Sunday, July 15, 2012

Madrid, Day 2: Two museums and a park

Madrid is home to three world-class museums:  the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza.  The Reina Sofia is primarily modern art and located only about a block from our hotel.  We went last night after our walking tour -- didn't have time to see the whole collection (we had that Michelin reservation, after all) but we did manage to see Picasso's Guernica.  It's a massive, disturbing painting about a massive, disturbing subject; namely, the annihilation of an entire village by German and Italian forces with Franco's blessing.

We devoted today to the other two museums, starting with the Prado.

Museo Nacional del Prado

Though not as big as the Louvre, Met Museum or Hermitage, the Prado still holds its own as one of the best art museums in the world.  So many major masterpieces by major artists!  My favorites were the paintings by Albrecht Durer, Hieronymous Bosch, Bruegel the Elder, and Rubens.  We also spent a lot of time in the Goya, Velasquez and Titian galleries.   Of course, photography was prohibited, so no pictures here.  You can check out the link above to see the collection on the official website. 

This chapel overlooks the walkway toward the main museum entrance.
Parque del Buen Retiro

Stretching out behind the Prado is a public (formerly royal) park.  It's large and criss-crossed by carefully manicured paths and shady lanes.  I would have loved to explore it more, but we had an agenda (and the sun was intense).  On our way out we passed the Grove of Memories, which was planted in honor of the victims of the March 11, 2010 terrorist bombing in the Madrid train station (which is two blocks from our hotel).

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

The Thyssen-Bornemiszas are a fabulously wealthy aristocratic couple (well, he's a baron; she's a former Miss Spain).  Together they compiled an unbelievable private art collection, which they then turned over to the public.  It's much smaller than either the Prado or the Reina Sofia, and it doesn't have quite as many of the heavy hitters (Rick Steves describes it in his guidebook as having mostly "minor works of major artists and major works of minor artists", which isn't surprising given that the T-Bs didn't start collecting until after most of the big stuff was already in other museums) but the range of periods covered and the thoughtful presentation of the artwork more than makes up for any potential lack.  You start from the top of the building with late medieval religious art and work your way downstairs, passing through all of the periods of art history between then and now.  It's amazing to see the sequence and evolution of the art from one era to another -- it's like doing Art History 101 in two hours and four flights of stairs.

By the end of the day we were museumed out.  Standing all day is taxing enough; add to that sumultaneously trying to be intellectually engaged with the art.  More than once I wished that they'd thought to provide little nap rooms with cots where weary museum-goers could retire for a quick refresher.

What else we saw

We didn't limit ourselves to the museums.  Between the two and afterwards, we strolled through new city streets and captured a few new shots.

Ministry of Agriculture

Street text in front of the house where Cervantes lived and died

Calle de Alcala

Calle de Alcala (other direction)

City Hall
Coolest (and biggest) vertical garden ever

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So interesting and beautiful. Lady