Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, 17.10.10

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 18, 2010


Our first full day in Madrid, and we have been busy!

First of all we went to the Museo Reina Sofia, which is the modern art museum, and then we went to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art – an extensive private collection donated to the Spanish people by the baroness who felt that art should be shared. To soothe our aching feet, we then took one of those bus tours which whiz around town showing the ‘sights’.  What an amazing city this is!

It’s when you spend a day like this admiring the art collections of a city like Madrid – not quite the renowned collections of London or Paris or New York  –  that you realise that the collections we have in Australia are just a very small part of the wonderful wealth of art works in the world. The Reina Sofia Museum (Spanish Museum of Contemporary Art) is most famous for Picasso’s Guernica but there is much more to it than that. It is superbly well-organised so that even if (like me) you know very little about the important art movements of the 20th century, you can see and understand how they developed.

Figuras al borde del mar Picasso

 Of all of these the movement I found most interesting was the one called Torremos(?) which was an art movement focussed on the human relationship with the land.  Blobs of paint which never made sense to me before are symbols of those ancient mother-earth fertility symbols that we have seen in museums – and the painting always has its symbol ‘rooted to the earth’.  So in their own weird way they celebrate the way we depend on mother earth.  I rather liked them.

There are also sobering works from the period of the Spanish Civil War. From what little we have seen of Spain so far, the Spanish seem far more keen on their ancient history than on their more recent painful past. As Giles Tremlett says in his book Ghosts of Spain  there has been a kind of national silence about the Civil War in Spain – no Truth and Reconciliation Commission, no War Crimes Tribunals and no commemorations for the losing side. We have been to San Sebastian, to Bilbao and to Avila and not seen any memorials about it anywhere. But here in Madrid, at least in this art gallery, we have seen poignant posters beseeching the international community for help, and photographs and paintings that document some of the horrors of the war that I know about from reading works of literature: Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell, and For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. I don’t suppose these books were available in Spain under Franco, and anyway they were written by outsiders. I wonder what young Spaniards read to learn about this war now?

From the very modern to the historic, we then went to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art. More about that in my next post, I’m off to dinner.

7 Responses to “Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, 17.10.10”

  1. Di and Annette said

    Hi Lisa and Tim, sounds like you are having a wonderful holiday. Great reading your posts. Lisa you could be a journalista. We are presently holidaying in Melbourne Citadines Appart/hotel. We were woken by a crane just outside the window and we are now enjoying the time to catch up with your travels. Hope the rest of your holiday is great. Love Di & Annette

  2. Thanks Lisa … I’ve never heard of Torremos (?) but it sounds rather interesting (particularly to Australians for whom the land is I think very close – if that makes sense). Oh, and what did you have for dinner? LOL

  3. Lisa Hill said

    I’m really not sure about the ‘Torremos’ either. I didn’t write it down and I couldn’t find anything when I did a quick websearch. I will have to hunt through my copy of Robert Hughes’ The Shock of the New when I get home, unless some artlover who knows stumbles across this blog and corrects me here!

  4. I’m wondering whether it might be “terremos” or somesuch using “terre” meaning “earth” or “land”? But I’m not finding much. I have Shock of the new but can’t see anything likely in the index, so I’ll leave it to you to further investigate.

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