Reina Sofia and Prado

August 22, 2015 - Madrid, Spain

Margaret had organised to get online tickets for the Reina Sofia and the Prado which combined both museums and allowed us to also see the touring exhibition of works by Picasso, Kandinsky, Miro among others from the Kunstmuseum Basel so we set off to walk down past the Prado to the Reina Sofia and visit that gallery first. My unerring sense of direction turned left instead of right and led us up the Garden Path, quite literally. Well done, Max! In either direction the roads, the Paseo de Prado (that we should have followed) or the Paseo del Recoletos, have a central parkland separating the traffic. So we enjoyed our serendipitous walk in the park, blissfully unaware of our directional embarrassment until we had passed the Plaza de Colon and realized we should go back more than a kilometre. At least the park was well shaded and an interesting place to walk. After returning to Plaza de Cibeles we strolled in the parks along the Paseo de Prado and continued on past the Prado Museum itself and finally found ourselves outside the Reina Sofia.

We proudly walked up the ticket-holders line even though there was hardly a soul in the other and our online tickets were replaced by new entry tickets for both galleries and the on-loan collection which is split between the galleries. The process itself seemed to involve so much fussing around that several other groups had walked up and purchased tickets at the other counter before we were finally free to enter.

We thought there would be larger groups going to see the Modernists and Surrealists in the Sabatini building so we found our way to those first. I am not greatly impressed by the Modern Style and I found there were many of these that did little to 'improve' my feeling. As is almost always the case, the great names stood apart from the rest just by use of vibrant colour and pleasing balance. In many works from the others I found little coherence or impact and felt many were imitative. After a less than enthusiastic wander through some sculptural installations I retired to the courtyard of the building and sat quietly in the shade listening to the gurgle and splash of the fountain while Margaret spent her time in a more exhaustive perusal of the work. Of course when we discussed the exhibition later she remembered more of the art than I did. When we were finally re-united we then headed upstairs to find the section of the building where Picasso's 'Guernica' is on display. On the way we stopped to look in some of the rooms with other surrealist works including Man Ray, Ernst, Miro and Dali and others by Picasso. I was particularly impressed with a set of anti-Fascist, anti-Hitler drawings from 1936 to 1939 by Quintanella which should have given the dire warnings of what was happening in Spain and what was to come in Nazi Germany. Like the rest of the modest crowd we gravitated toward the centrepiece of this section and stood in awe of 'Guernica'. There is nothing that I can add to what is written elsewhere about this huge monochrome work.

It was thirsty work drinking in all the art so we stopped in a little street cafe for mojitas. With more culture to absorb we settled for the non-alcoholic version this time but they were very refreshing on such a hot day and we set off physically quenched and hoping to absorb more culture, this time at the Prado. On the way we peeked through the gates of the Botanical Gardens but with this entry locked we were satisfied with just a glimpse of the shady paths and lawns.

At the Prado there were crowds of people and several buses (of the tourist coach variety and of the Hop-on/Hop-off type) but when we finally found the entry (around the back) there was no queueing whether a ticket-holder or not. We knew we were looking for the rest of the Picasso works that were in the Kunstmuseum loan exhibition and we especially wanted to see Velazquez' 'Las Meninas'. We were extremely lucky to find that the Loan Exhibition was hung in the same area of the Gallery as Velazquez' work. We had to make enquiries to find our way to that section, even with the map in hand but were rewarded with some impressive artwork including some by Rubens. These rooms though were mostly Velazquez work and like the Rubens commission for the Medici family in the Louvre, the sheer scale of the paintings and the volume of work accomplished is awe inspiring without thinking about the technical aspects at all. The paintings by Picasso were spread through these rooms on special stands in the middlle of the archways. We also found ourselves confronted by a Matteo Bonuccelli bronze of 'Hermaphrodite' that had us thinking back to his marble 'Hermaphrodite' that we saw in the Louvre a couple of years ago. On that occasion one of our small group on a night tour had to touch to assure herself that the mattress was marble as it looked so soft and plump. This bronze was from another marble copy Bonuccelli did and this time with a leather palliase mattress which is even more convincing. Obviously I am a philistine and prefer realism in art and here the juxtaposition of Picasso against Rubens and Velazquez just made it more obvious.

'Las Maninas' has pride of place in a large oval shaped room and we stood back a little to take in the full impact before moving forward for a closer view. Standing here we could see the light and shade, the attention of the people depicted and more detail in the background. As the viewer you feel that you are the centre of attention of almost everyone in the painting and, correctly I think, understand that you are standing in the position of King Phillip and Queen Mariana who are being painted. This impression becomes more forceful when viewing the original.

By that time we were ready to head back toward the hotel and thoughts of food began to intrude. It had been a long time since breakfast so we first had a look at the cafe within the Prado itself but found nothing that one could think of as sustaining. Outside the day was still very hot and even walking in the shade was energy sapping and we looked hopefully at the cafes and restaurants as we passed but nothing appealed. By the time we approached our hotel we thought it would be best to continue on to the Tabern d'Norte for tapas and drinks. Finding our way there proved to be easy and we were soon sitting with a sangria for Margaret and a beer for me and nibbling on a little dish of nuts and other nibbles while we waited for our tapas, the favoured Patatas Bravos and also some roasted vegetable pisto of eggplant, peppers, tomato, onion and sweet potato which arrived complete with two fried eggs on top. Just those two courses and our drinks were enough to call a meal and we left it at that.



Serendipitous walks in the park
More parks
Outside the Reina Sofia
Refreshments between gallery visits
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