Any travel would not be complete without taking advantage of the art along the way. After landing in Toulouse France, I was off to visit the city. My art stops included la Salle des Illustes at the Capitale (city hall). Here, gigantic mural-like impressionist paintings of Henri Martin and Paul Gervais adorn the walls. In the hall next door, a civil wedding was taking place, after which the bridal party had their picture taken in front of the Gervais masterpieces with a theme of love and marriage. I was then off to l'Hôtel d'Assézat, home of the Foundation Bemberg and it's excellent collection of paintings ranging from Toulouse-Lautrec, Manet, Monet, Degas, R, Duffy, Gauguin and especially Pierre Bonnard of which there was at least 3 dozen paintings. All housed in the city's most elegant Renaissance mansion built in 1555 by Nicholas Bachelier.
Along the Camino, the art could be found mostly in the hundreds of churches. Some ranging from the size of a small chapel to the most elaborate, sophisticated and largest Gothic church I have ever seen, the Cathedral of Santa Maria in Burgos, built over a 400 year period. The above photo is only a portion of the structure. It has to be seen, as no words can quite describe it. There is an enormous amount of wealth in these institutions. It is impossible not to marvel at the talented individuals who created the frescoes, paintings, wood and stone carvings, sculptures, architecture and overall craftsmanship found here.
I also had the opportunity to visit the very colorful Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Castilla y Leon. The MUSAC is the most important contemporary museum in the province of Leon. While in Santiago de Compostella, I visited the Centre Galego de Arte Contempranea, another large multi level space. Exhibitions in contemporary art galleries either cater to geniuses creating innovative conceptual art and installations and/or on the obscure, avant-garde, issues dealing with censorship, morality, underground culture, often explicit and graphic material, to push your buttons and at time to shock you. Well, these were no different even if they were on the route of the third most holiest pilgrimage in Christianity. Admission is free, meaning that these institutions are government funded. When Andy Warhol said, ''Art is what you can get away with''.......he was right!!!
But my real ''Coup de coeur'' happened in Madrid, where I spent 3 days sight-seeing before returning home. It happened at the Museo Sorolla. Joachin Sorolla (1863-1923) was a Spanish born impressionist painter who lived in Madrid. In 1932, his exquisite home and studio was transform into a museum following his death. I can't really recall seeing any of his work except in art books. As you pass through the street gate that leads you into a wonderful enchanted garden, the experience of stepping into his world has already begun. While entering the third of interconnected studios spaces where he painted, my jaw dropped and at that moment he went from being an obscure painter to one of my all-time favorite. In the larger room with a vaulted ceiling, paintings were hung salon style, his paint box and brushes were all there. A creative space that exuded a palpable energy. The museum continues on the ground level into the living and dining room of his residence and for another four rooms on the second floor. There was easily 80 paintings in all on display.
As luck would have it, my newly found admiration for Sorolla's work would reach a climax, as the Museo del Prado was hosting a major retrospective of his work until September 6. My admission ticket even had a pre-set viewing time, as the entire space was elbow to elbow. In the first room, the instant I saw the very fair-skin female nude seated on a marble base that can be seen on this link , I instantly became teary eyed. I knew I was in the presence of a genius. The way he paints light, the whites, his use of pastel colors, the contrasts, his compositions and subject matter really sets him apart. It's moments like these are when you can truly connect with art and see how it contribute to society and becomes an essential part of what it means to feel alive.
All of the figures studies set along the shoreline and marine paintings with the wind blowing in the white canvas sails that has light coming from behind, becoming illuminated in both pastel and the darker contrasting shadows being cast from the masts and the folds......well, they just took my breath away.
The Prado Museum has one of the finest collection of European art from the 12th to the early 19th century, featuring spanish master painters from the golden age - Goya, El Greco and Diego Velazquez, who's painting ''Las Meninas'' is considered by some as the most famous painting in the world. For the most part, the art found here are mostly Academic paintings. In all, I spent 4½ hours there.
After El Prado comes the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Spain's national museum of 20th century art. Several temporary exhibits included a compelling retrospective of Juan Munoz and the permanent collection that includes many Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Guillermo Perez Villata, Sigfrido Martin Begué to name a few. Outside the Reina Sofia is the enormous sculptural work entitled ''Brushstroke'' by Roy Lichtenstein as shown above.
The masterpiece of Reina Sofia is Picasso's Guernica as shown above. The mural size painting had a whole room to itself, and was jam-packed with people. I only got to view the painting from a side angle.
The last of the Golden Triangle of Art is the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum that also includes the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. For it's overall collection, this one was my favorite. It houses a very impressive collection of old Flemish and Dutch masters, and an equally impressive list of international artists like John Singer Sargent, Marc Chagall, Childe Hassem, William Merritt Chase, Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Piet Mondrian, Lucian Freud....just to name a few. And what could be better than a Richard Estes painting.....how about three. And of course a retrospective of the brilliant French impressionist painter, Henri Matisse.