Freeway Free in Spain: Madrid and its Museums – El Prado
At El Prado you can thrill your fill on the Big 3 of Spanish painting: Goya, El Greco, Velasquez. Wow! I warmed up with a roomful of Hieronymous Bosch (inspiration for every sci fi paperback anthology cover ever printed). The Garden of Earthly Delights is enough to give one nightmares for a week. On the wall catty corner is Breughel’s Triumph of Death with Death leading an army of skeletons against the doomed remainder of mankind – the original zombie apocalypse.
Unfortunately, a guard informed me that photos are not allowed soon after I left Bosch and Breughel, so I will have to link you to websites for you to get your tastes of G, V, and el G.
I was headed for Goya but got side-tracked by Velasquez. Three hundred years before the Impressionists, this man knew exactly how to make light shine out of a picture. I could have looked at his portrait of the Infanta Maria and her handmaidens and dwarves for hours speculating on what was happening in each person’s mind, but the traffic of Japanese, German, French, and Spanish tour groups impeded reflection.
So I proceeded on my search for Goya but went the wrong way and got caught by El Greco – even earlier than Velasquez, and combining use of light and of exaggeration to portray emotion and character in a way that prefigures Toulouse-Lautrec by 400 years.
W and I had split up after Bosch and Breughel. When we reunited for lunch I was ready to babble about El Greco while she had found and been immersed in Goya, especially the “black Goyas” from his late period. We exchanged enthusiasms, and then went out to explore again.
This time I found the Goyas and worked backward from the black period all the way to when he was hired to do “cartoons” of designs of frolicking gypsies and children, to be used as patterns for tapestries at the local royal weavers workshop. Amazing. Age and war do alter one’s point of view, and to go backwards in his career, from the murals of massacre and the blindness of fate to these sunny comic scenes, was especially poignant.
So which was the greatest painter of the Big Three? Impossible to choose.