Picasso – Tradición y Vanguardia

Recently, during one of my frequent visits to Spain, I visited the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid to see the Picasso – Tradición y Vanguardia (Tradition and Avant-garde) retrospective. In 1981 Picasso’s painting Guernica was returned to Spain by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The exhibition, a joint effort by Museo del Prado & Museo Reina Sofia, is to celebrate the 25th anniversary of that event.

I made the day-trip especially from Alicante by train to Madrid. The journey took about four hours each way, but was very pleasant with plenty to see as the train headed inland to Madrid. I like to travel by train occasionally particularly if they are well maintained and comfortable, as is the case in Spain.

I wasn’t disappointed when I eventually arrived early morning at the Reina Sofia. It is a wonderful, modern building with excellent facilities. I went straight into the exhibition and I spent hours working my way through part of the over 100 paintings covering Picassos amazing work from the Blue and Pink periods, to Cubism, the return to order in the 1920s, his relations with the Surrealist movement, the difficult years between the Spanish Civil War and World War II, up to the fertile last decades.

The main purpose for the visit was to see at first hand Picasso’s Guernica. I know the painting very well from a book about modern Art I was given as a teenager. Even though the painting is much reduced for the book, I was very impressed by the force of the images, horrific images of carnage, but with some hope of light to come in the future.

I loved seeing the painting in real life the impact is breath-taking. I knew the dimensions of the painting 3.5 metre (11 ft) tall and 7.8 metre (23 ft) wide , but I wasn’t prepared for the actual size. I remember marking out the size in red tape on the wall of the gym when I was still at school. The painting is Black & White in oil. I would have thought colour would be required to adequately convey the horror of war, in real life in Black & White the painting is just stunning.

I am a little disappointed in the way the painting is exhibited and I don’t feel it is to best effect. Housed in room 3b which is long and narrow, the painting is hung on the long side of the room. This means that it is very difficult to view the painting as one piece as it is only possible to stand back approx. 8 feet. I ended up standing in the entrance into the next section in an attempt to get some perspective. The painting is huge and to do it justice I think you need to be able to see the painting in it’s entirety. That to me means you need to stand back at least 15 feet. I’m not an expert on these matters, but I felt I did miss the impact as I was too close. Anyway, it is still a treat to see the painting and one I will remember for a long time. I highly recommend you go see the exhibition if you can.

I then went for a wander around Madrid in search of Tapas and fine wine, before heading back to Alicante on the evening train.