Madrid is blessed with some of the finest art museums in the world.
Last year it´s Paseo de Arte which includes the golden triangle of the Reina Sofia, Prado and Thyseen Museums has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage Site.
It also boasts a vast number of monasteries, churches, palaces situated within easy distance of the capital including in the two other UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Toledo and Segovia – both less than an hour away.
Odalys Sanchez, of Galería Odalys talks us through her top 3 painting to see for visitors to the Madrid region and the history behind them.
The Guernica is one of the most recognisable modern art paintings in the world. What is the story behind it and what does it represent?
Artist: Pablo Picasso
Created: April 26, 1937–June 1937
Location: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Madrid
The Guernica is one of the most important and symbolic paintings in the art world painted by one of the most important artists of the 20th century. It was first commissioned by republicans to
represent Spain at the International Exposition in Paris in 1937 as a way of changing opinions about the Spanish civil war. When World War II broke out painting remained in New York from 1939 MOMA until 1981 when democracy had been restored in Spain.
It is a symbolic, not decorative painting with symbols in the painting including a lady crying with her dead child, the bull (a Spanish icon) and a dying soldier with a sword amongst others. We
also see the light of a lantern representing hope and the Arabian symbol for god as an eye in the sky. All of these symbols represent the disaster of war and evoke a very emotive reaction to the
painting. The greys in the composition set a bleak mood and also express the chaos and pain of war.
Picasso used classic composition in a modern way becoming one of the most prolific artists in the world producing 100s of paintings and becoming an exception to the rule in the art world that
usually lowers value when supply is high.
The Burial of the Count of Orgaz
The next painting you have chosen was not painted by a Spanish artist but is still very important in Spanish art history?
Artist: El Greco
Location: Iglesia de Santo Tomé, Toledo, Spain
Yes, El Greco was a very important Greek artist who worked in Spain for many years in Toledo, just outside Madrid. This impressive 16 by 10 foot masterpiece hangs in the Santo Tomé church
in Toledo and has never been shown in another place as El Greco did the painting specifically for the church.
The Count of Orgaz was a very important rich man who paid to restore the church in the 1300s .
When he died he wrote in his will that all the people of the town must pay the church an annual maintenance fee. However by the 1300s the locals could not pay the fee and the painting was
commissioned to remember the idea of the Count of Orgaz.
Legend has it that during the Counts funeral the heavens opened and mourners witnessed a sky filled with images St John and other saints and angels.
The painting is divided into two parts: heaven above and the mortal burial scene below.
The painting contains various icons of the catholic church as well as many prominent Toledan social figures of the time. In the painting we see many people with elongated features as well as rich
gold and red colours which were El Greco’s signature Mannerist style.
Artist : Diego Velázquez
Dimensions : 3.18 mx 2.76 m
Location : National Prado Museum
Created : 1656
The last painting you have chosen has been one of the most widely analyzed works in Art – can you explain why?
At first glance the painting is a group portrait of the royal family done at the end of Velazquez's life when he had been the official court painter for 33 years.However Las Meninas is much more complex than this- one of the most significant things about the painting is the fact that the artist makes an appearance in the painting himself which at the time was considered very modern.
The picture is divided into a grid system and seven layers of depth and has the most carefully defined space.
The infant Margarita is in the centre of the picture making her the focal point of the composition and Velazquez uses light and dark to further order the composition.In the back of the painting we see the Spanish queen's chamberlain Don José Nieto Velázquez who is stood on the stairs but we don’t know if he is entering or leaving the scene.
There are many different opinions as to the different perspectives in the painting – are the King and Queen looking from behind the picture or are they standing in front being painted as well?
I think the artist is treating the painting as a kind of self portrait by painting his life and environment but not in the normal way.