As part of experiencing culture on our adventure through Europe, we thought it was only fitting that we put on our most convincing art snob impressions and tour through some of the best art galleries in the world. Being from British Columbia, this is something we rarely get to experience save for a fleeting exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery or great Canadian painters like Emily Carr and Ted Harrison.
With names like Velazquez, Goya, Picasso, and Dali in our heads, Madrid seemed like the perfect place to start our quest into the world of art snobbery. Madrid houses three of the best museums in Europe in the accurately nicknamed “Golden Triangle of Art” – the Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Reina Sofia. We set out early with comfortable shoes, some water, and some website pages saved on our phone.
Prado Museum – open from 10am-8pm Monday to Saturday and 10am-7pm on Sunday; cost is 12 Euro (free for students) BUT last 2 hours of each day are free!
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum - open from 10am-7pm Tuesday to Sunday and CLOSED Mondays; cost is 8 euro, no free entry time.
Reina Sofia Museum - open from 10am-9pm Monday, Wednesday to Saturday; Sunday 10am-230pm; CLOSED Tuesdays; 6 Euro, BUT free all-day Sun., Sat from 230pm-close, and every other day from 730pm-close.
The Prado Museum was our first stop. It is without a doubt the most famous museum in Madrid, and is ranked as the 11th most visited museum in the world. It contains a large collection of European art from the 12th to early 19th centuries, with a focus on Spanish art during these times. It is most famous for its extensive collection of famous Spanish pieces by Velasquez, Goya, and El Greco, as well as an extensive collection of European masters like Rubens, Titian, and Bosch. The collection is comprised of more than 8200 drawings, 7600 paintings, 4800 prints, and 1000 sculptures.
|One of the entrances before the morning rush|
|The interior of the Prado with a recreation being painted (via)|
We quickly realized that the comments we overheard in line suggesting that “you could spend weeks in there and still not see everything” were not an overestimate. It is massive. After the first thirty minutes of our visit in which we looked at everything we came to, we had a quick team meeting, and decided we would continue to walk around but only stop and look at the pieces that caught our eye (and the “famous” ones, of course). Even this took a long time. Just seeing and appreciating the Velasquez and Goya rooms (there are lots of them) could take a whole day. We did our best and by the time we left we felt like we’d seen more than our money’s worth in our 5 hours there.
|Las meninas - The masterpiece of Diego Velasquez (via)|
|El tres de Mayo 1808 – One of Goya’s masterpieces|
Some of the highlights for us included listening in on other people’s guided tours (for free!); learning about the actual history of the building and the collection (which is fascinating); wondering why Rubens, and for that matter nearly every artist there, drew so many naked ladies frolicking around; staring in amazement as modern artists and art students recreated the paintings right in the actual rooms; Goya’s “dark paintings”; and wandering around the remains of the monastery of San Jeronimo in the museum’s newest expansion.
Our next stop, after resting our feet for a few minutes, was the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (the website is actually very user-friendly and full of cool information). Located just a few minutes’ walk from the Prado, it houses the personal collections of the Thyssen-Bornemisza family (mainly Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemiszaand his fifth wife Carmen “Tita” Cervera). They made the collection open to the public in 1992 and subsequently sold it outright to the Spanish Government one year later. The collection essentially “fills the gaps” between the collections at the Prado and the Reina Sophia, but with some overlapping periods.
|The entrance to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (via)|
The Thyssen is definitely smaller than the Prado, but we enjoyed that it was far less busy – especially as it was midday when we finally got there. The prescribed pathway leads you chronologically from the start of the collection, but we just went in whatever direction we felt like (we can’t help it!). Some of the older pieces did not have as big an impact as we had just come from the Prado, but the collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by the likes of Monet, Cezanne, and Degas was marvelous.
|El Puente de Charing Cross by Claude Monet (via)|
|“Les Vessenots” in Auvers by Vincent Van Gogh (via)|
Our highlights were definitely the journey though 600 years of art, the display where you could watch experts examining and restoring Tintoretto’s The Paradise, trying to imagine what the collection owners’ house would have looked like before they made their collection public, and actually seeing the paintings we watch Matt Bomer/Neal Caffrey talk about stealing on White Collar right in front of our eyes.
With our “dogs barking” (as Calli would say) we gingerly made our way to the final stop on our tour – The Reina Sofia Museum. The focus of the museum is modern art (mainly by Spanish artists), and thus it is set in a cool building (formerly an 18th century hospital) with two glass elevators in front. The museum contains pieces by the most famous modern Spanish artists including the likes of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Juan Gris, and Joan Miro, as well as pieces by Wassily Kandinsky, Yves Tanguy, Robert Delaunay, and many others.
|The exterior of the Reina Sofia (via)|
|Staircase – almost as cool as the elevators|
Like many modern art museums, parts of it are very confusing – the weird, obviously acid-inspired movies (sorry…films), the sculptures that merely consist of fluorescent light tubes attached to a wall or paper scattered on the ground, and the out-of-focus photos all rendered us bewildered. However, the vast majority of the paintings were fabulous to look at and try and figure out.
|One of Calli’s favorite rooms.|
|Guernica by Pablo Picasso (via)|
Top Calli comments of the day:
About Picasso – “If you’re gonna draw somebody, at least draw them in proportion.”
While looking at a Kandinsky – “I like it, itlooks like really pretty wrapping paper.”
Whispering to me “I know you’re not supposed to but can you take a picture of that one?” me – “do you like that one” Calli – “I guess, but I love that frame!”