On Saturday it was about unfinished business from over 25 years ago, which was the last time I was in Madrid. Back then I had a backpack and a Eurorail pass. We stayed in Madrid for a short time and visited the Prado. I knew that Picasso’s masterpiece was just down the road but we must have been suffering from art museum fatigue (it’s easy to contract at the Prado) and the oppressive heat of Madrid in summer. This trip I was not going to miss Picasso’s massive work (I mean that in many ways): Guernica. This painting has been called, “the most famous single work of the 20th century”.
I was staying in the Lavapiés neighborhood in Madrid which was within walking distance of three points of the Madrid Art Triangle, which includes three of the most famous art museums in the world, the Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Reina Sofia. My destination on Saturday afternoon was the Reina Sofia, home to Picasso’s ultimate statement about war and it’s atrocities. Guernica refers to the small town in the Basque Country, near Bilbao. This was the setting of a tragedy, when on a Monday market day civilians were bombed by German and Italian aircraft in April of 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. This was in someways a dress rehearsal for the bombing of cities and civilians during World War II. The painting has gone on represent all victims of wars.
The painting hung in New York because the creator only wanted Guernica to hang in the Prado in a democratic Spain. Franco outlived Picasso and Guernica returned to Spain in 1981, six years after the dictator’s death.
Before visiting gallery 206, I already envisioned how I wanted to sketch Guernica. I knew that it was one of the most popular attractions in all of Madrid, if not Spain. I also knew that photography was not allowed anywhere near the painting (they sell more postcards and posters that way). I placed myself towards the back of the gallery sketching Guernica filtered through the crowd standing in front of me. I was in no way going to sketch every detail of the complex painting, that’s why it’s called a sketch after all.
After a siesta I headed to the bar La Fontana de Oro just off Puerta del Sol to watch one of the most viewed sporting rivalries in history: El Clásico. Real Madrid vs Barcelona. Just to give you some numbers, it is estimated to have a worldwide viewing audience of 400 million. Keep in mind that this is just a normal league game that is played twice a season. By contrast, the highest viewing audience for the Super Bowl was 114.4 million. They don’t call Futbol the world’s game for nothing.
My version of watching El Clásico in Madrid at La Fontana de Oro as Real Madrid defeated their bitter rivals Barcelona 2-1.
I wanted Los Blancos to win but judging from past contests Real would end the match with ten men and Barca would win yet again Barcelona were on a 39 game winning streak and they were heavily favorited to win on their home pitch, Camp Nou. But it was not to be, Los Blancos ended the match with ten men but Real equalized with a Benzema overhead kick and Ronaldo scored the winner with amazing technique and ball control. It was a great experience to be in Madrid when they defeat their southern rivals and to commemorate the experience I made the sketch above on the bus ride up to Bilbao the following morning. The influence of Picasso and Guernica is evident, as I peopled La Fontana de Oro with characters out of a Picasso painting. This sketch however is the anti-Guernica. Unless of course you are a Barcelona fan.