Sunday, January 22, 2012

Francisco Pradilla Ortiz - La Rendición de Granada

Francisco Pradilla Ortíz - La Rendición de Granada
location: Capilla Real, Granada
Francisco Pradilla Ortiz (July 24, 1848 – November 1, 1921) was famous for creating historical scenes - like this one depicting the surrender of Granada to the Catholic Monarchs.

Goya - la Maja desnuda

Goya - la Maja desnuda - Location: Museo del Prado

One of Goya's best known paintings is 'The Naked Maja' (La maja desnuda). He painted another picture of the same woman in the same pose called 'The Clothed Maja' (La maja vestida). I prefer this one.

El Greco - 'Nobleman with a hand on his chest'

File:El caballero de la mano en el pecho (2008).jpg
El Greco - El caballero de la mano en el pecho
location - Museo de Prado, Madrid

This is considered to be one of the 'must see' paintings in the Prado.

Museo del Prado, Madrid

The Museo del Prado is Madrid's premier tourist attraction and one of the 'must see' sights in Spain. It is one of the best museums in the world. Currently there are around 18,000 items in the Prado's collection including 8,600 pictures.
They are not any old common or garden pictures either - there are over a hundred Goyas and many by Rubens, Titian, El Greco, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Bosch, Velázquez and others. The Prado not only has the finest collection of Spanish art but also the most important works of Flemish and Italian painting as well as notable examples of the French, German and English schools.
It was originally founded as a museum of paintings and sculpture but it also has important collections of drawings, prints, coins, medals and other art-related items. 
Like all major museums, it is impossible to see everything on one visit so what are the 'must see' items. Personal taste must obviously influence what works of art the visitor chooses to see. However, many experts believe that Velázquez's masterpiece 'Las Meninas (Maids of Honour)' is the best painting in the World. Other 'top of the range' masterpieces include:

'The Garden of Delights'
'The Triumph of Death'
'David and Goliath'
'Self Portrait'
El Greco
'Nobleman with a hand on his chest'
'The Holy Family'
'The Three Graces'
'The Bacchanal'
'Emperor Charles V in Mühlberg'

The Prado building is pretty impressive. It is an 18th-century neoclassical palace commissioned by Charles III in 1785 and designed by architect Juan de Villanueva. It was opened to the public in 1819 as the Royal Museum of Painting. Later, in 1868, it was renamed as the National Museum of the Prado.

File: Entrance to the Royal Museum for San Jerónimo.jpg Side
 northern facade of the Museo del Prado
as painted by Fernando Brambila (1763 - 1832)

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Salvador Dalí was born in Figueres, Catalonia in 1904.
He was a Spanish artist who became one of the most important painters of the 20th century. He was primarily a surrealist painter but he had also tried his hand at other artistic styles including Cubism - a technique he experimented with whilst at the San Fernando School of Fine Arts in Madrid. He later met Picasso whose works heavily influenced him over the next couple of years.
In 1929, Dalí joined the surrealist group in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris. He was to become a leading light in the surrealist movement - his fellow artists acclaimed his method of accessing the subconscious mind in order to achieve greater artistic creativity. He achieved this by inducing hallucinatory states, which he called the 'paranoiac critical' method. His most famous work is 'The Persistence of Memory' which is sometimes called 'Melting Clocks'. Many of Dalí's paintings were of a similar nature and produced from images drawn from his subconscious and looking at some of his works what a strange mind he must have had! Certainly he was an eccentric - he delivered a lecture on surrealistic art wearing a diving suit!
Dalí used a lot of symbolism in his work - animals, especially elephants were featured. The egg was another common image incorporated into his paintings - well he was an egocentric sort of person!
Seriously though, the artist produced a prolific amount of material during his career - over 1,500 paintings as well as illustrations for books, lithographs, sculptures, a mass of drawings and designs for theatre sets. He also collaborated with Walt Disney in the production of a cartoon and wrote his autobiography 'The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí'. However, his largest single project was his work on the 'Dalí Theatre and Museum' in his hometown of Figueres. Started in 1960 he was still making additions in the mid-1980s.
Dalí died in 1989. A large amount of his work is displayed in the Dalí Theatre and Museum. A few miles away, at Cadaqués, a village on the Costa Brava, is the house-cum-studio where Salvador and his wife Gala lived for several years. It is now the Casa Dalí Museum, a quirky house that is also open to the public.


Pablo Picasso by Robert Bovington

Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga in 1881 and is perhaps the best known of modern painters - certainly he was one of the pioneers of Cubism.

He had a bit of a head start with his painting career because his father was an art teacher so no doubt he was already skilled in the basics when he entered the Academy at Barcelona in 1895 at the age of 14!

Whilst there, he painted 'Barefoot Girl (1895)'. Later, he studied in Madrid and won a gold medal for 'Customs of Aragón (1898)'.

In 1901 he started working in his studio in Paris - in the Montmatre area. He worked for many years there and, after mastering the traditional forms of art, he started developing his own style.

He went through his 'Blue' period - in colour as well as mood and then broke with tradition with his Cubism work.

