Europe in January 2017 – The Fourth Day

Having ‘done’ a few churches in the last couple of days – some good, some not quite so much – today was the day for the intrepid travellers to take in some more refined culture, and it was culture with a capital C.

Our first stop was to the Museo Nacional de la Prado, the famous national art museum that houses some of the great Spanish Masters, along with other wonderful works of art some of which I have ‘studied’ in the past (yes, there was a time in the dim dark past when I was involved in Art).

The facade of the Museo Nacional de la Prado

The several hours spent wandering through the various salas, organised in both period and style of the artists contained therein, was enjoyable, informative, and, I hasten to add, formative in the best sense of that word. Seeing the original works of art that may have been seen in books or presentations is a radically different experience when they are viewed in person, face to face (so to speak) with the work itself.

Coming from a country that has a history of white settlement that stretches back just over two hundred years, walking through a museum such as the Prado reminds me that Australia, in that context, is a relatively young entry on to the world stage. To see works of art that date back to before the arrival of white settlement to the continent that is Australia is jarring; and a reminder that history goes back a long way.

Of interest to myself in some parts of the Prado was the means to learn some of the history of Spain through the art on display. As I said, not enjoyable, but also informative and formative.

After lunch in the Prado, we sought out another Museo Nacional close by: the Museo Reina Sofia, which houses modern art. Although not a huge fan of modern art, I certainly didn’t want to be in Spain and miss the opportunity to see works by Piccasso and Dali, and their contemporaries.

The facade of the Museo Reina Sofia

There were plenty of the more honoured pieces of modern art to be seen in the Museo, along with some pieces that I doubt I will ever come to grips with (though, I would hasten to add that the nature of modern art allows for that very possibility anyway!). The one difficulty at the Museo Reina Sofia as compared to the Prado was the way in which the works were organised.

Rather than being by period, artist or style, the works are presented according to themes, so that works by Picasso and Dali – the ones I really wanted to see! – were distributed amongst works by other artists depending upon the theme chosen by those responsible for curating the current display. Such a decision is an entirely valid and would have made more sense to me if I were more attuned to modern art. That I’m not meant it was a mild source of distraction in an otherwise enjoyable meander through some interesting and some not so interesting pieces of modern art.

Having had our fill of culture for the day, we returned to our tiny apartment, for a light meal and then to sleep, ready for our last full day in Madrid tomorrow.

But that, gentle reader, will have to wait until the next exciting instalment.

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Article by Andrew Doohan

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