Monday, 15 April 2013

Spain's capital city - Madrid

Palace and cathedral in the last image
It is impossible to do justice to Madrid with only two days in the city. Should we concentrate on the architecture or see the art?  In the end we had an overview of the city via a bus, and spent our time catching as much art as we could within the time available. Madrid is a beautiful city with wide tree lined boulevards, beautiful sculptural fountains, parks, a royal palace, Neo-Gothic cathedral, three internationally famous art galleries, and adjacent to the Prado an oasis of calm in the beautiful botanical gardens.
The Prado
Botanical Gardens
We saw most of the great masterpieces in the Prado - from Rubens to Goya, Velázquez  to Caravaggio, Dürer to Bosch, Mantegna to Fra Angelico, but in the end the image I have selected is Picasso's Guernica which we saw in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. A 20th century icon of the Spanish Civil war, of worldwide anit-war sentiment and of the fight for freedom. Guernica is one of the most emblematic images of the contemporary world.
via
The ruins of Guernica
When seeing this painting for the first time many people are surprised at how immense it is, measuring 11 feet high and 25 feet long.
On the 26th April 1937 the population of Guernica were going about their business. It was market day when they suddenly became the target for the world's first saturation bombing raid carried out by Nazi aircraft at the request of General Franco. This is Picasso's powerful painting of outrage at the deaths inflicted on the innocent men, women and children on that black day. Interpretations of the painting vary widely and contradict one another.
Picasso said that the wounded and dying horse represents the people of Guernica, the face on the right holding a lamp represents witnesses to the massacre staring in horror and disbelief, a lamp held aloft being a symbol of hope. The figure on the right with arms held up in terror looks as if he is being swallowed up by the fires of hell rather like the medieval wall paintings showing the Last Judgement. On the left side a mother who was breast feeding her child cries out in anguish as her child lies dead in her arms. The small daisy flower in the centre of the painting at the bottom is a symbol of innocence in the midst of despair. A light bulb shaped liked the evil eye blazes in the upper centre. Picasso said the bull represented brutality and darkness. When I look at the painting I feel that it symbolises the aggressor, who though a witness, totally dissociates himself from the act.
Picasso refused to allow his painting to be displayed in Spain until after the end of the Franco regime.  Initially it was in the Prado but behind a bullet proof glass screen. Now it is unprotected and has a whole room to itself in the Reina Sofia along with many photographs made by Dora Maar who documented the progress of the painting. Dora Maar was one of Picasso's many lovers. A number of groups in Spain, particularly Basque Nationalists, object strongly to the painting being permanently exhibited in Madrid. Since the opening in 1997 of the Guggenheim Bilbao Museo, they have been calling for its transfer there.

52 comments:

  1. I have been looking forward to this post, wondering which images you would choose to show. I think you chose very well. I love the plants and flowers...perhaps something that doesn't immediately spring to mind when thinking of Madrid. I first saw Guernica when it was housed in New York, bfeore it was transferred back to Spain, and was , as you say, shocked by the size. I also had imagined it in colour...despite having seen pictures of it in books. It is so powerful. I wonder where it will end up. Jx

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    1. Thanks Janice - it is difficult selecting a few images from such a lovely city.
      I read somewhere that Picasso had wanted it returned to Guernica, but I do not know categorically whether that is correct or not.
      I am pleased that I have finally seen it having attended several lectures on the painting.

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  2. Madrid is a "lady" city if it is possible to say that! I have been three times there and I keep great memories.I loved the squares,the flower arrangements along the avenues the tapas and good quality sangria!Yes, I know and I saw those great paintings, I remember that Guernica occupied a hole room in the museum and it is visible from distance.You transfered me in a city I love Rosemary, thank you!

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    1. Dear Olympia - what a lovely description - Madrid is a 'lady' city, and I totally agree with you. All the lovely water fountains, fine sculpture, architecture, flowers and wonderful trees.
      Glad that you enjoyed the little reminder of your visits there.

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  3. I sat mesmorized for well over an hour looking at 'el Guernica'. Knowing the history of Franco and the war. It was inconceivable what a man could do to his own country. Salazar and Mussolini ..all terrible men.
    For me still today, when i see el Guernica, I get an unsettled feeling of anxiety and a dispare . For even today 'el Guernica' to me represents the evil and turmoil that happens during wars.
    Its imprinted in my memory.. Picasso was for me one of the greatest. I never tire of his works or reading about his life and his loves.
    Brilliant Rosemary.
    I love Madrid. A very great city.
    The flowers in the el prado look so beautiful.
    Happy tuesday to you. val

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    1. Dear Val - I have been to several lectures on Guernica but this was the first time that I have actually seen it. It has a huge impact on all who visit the painting.
      I conveys the message of mans inhumanity to man which sadly is a lesson that is never learnt.
      Thanks for your interesting comment Val.

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  4. Great flower pictures! Madrid looks like an awesome city to visit. I should travel there some day..

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    1. It is a beautiful city, and you would enjoy it I am sure. Hope you have the opportunity to travel there sometime.

