Wednesday, 8 March 2023

Thyssen-Bornecizma Museum - Madrid

My first afternoon in Madrid was spent at the wonderful Thyssen-Bornecizma Museum. The collection was quite varied, spanning a few centuries. There was something intriguing about all the medieval religious paintings but I was more interested in the modern masters (incl deGoya, Bacon, Magritte, Matisse, Giacometti, O’Keeffe, etc). I was also taken by the paintings of some slightly lesser known masters and am including some of these images here.

I enjoyed the loose painting in this landscape by Maurice de Vlaminck.

Likewise, there is a looseness of style in this streetscape painting by Erich Heckel. The urgency of the brush strokes show everything in motion such that the road flows like a river.

It was brilliant to see the work of Lyonel Feininger again. I had first come across his work on an art school trip to New York but any image I saw of the work (specifically a painting of a ship floating on a seascape) did not do it justice. I remember buying a postcard of the work just as a reminder, but the card always seemed uninteresting and I could never explain to anyone who saw the card image that the real painting was magnificent.

What I especially liked about the Natalia Goncharowa painting was the use of blue outlines to define both people and trees. When I was in art school, in Toronto in the early 1980s, I attended a talk given by a representative from Parsons School of Design in NYC. In the prospectus for the upcoming year there were images of some student work and one of these images was a gorgeous life painting where the student had used a blue colour to define the figures and all shadow areas. The colour was bright and full of light and I thought it was both an effective and an anti-intuitive way to portray shadow. From that point on I had decided for myself to use light purply-blue in shadows rather than any other colour. But of course, this is also something that Matisse did in his paintings too!

I am more familiar with the German expressionist figure paintings of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner so it was delightful to see a landscape.

I am almost sure that Emil Nolde thought he was simply portraying a brilliant sunrise or sunset sky without a thought for how vibrantly abstract this painting is! 

I have recently read Ben Shahn's The Shape of Content so I was glad to see his work in the flesh. In the book, which is a transcription of his 1956-57 Norton Lectures, he talks about the relationship of the artist to both his craft and his wider community so it was good to see that his visual work reflects this.

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