all for me was the impeccable rendering of chiaroscuro and lush illusion of fabric, skin, hair and metal. One forgets that it is simply paint on a two dimensional surface.

As for Las Meninas in particular, we know that it is a portrait within a portrait within a portrait. There are many layers to be peeled back, like an onion, to get to the basic root of the painting. For me, it’s about identity, and the relationship one has to have with “the other” to define that identity. Seeing Velasquez himself in the painting, one questions his role as artist, historian, self-promoter, voyeur. It’s a portrait of Spain, of royalty, of family, of class hierarchy…notice the name it refers to the nurse maids who are the least accented figures in the painting, nestled in the shadows behind the foreground focus on the young Princess Margaret. They take a backseat to everyone else, which may be another commentary on identity. I particularly love the rendering of the hound. And it certainly is a painting about painting, a reflection of ourselves played out in a well-designed, dramatic space of values, composition, perspective and light. images

After Velasquez, I wanted to see the Goyas. The gallery with his Black Paintings, those done in his later life, is quite powerful. These paintings are intense, raw and portray the dark side of humanity. There’s Saturn Devouring his Son, and my favorite, The Dog. These are much small than the Velasquez works, not as refined, but oh, so memorable.

Goya - The Dog2

As we made our way back toward our home base of Puerta del Sol, one of the central public squares, we enjoyed working our way through a neighborhood of side streets set up with an outdoor market of home goods. There was a variety of artist installations on the buildings, antique vendors selling vintage chairs, pillows, families heading to the cafes, sounds of musicians from around the corner and smells of tapas being served. We stopped at several of the bars for sangria and what would become our favorite drink, Tinto de Verano, a summer wine spritzer of red wine and lemon soda (Fanta) with fresh lemon slices.

It was only day one of the trip and I had fallen head over heals.

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