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  5. Hello Rosemary, Amazing how art is politicized--it just shows how strong its message and symbolism can be.

    I was scrolling down slowly, and with unfocused eyes was taken in for a few moments by that tree sculpture. That is something I would really like from my own garden, with its sinuous branches and star-shape "leaves".
    --Road to Parnassus

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    1. Dear Jim - the tree sculpture is something that I would like too. There was much more to it than is conveyed in my photo. Many of the branches and leaves were cleverly articulated so that as the wind gently blew the branches and leaves moved too - it was quite mesmerising.

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  6. Dear Rosemary, I have seen it written that if one could visit only one Museum it should be the Prado. And so we have. It was not a disappointment. What wealth of the finest and the best the Prado contains!
    Your photographs have shown us the dark and the light side of the human presence. A very thought provoking post. No wonder we look forward to your messages.
    ox, Gina

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    1. Sadly Gina, the messages do not get through to us, and we continue to have conflicts and troubles around the world.
      We found the Prado easy to navigate once we had picked up our floor plan, they also had helpful pictures on the back of the plan showing the must see masterpieces.
      We could really have done with longer in the city, but felt we made the most of our time there.

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  7. Thank you for sharing so many of your beautiful travels through Spain - and this visit to Madrid reminds me to put her on my wish list when back in Europe - looks so lovely and sounds very interesting.
    I knew very little of the details of Picasso's Guernica, you have enlightened me, thank you.

    The sadness of war is far from my mind as I enjoy your gorgeous pics from the Botancial Gardens - just awesome Spring flowers - I could sit there for hours.................so must plan a long visit when I do go!!!!!

    Happy week Rosemary, wherever you are now.
    Mary



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    1. Dear Mary - I am home here in the Cotswolds.
      I hope that you will visit Madrid, and may be you could include Barcelona as well.
      Thank you for your kind comments and glad you have enjoyed the travels through this small area of Spain.
      Our flowers are catching up rapidly with those in the Botanical Gardens, it really feels as if spring is finally here - hope I haven't spoken too soon.

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  8. A beautiful city, full of green and art ! On my wish list :)

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    1. The Prado is definitely the place to go to see the old Spanish masterpieces - do hope that you will visit sometime.

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  9. what a cheerful+lovely presentation! I was impressed by the city myself when I went to visit a friend from Madrid; we visited the Botanical garden too:-)) happy sunny new week!

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    1. The city has so much to offer, so glad that you have visited it and enjoyed it too. The sun is shinning and it does finally feel as if spring has come.

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  10. Hi Rosemary, gosh Madrid is such a beautiful and exciting city! You really are wetting my appetite for traveling! But since I can't right now I am happy to virtually travel through your blog :-). Thanks for this and all the previous posts about Spain. I am enjoying them tremendously!
    Christina

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    1. Thank you Christina, delighted to learn that you have enjoyed the posts from Spain.
      Sometimes that is rather a nice way to travel - virtually through another blog.
      When we got home from this trip we thought it was good to get home for a rest!!!

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  11. Thanks, Rosemary, for the best interpretation of Guernica that I've read yet. It must have been a very moving experience to come face-to-face with such an iconic piece.

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    1. Thank you Mark - obviously nobody can be sure what was in Picasso's mind; this is just my personal feelings from what I saw when viewing the painting. It is a painting I have hoped to see for a long time, and one which brings home the horrors of war.

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  12. I always welcome your knowledge of art. I am glad you got to see this import work that illustrates the horrors the Nazis invoked on Guernica.

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    1. Dear Olive - I have been wanting to see it for many years, it is so familiar to me and yet only from books and lecture slides. It is such a monumental work, and a constant reminder of the horrors of that day.

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  13. A very interesting post. I had not heard about the massacre at Guernica or if I was taught this at school, it was a day I wasn't listening. How can so many cruel violent people gain so much power and use it to such devastation.
    June

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    1. Sadly when some people gain power they do not use it for the good - we have a perfect example at the moment with the troubles in North Korea and the fears that Kim Jong Un is creating around the world.

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  14. A wonderful interesting post Rosemary. Madrid looks every bit as wonderful as I can imagine, and I do long to visit there. To see Guernica must have been quite a thrilling experience: such a powerful amazing painting, Picasso at his peak! I find I tremble when I come face to face with famous paintings I have learned and known, written about but never seen! Maybe at the Prado you were looking at some of their great paintings which visited me here in our 2012 exhibition - I like that idea :) Your flowers pictures are, as ever, just gorgeous!

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    1. I am sure that we must have stood in front of some of the same paintings - yes, when you know a painting from books, lectures, or writing about it, and then you meet, it is like finding an old friend.
      At first I thought it was going to be impossible to understand the Prado layout, but a plan was to hand, which proved to be very helpful.
      The Botanical Gardens next to the Prado was a quiet oasis of calm to sit in the sun and reflect.

