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Gaudi, Miro, and Picasso

SPAIN | Wednesday, 18 May 2011 | Views [946]

Joan Moro Foundation, Barcelona

Joan Moro Foundation, Barcelona

Antoni Gaudi is to Barcelona what Picasso is to Malaga.  Some of his most famous creations are here and Connie has mapped out a strategy for us to see them all.

It felt good to be out walking, even if it was in a city.  La Ramblas, the main drag, is a great walking street, tree-lined and upscale.  Strange as it seems our best city map is sponsored by Mac Donalds, so our landmarks are golden arches and metro stops.  One of these days we will buy a metro pass and travel farther afield, but for now we are using our feet.

We walked three miles Parc Guell, about 15 acres of Gaudi at his natural best.  He created caves, tunnels, arches and bridges in his dribbley sandcastle style among a labyrinth of winding, climbing pathways.  The park was originally planned as an upscale housing development but only two homes were ever built.  Gaudi himself lived in one, now a museum, from 1906 until his death twenty years later.  On the way back we wandered through un-named side streets looking for Casa Vicenes, another Gaudi design.  It wasn’t shown on our map but it is unmistakably Gaudi.

We hiked to Parc Montjoick, the site of many venues for the ’92 Olympic games and several museums, including the Miro Foundation Gallery and the National Museum of Catalunyan Art.

I don’t really care for most of the post-Impressionist artists (or many who came before them for that matter) but part of the reason for being in Europe is to learn enough to at least appreciate what they were about.  Joan Miro certainly falls into that category.  Like so many others around the turn of the Century, he was classically trained and I liked much of his early work.  Then he fell into the company of evil companions, the lost generation of poets, painters and philosophers, who flourished after WW I.  Their world was turned upside down and they needed a new language to express what they felt.  Sartre had his way, Hemmingway his, and Picasso, Miro and others found their own.  Miro reinvented himself again and again as his view of the world continued to change.  He painted, sculpted and used ceramics, always striving to simplify his work while conveying his message.  My favorite works were not by Miro but were two sculptures by Alexander Calder.  “The Mercury Fountain” is one of the most unique and interesting pieces I have ever seen and the only one that employs a gallon of poisonous mercury splashing from pool to pool.  No photos permitted, darn it.

The nearby National Museum covered Spanish art from 1250 to the present, no small feat for a Catholic nation.  For the first time I noticed how similar many of the early religious paintings ware, not only in Biblical stories they portray but in the poses, even down to the position of the Madonna’s hands.  It must have been frustrating for so many talented artists to have to paint the same scenes over and over.

Can a person suffer from too much culture?  Barcelona certainly serves up large portions and we had more than our share.  Gaudi, Miro and now Picasso again – you might think we were modern art aficionados.  Hardly, but today I gained an even greater appreciation of Picasso’s art.  And for free – today is International Museum Day with free admission.  Malaga can claim his birth but Picasso spend many years painting in Barcelona and the museum has 3,600 of his works – more than anyplace else.

We followed his growth as an artist along with his search for identity.  Until the beginning of the 20th Century, Picasso showed his classical training and the later influence of Toulouse Lautrec and Vincent Van Gogh on his work.  His early works were signed “P. Ruiz” and later changed from “PR Picasso” to simply “Picasso.”  There is a gap after his Blue Period when he worked in Paris, the heart of the art world.  Those paintings are all in the hands of greedy (and very wealthy) collectors or in other museums.

My “ah-ha” moment came when we watched a video of how he adapted Velasquez’s famous painting, “La Meninas” to his own style.  The Museu Picasso collection contains 44 Cubist variations, “The Maids of Honor,” which Picasso experimented with based on of “La Meninas;” variations on a theme.  If he had signed his early works “Ruiz” and the later ones “Picasso” I would never have guessed they were painted by the same hand, or conceived by the same mind.



Tags: art and culture


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