Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Day at the Museum(s)

My plan for today was to visit two museums in Madrid.  The first, the house of the 16th century dramatist Lope de Vega, was a place that I have never visited before.  I had a bit of trouble finding it among the labyrinthine web of streets in old Madrid.  When I finally found it, I discovered that one must make a reservation ahead of time for a tour.  So, I have a reservation to go back on Saturday at 11:00 A.M.

The second part of my planned itinerary was to go back to the Prado Museum.

Even though I had just been there just a few days ago with my cousin Hans Peter, I wanted to see a special exhibit entitled "El Greco and Modern Painting" which had been highly recommended.  Tickets to enter the exhibit are timed, and I had to wait outside the museum for a half hour.

El Greco was the 16th century painter who was born in Greece but who spent most of his life in Toledo, Spain.  His religious paintings are done in unique, mystical style.  After his death, his work was largely forgotten.  It wasn't until the 19th century that El Greco's paintings were "rediscovered" and began to influence the styles of new generations of artists.  This exhibit gathers together El Greco paintings from the Prado's collection and from other museums worldwide.  Included are such important works as "The Laocoon" and "St. Martin and the Beggar" from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

(image from the web)

(image from the web)

The El Greco paintings are juxtaposed with works by more modern artists such as Manet, Cezanne, Picasso, Diego Rivera and Jackson Pollock in order to demonstrate the influence that El Greco has had on 19th and 20th century art.  It was definitely an interesting exhibit.

After viewing the exhibit, I wandered around the museum a bit more.  In recent years the Prado built a controversial new wing on the site of the ruins of the 16th century monastery of San Jerónimo.  The expansion envelopes the cloister wall, the only part of the monastery that remained intact.
(This is the only area of the Prado Museum where photography is permitted.)

On my last two visits to the Prado, I was playing "tour guide", and I concentrated solely on the Spanish masters.  I decided to take some time in the galleries devoted to German and Flemish art.  The painting which draws the most attention is the 1504 triptych by Hieronymus Bosch known as "The Garden of Earthly Delights".  Its bizarre images rival those of 20th century surrealists such as Salvador Dalí.

(image from the web)

(image from web)

I left the museum and walked down the tree-lined Paseo del Prado, and passed the Neptune Fountain.  I still remember a story one of my Spanish professors in college told us.  In the dark days after the Spanish Civil War when hunger was rampant throughout the country, someone put a sign on the fountain saying, "O dame de comer, o quítame este tenedor."  (Either feed me, or take this fork away.)

Just beyond the Neptune Fountain is the 18th century Palace of Villahermosa which today houses another important art museum... The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

The museum contains the paintings that belonged to the Thyssen-Bornemisza family of Switzerland.  It was one of the largest private art collections in the world.  

In 1992-1993 Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza and his wife Carmen (a former "Miss Spain") sold the family collection to the Spanish State and saw the establishment of the museum in Madrid.  

As great as the Prado Museum is, it is not a comprehensive museum.  The Thyssen-Bornemisza, whose works span the 14th through the 20th centuries, fills in many of the gaps.
I had visited the museum a few years ago, but I had not seen all of it.  I decided that today I would finish viewing the collection. 

Those who read my blog already know that my tastes in art tend to be quite traditional.  With that in mind, here are a few paintings that caught my eye.  (Photography is allowed in the museum.)




 Edward Hopper

In the modern art galleries, there were several water colors by an American artist named Charles Burchfield. This one is titled "Orion in Winter".  I had never heard of Burchfield before, and I was extremely surprised when I saw that he was born in Ashtabula, Ohio.  Ashtabula is about an hour away from where I live!
How ironic to travel all the way to Spain and discover an artist from my home region!



  1. The next time I'm at the CMA I'll look for a painting by him. He's new to me also. Yours are great ravel blogs. Thanks

    1. I did a Google search on Burchfield. He spent much of his life in Buffalo, New York, and the largest number of his works are in Buffalo's museum.

  2. I was curious about Charles Burchfield, so I googled him. He was quite a prolific painter (over 1400 paintings) and was a friend of Edward Hooper.
    Werner certainly knows how to celebrate a milestone birthday! The cooking class looked like so much fun. Hope your cold is better.

    1. Hi Gayle,
      Good to hear from you.
      This Charles Burchfield was one of the very few painters in the modern art gallery that I cared much for.
      Yes, Werner's was the biggest birthday celebration I have ever attended!
      My cold is 90% gone, thank goodness.
      Hasta luego!

  3. Bill,
    it looks like you are having a wonderful time and the weather looks nice too.


    1. Hi Kevin!
      Yes, I'm having a great time, and the weather has been beautiful. This afternoon is cloudy however, and they are predicting rain for tomorrow. We'll see.