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  15. I would love to visit Madrid once, but most of all the Prado which I've had on my list(a loooooooong list;-)) for some time already, and see all the masterpieces there. I had no idea 'Guernica' was such a huge painting. Must be very overwhelming.
    Marian

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    1. Dear Marian - I do not think that most people realise that Guernica is such a very large painting. I used to think that it was just a regular size until I attended a lecture where the lecturer used a screen the same size as the painting to portray just how big it was.

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  16. I always enjoy visiting Madrid. Definitely a walking city, lots of shopping on the Gran Via and the museums are one of the best in Europe. The Guernica is at home there in the Reina Sofia as it belongs to all of Spain. Not just for one region. Since Madrid is in the centre of Spain, then it is the perfect place. The flowers and plants in the Botanical gardens are wonderful. Also a perfect place for a stroll.

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    1. Glad that you enjoy visiting Madrid too - no time for us to go shopping, we just did the art galleries and walked to some of the sites. We stayed very near to the wonderful railway station building so the art galleries were very convenient for us.

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  17. Looks a wonderful city as does the art. You are correct, can't see a lot in two days, but enough to wet the appetite for a return visit.

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    1. It just gave us an opportunity of an overview, but we did get to see a lot of the great masterpiece Spanish paintings which we really wanted to do.

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  18. Have I really been away that long Rosemary. My goodness you have been adventuring all over the place.
    I must thank you for the gift of beautiful spring colour from Madrid's botanical garden and the image of scabious, alerting us to brighter things coming our way soon.
    The images of the plains of La Mancha are nothing short of spectacular, I can feel my shoulders relaxing just looking at that wide open expanse.
    I became transfixed by your post of the enchanted city of Cuenca what an incredible landscape, very otherworldly and a somewhere I have not heard of before. I would love to visit, it will be added to my list.
    Paul
    PS. Hope you brought me back a big wedge of Manchego, one of my favourites with a generous serving of quince jelly.

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    1. So lovely to see The Magical Christmas Wreath Company here again - I have missed you being around Paul.
      Glad you enjoyed seeing some of the images of the La Mancha region of Spain. When we returned home we were pretty exhausted, but now recovered and raring to go again!!!
      Just the honey and nut cake came home in our cases but we can get some cheese from Waitrose to go with it.
      Hope you do visit Cuenca sometime in the future.

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  19. Hello again, Rosemary!
    It's been such a busy time in the bindery that I've been unable to treat myself to my happy habit of virtual travel with you! Your Spanish posts have been wonderful, full of insight and beautiful photos as always. Madrid is such a wonderful city...the art, food an people are calling to me!
    Warm regards,
    Erika

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    1. Dear Erika - it is much better that you are busy at the bindery than not, especially during these difficult times for many people.
      We are fully recharge after our sojourn in the La Mancha region having walked and seen such a lot. The trip fulfilled everything that we envisaged and hoped - good architecture, art, food and history.
      Thank you for your visit and kind comment.

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  20. Thank you for such a wonderful tour and for the information which has been fascinating. Suzy x

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    1. Dear Suzy - Thank you - I am pleased that you enjoyed the tour and found it of interest. Although we did not have too long in each place it is surprising how much you can learn and absorb in as short time.

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  21. Fantastic pictures Rosemary, I also love Madrid but I was stuck there once for about ten days. My flight was cancelled twice due to the ash cloud. Had to back by bus to The Netherlands, a total disaster.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. That must have been really frustrating and very annoying - 10 days is a long time.

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  22. Rosemary, Thank you for the lovely insight to Madrid in the spring. I was very interested to see Picasso's ruins of Guernica. I read a novel last year based on the dreadful events on market day and it was quite haunting reading the effect it had.
    Sarah x

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    1. Dear Sarah - most people could never understand why Franco would have such a terrible tragedy launched on his own people - it was a black day for humanity.
      Glad you enjoyed seeing a brief glimpse of spring in Madrid.

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  23. Lovely photos from the botanical garden and great history reading !

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    1. Thank you Jane - the gardens were an oasis of calm and lovely to sit in the sunshine there.

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  24. Madrid looks like a beautiful and amazing place. I would love to visit the palace and Cathedral.

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    1. Wish we had been able to find the time to visit the palace and the cathedral which are right next door to each other, but time was short.

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  25. It's always a dilemma in these ancient cities of where to spend our limited time :) I just finished watching the movie "Hemingway and Gellhorn" which touches briefly on the Spanish civil war after WWI so your explanation of the details of the painting is perfect timing for me! Lovely to see their beautiful flowers.

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    1. I should like to see that film too especially now I have seen so many paintings and photos from the Spanish civil war. On my list to watch out for - thanks for the reminder.

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  26. Another splendid post, Rosemary with its thought-provoking contrast between the colour and light of the city and its flowers and the monochrome horror of the photograph and painting of Guernica. I grew up knowing about this painting, but somehow never realised its immense size. I can understand why the Basques want it back as part of their history.

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    1. It does appear to be the rightful place for the painting to be - amongst the people who suffered. It would also bring more tourism to the area, which during these difficult unemployment times in Spain would be welcome. Incidentally although they are linking the euro problems in Spain and Greece as being on a similar scale we did not see any sign of it ourselves.

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