It has been a lifelong ambition to go to Madrid to see Picassos Guernica and Velasquez 's Las Meninas .
Last year I read Michael Jacobs " Into a Painting' about Las Meninas and I fell in love with his writing style which made me want to see it even more.
so in June I decided I could wait no longer so I booked a cheap flight and went.
I stayed 5 min walk away from the Prado , below is a write up of my visit.
Saturday 29th June
Only I could choose to go to Madrid when they are experiencing the hottest day of the year so far, its 50 degrees and I feel like I'm in an oven, its quite worrying so as soon as I arrive I head to the Reina Sofia to see Guernica ( 1937) by Picasso.
I can feel my heart quickening as I approach the room its in, then shock, its so big compared to the photographs Ive seen of it. I'm floored..............literally I can hardly bring myself to look at it, so I glance at it and I'm inwardly weeping, i didn't expect the emotion, my eyes are watering. I'm so moved by the grief in the eyes of the Mother with her tonsils showing on the left holding the baby, then my eyes dart to the candle in the top centre and I can feel hope for humanity but not much ! I'm swallowed up by the painting and I notice all the mouths are open of the figures and I can almost hear the silent cries.
The cream hue of the figures softens the grey surround, which is the 2nd surprise as in the books it looked white. It feels strange to finally see it and it has changed me which for me is what great art does. I understand why it is considered among the most representative works of art of the 20th century.Today Picasso is a genius in my eyes.
The Prado- Las Menina's
Monday 2nd July
I get to the Prado at 9.45am and queue up, as soon as it opens I head up to room 12 where Las Menina's is.
There are only 4 people in the large room and no one is near Las Menina's. Im about 30 metres away so I have a perfect view. This is the 2nd time I've visited it as I came yesterday and it was too noisy and too many people crowded around. I realise one of the reasons that i love it , is because its a quiet painting and it needs to be viewed in the quiet.It whispers that I stare at it and I feel frozen in time, all the figures are isolated from each other. The unsettling feeling I'm getting is that one moment I feel like I'm in the painting looking out and the second moment I'm looking into it. its like I'm moving in and out.
The more I stare at it, the more the Infanta seems to hoover in front of me, its as though she is floating, but my eyes are drawn to the man leaving in the doorway. He for me seems to be in the space that my eyes keep returning to. I think he is going to leave the painting and he's taking one last glance at me before he leaves. Im walking closer now to the painting , I'm still the only one near the painting and now the technique has seduced me. The dreamlike effect of the brush marks with the blurred quality makes me feel like my eyes are out of focus ,the dog in the foreground looks like he could get up at any moment and the child's foot is stopping him.
The rendering of the silver/grey paint seems to shimmer up close. I can only see the bottom half of the canvas as the light is reflected on the top half. Im sure the painting is meant to be viewed from far away.The Chambermaid Jose Nieto ,the technique for me is near perfection, a loose application of paint but every mark is confident and demonstrates years of practice and a painter who understands the medium intimately.
I need to drag myself away and go and visit Goya now but I will be back before I leave to say goodbye. Before I go I linger over the shadow under the infanta's dress, its sublime. The painting has got under my skin, then I take one more glance at Jose in the doorway and he mirrors how I feel.
When I return to Wimbledon I'm haunted by the visit to Las Menina's so much that I can't paint for 2 weeks. I look at my painting that I did before I left and feel despondent then I have a idea to take away my longing for the painting........by putting Jose in the background! For the first time in 2 weeks I feel calm and I have broken my painting deadlock! I think the violin fits conveniently into the space where Velasquez was holding the palette and the girl takes the place of the infanta.