goya’s last palette

The Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando is one of the more discrete and under appreciated museums in Madrid.  And that’s a huge plus to anyone exhausted from the unending crowds jostling for viewing space at the Prado or Rena Sofia museums.  The permanent collection includes a good number of masterworks, too, with particular attention paid to Zurburán, Ribera, and the drawings of Picasso, who was once a student at the Academy. Goya was a member from 1780 onwards and the Neoclassical building boasts thirteen of his paintings, including two self-portraits and the famous carnival scene known as the Burial of the Sardine. A series of six paintings grouped together as Children’s Games are perfect examples of the artist’s vivid and spontaneous style but what I found most intriguing – aside from the quiet – was a display of Goya’s last palette.


reina sofia

The state-of-the-art Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is a shining example of the Spanish flair for converting old-world architecture to contemporary purpose – in this case to meet the needs of a dynamic modern art collection. But while the collection of 20th century mostly Spanish art is exceptional, it’s not entirely in line with my particular tastes in painting. (I do love the Kandinsky and the early Salvador Dali but sorry, Miró, I  just can’t figure out what’s the fuss)  Like most of the crowd, I’ve come to see Picasso’s Guernica, arguably one of the most famous paintings of the post-war era. A defining work of cubism, where the disfiguration of the human form becomes an eloquent symbol of the world’s outrage at the horrors wrought upon the innocent by modern warfare, Picasso’s mural is a monumental 25-foot canvas that can barely control its  humanity. Painted by the artist in response to the bombing of the eponymous Basque town by German and Italian forces during the height of the Spanish Civil War, the canvas shows a world wrenched by violence and chaos. Is it any wonder that Picasso’s vision continues to fascinate us?



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