One of his masterpieces, in Cubism style, was 'Guernica (1937)' - Picasso's horror at the bombing of the Basque town during the Spanish Civil War was expressed in this spectacular canvas.

His home city of Málaga has honoured him by opening the Picasso Casa y Museo in the city and very interesting it is too. When I visited the gallery recently, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the museum. Beforehand, I did wonder whether I would appreciate the exhibits there. I like a cow to look like a cow so artists like Constable are more my cup of tea. My perception of Picasso women was that they were too abstract for my tastes. Well, on my visit to the Picasso Gallery, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes - many of his works are abstract but nevertheless most are strangely attractive and most certainly I could appreciate that here was a true artist - the exhibits were true works of art unlike most of the garbage in Tate Modern where unmade beds and the innards of cows seem to be the norm.

Picasso painted his first picture at the age of 10 and went on to produce over 20,000 paintings, sketches and sculptures. Some are in the museum in Málaga - well about 200 are! The artist's daughter-in-law has donated them. Many of Picasso's works displayed in the museum in Málaga are abstract and many are of his second wife, Jacqueline. I particularly liked one of Picasso's paintings of her - "Señora Z (Jacqueline con flores) 1954", which is an abstract but not so 'way out' as many of his works. Another painting in the museum that I liked was "Olga Koklova con mantilla 1917". Olga was a prima ballerina who Picasso had met in 1916. They were married in 1918. The artist shared his life with a number of women - he had a number of mistresses - and all featured prominently in his works. These paintings had varying degrees of abstractness - some like "Woman in Red Chair 1932" were painted during the artists surrealism period and bear little resemblance to real women. Other works by the artist do capture the likeness of the subject but exhibit Picasso's fondness for disfiguring part of the human form. "The Yellow Pullover 1939" is one such work. It is a portrait of Dora Maar, one of the artist's mistresses.

Following my visit to the museum in Málaga, I determined to find out more about the artist. I discovered that there are many paintings by Picasso that I actually like - even some of the abstract ones but then, during his long lifetime, he had produced a tremendous variety of work and contributed greatly to the development of modern art in the 20th century!


Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez by Robert Bovington

Velázquez was one of the World's greatest painters and certainly the most important Spanish artist of the 17th century.
He was born in Sevilla in 1599 and it was intended that he follow a learned profession but he showed an early aptitude for art and so studied under Sevillian artists Francisco de Herrera and Francisco Pacheco. 
As a young man Diego Velázquez produced naturalistic still-life paintings such as bowls of fruit and earthenware jars where the objects portrayed were lit by strong light. During this early period he also painted some religious works.

Velázquez - 'Las Meninas'
location: Prado Madrid
In 1622 he travelled to Madrid and, soon after his arrival in the capital, he was commissioned to paint a portrait of King Philip IV. This led to Velázquez being appointed court painter to the Spanish Royal Family.
Following a visit by Peter Paul Rubens, in September 1628, Velázquez was persuaded to visit Italy to see the works of the great Italian masters. It was an enterprise that enabled Velázquez to appreciate Venetian art and, during a later visit, he painted a portrait of Pope Innocent X as well as the famous 'Rokeby Venus'.
Apart from two trips to Italy, Velázquez spent the rest of his life in Madrid. He produced lots of portraits of the Royal Family. One of his best known works is 'Las Meninas (1656)' - a portrait of the Infanta Margarita Teresa with her ladies in waiting. It is a curious painting and includes dwarfs and Velázquez himself painting the scene. It hangs in the Prado and is one of the most viewed paintings in the World.
Diego Velázquez died in Madrid in 1660 but his influence extended right into the 20th century because he was the inspiration to many later artists including Manet, Goya, Picasso and Dalí. Édouard Manet, in particular admired the works of Velázquez and called him the "painter of painters". Even Pablo Picasso paid homage to him when he recreated 'Las Meninas' in cubist form.

El Greco

real name - Dominikos Theotokópulos
El Greco was an 'honorary Spaniard' and an artist. He was actually born in Crete in 1541 but after a period of study in Italy he settled in Spain.
Mostly he lived in Toledo and his first commissions there were for altarpieces at the Convent of Santo Domingo and the Cathedral. 
Much of his best works are exhibited in his hometown. His best-known work, 'The Burial of Count Orgaz', is displayed in the Church of Santo Tomé in the city. More of his work, including 'The Crucifixion', is displayed in the Hospital y Museo de Santa Cruz in Toledo and also in the Greco Museum and House in the city. Madrid's Museo del Prado also displays some of his work.
He is known primarily for his religious paintings but he also produced other work including icons and sculpture.

El Greco - 'The Burial of Count Orgaz'
location: Santo Tomé, Toledo

El Greco - San Sebastian

El Greco's 'San Sebastian'
location - Museo Catedralico, Palencia

Palencia Cathedral is one of the city's monuments to its rich history. It is known as 'La Bella Desconocida' (The Beautiful Unknown One). Perhaps it is because of the treasures inside the cathedral that it has been given such a curious title. El Greco's 'St. Sebastian' is just one of the valuable paintings to be found here.