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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Picasso: My Favorite Artist NOT!

            I spent 6 hours in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza today. It is one of the many art museums in Madrid. Some of you have long suspected that I am a philistine when it comes to art appreciation and you are right.  So why did it take me 6 hours to tour it? Let’s figure it out.

            I spent the first hour looking at a fabulous temporary art display called “Heroines”. I give it an unqualified two thumbs up. The collection focuses on paintings of women who are strong, active, intelligent, and independent. It was a refreshing change from the images of woman as seductress or submissive servant that is often shown in art.  Me gusta “Heroines”!

I occupied the next two hours by sitting in the outdoor café, eating tapas and sipping tea. I admired the buds on the camellia bushes, gawked at the sunny daffodils waving in the breeze, and watched people from all over the world coming and going from the museum. Sound more like me?

After paying the bill, I went back into the museum. The paintings are arranged chronologically, and you start with the oldest paintings up on the second floor. I climbed the several flights of stairs, hoping to find something worthy of all this exertion.

It didn’t take me long to be drawn back in time to the 12th century AD when the first paintings in the collection were created. I love history and old paintings, even when I don’t particularly appreciate the subjects, are tangible pieces of history. By the way, Henry VIII as painted by Hans Holbein the Younger in 1537 looks nothing like Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the actor in The Tudors.

I strolled from Carpaccio to El Greco to Rembrandt and Rubens. I moseyed past Goya, Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, and Degas. I had reached the late-1800’s in an hour and a half. I wasn’t even close to seeing everything this museum had to offer.

I spent the next 30 minutes speed-walking through the first floor of the museum, the 20th century pieces. I just don’t understand modern art. Much of it looked like product advertisements in magazines. Some of it looked as if a kindergartner had painted it on an off day. I never get the paintings that are just a canvas of orange with a white spot in the upper right quadrant. Really, how talented do you have to be to paint that? And who would pay money to purchase it?

I finally found myself at a dead stop in front of a painting done by Picasso. For half an hour, I stood there trying to figure out why this painting was called “Man with a Clarinet”. I looked from all angles, but I couldn’t find the man or the clarinet. Then I wondered if the painting was one of those special effect paintings where you had to squint to see the image. I tried squinting until the guard patted my shoulder and kindly asked me if I was having a seizure.

So where did I spend the final 30 minutes of my trip to the museum? Well, that’s a no-brainer – the gift shop, of course. You’ll be shocked to know that I bought…a book about the museum. You’re not shocked at all, are you? You know me too well.

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