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The Phenomenon That’s Guernica—Picasso’s Fabled Artwork

The Phenomenon that's Guernica---Picasso's Fabled Artwork

To tackle appreciating the art of Spain, you can certainly hit the top highlights. That would include the Prado Museum in Madrid, arguably Europe’s greatest painting museum. Also in Madrid is Picasso’s Guernica, a monster painting that not only is a testament against modern warfare but is so much part of the Spanish history with its horses and bulls and weeping women imagery and gets right to the heart of Spain’s Civil War.

I’d certainly put on the list the Alhambra in Granada. This is evocative of 700 years of Muslim settlement in Spain which we now think of this great Catholic country but for 700 years ago it was Muslim. The Alhambra is a lush Arabian-nights-wonderland is the best place to appreciate the Muslim settlement of Spain.

Finally there’s Gaudi’s unfinished Cathedral of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. This gives the grandeur of Spanish dreams into this cake-melting-in-the-rain sort of architecture with the soaring towers this become very much the symbol of the city of Barcelona.

The Prado Museum’s incredible wealth of paintings is my favorite collection of paintings from all of Europe. Madrid has so many art treasures because it was the capital of the Spanish colonial empire. The Prado’s collection is illustrative of the how important Spain was in the past. There are a lot of famous Flemish paintings there because the Netherlands was actually a Spanish colony.

The Guernica, located in Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Spain’s National Museum, is incredible painting by Picasso. In a lot of ways it is the painting of Europe—when you talk about the struggles of the 20th century. The reason why Guernica is located in Madrid is that Picasso was the curator of the Prado Museum during those 12 years in the Spanish Civil War and that is always his cubist interpretation of the Spanish Civil War. The message is absolutely bleak, with direct impact. In black and white, the piece has the importance of a newspaper photo. Flailing bulls and horses illustrate that the visceral horrors of war are not just an insult to human civilization, but to human life.

Picasso Painting Guernica For many years Picasso’s Guernica was actually in exile in New York City and that’s because Picasso insisted that the painting was so much against the then dictatorial government of Spain, led by Francisco Franco. Picasso would not allow his painting to be in a Franco-ruled Spain and it wasn’t until Franco finally died and a new democratic regime came in to power that that painting could be repatriated and brought back to its homeland. Guernica is a vast canvas in solemn tones of grey and blue, it shows in scorching detail the suffering of people and animals as bombs fell on their town.

Guernica is actually a town in the Basque Province of northern Spain, to the east of Bilbao. Formerly the seat of a Basque parliament and it was bombed in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War, by German planes in support of Franco. This event is depicted in the famous painting by Picasso. Picasso’s painting of the bombing of Guernica is one of the 20th century’s most famous images.

Franco died in 1975, but sadly Picasso died two years before that and he lived to see the day when his most famous painting went back to his homeland. Picasso pledged that neither he nor this painting would ever pay a visit to Spain until democracy was restored. This did not happen until 1978, five years after his death.

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Posted in Music, Arts, and Culture Travels and Journeys

Renaissance Icon Painter El Greco and The Light

Self Portrait of Greek-Spanish El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) Born around 1541, Domenikos Theotokopoulos began his career as an icon painter on the island of Crete. He is best known, under the name El Greco, for the works he created while in Spain, paintings that have provoked both rapt admiration and scornful disapproval since his death in 1614.

The life of the Renaissance painter Domenikos Theotokopoulos, better known as El Greco. El Greco took this style to extremes, creating luminous paintings of great intensity. By turns considered a prescient precursor of modern art or simply a man with bad eyesight, El Greco’s work embodied the exalted spirit of the Counter-Reformation in its zeal to annihilate all traces of Protestantism.

El Greco’s candid portraits have been consistently admired for their naturalism and psychological insight, even when (as in the eighteenth century) his other works fell out of favor.

Renaissance Painter El Greco took this style to extremes, creating luminous paintings of great intensity

Creating Luminous Paintings: El Greco and the Light

On a pleasant spring afternoon, a friend went to visit the painter El Greco. To his surprise, he found him in his atelier with all curtains drawn.

Greco was working on a painting which had the Virgin Mary as the central theme, using only a candle to illuminate the environment.

Surprised, the friend said: “I have always heard that painters like the sun in order to choose well the colors they will use. Why don’t you open the curtains?”

“Not now,” answered El Greco. “It would disturb the brilliant fire of inspiration that is burning in my soul and filling with light everything around me.”

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Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #3, James the Elder

Saint James as the Moor-killer by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

The early church referred to the holy apostle James as “James the Elder” or “James the Great” to differentiate him from “James the Younger” or “James the Less,” the son of Alphaeus, who was purportedly a smaller and definitely a younger man.

We can imagine James the Elder as a robust, impressive figure, with piercing eyes, a full beard, and a resonant voice that must have commanded respect.

The son of Zebedee, a affluent fisherman, James was the older brother of John, and a partner of Peter‘s in business. Jesus called James and John Boanerges, meaning “Sons of Thunder” in Greek, for their enthusiastic zeal (Mark 3:17.) Once when the innkeepers in a Samaritan village declined accommodations to Jews, the irritated brothers asked Jesus to call down fire from the heavens to avenge the affront. But Jesus refused, saying, ” … the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:56)

Holy Scripture describes James, John, and Peter as Jesus’ favorite apostles; those in his inner circle. Some consider the brothers were the Lord’s close relatives and that Peter was their dear friend. These three were present when Jesus raised from the dead the young daughter of Jairus, the synagogue president. They were also with Jesus at the unique revelation on the Mount of Transfiguration; and during the long night in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Saint James the Great by Guido Reni, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston After Pentecost, James’ name disappeared from the gospels. Some very olden traditions dating back to the earliest centuries try to explain his absence. It is said that in the years following Jesus’ Resurrection James travelled to Sardinia and Spain to preach the word of the Lord before returning to Jerusalem.

During the Middle Ages the holy apostle James the Elder was one of the most well-liked figures in Christian Spain, and his patronage was invoked in time of war. His symbol is the sword or the bishop’s hat, for he is claimed as the first bishop of Spain.

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Posted in Faith and Religion