Earlier this week, Dr. Bryant sent us kiddos on a scavenger hunt on the second floor of the famous Reina Sofia Art Museum, which is known for its large glass elevators. We found the following pieces. I have included my insights below.
José Gutiérrez Solana – La tertulia del café de Pombo (1920)
These are some people looking fancy in an old wine bar. They’re having a tertulia, which is a regularly-scheduled chat-gathering of usually rather like-minded people—somewhat like an English salon. This particular tertulia was dubbed “The Sacred Crypt of Pombo” and was started by the avant-garde writer Ramón Gómez de la Serna, the man standing in the painting. This Ramón fellow asked his friend José—who was also a member of the Sacred Crypt tertulia—to create this work in 1920. Thus, I’d take it that this painting shows the group as they’d like to be remembered: in suits. Everyone in the painting went on to be famous.
Hermengildo Anglada-Camarasa – Portrait of Sonia de Klamery (1913)
At first, I was excited because I thought the lady in the painting was a mermaid, just like the one in my favorite Disney movie. When I saw she had legs (they’re barely visible–look for them in the bottom left-hand corner), I was disappointed. However, it’s clear that even if this lady isn’t a mermaid, she’s at least some type of exotic wildlife: she’s suspended out on a branch over the water in a dress whose colorful shapes (flowers, birds, and so on) outshine that of the peacock. She’s also ghostly white, so I assume she’s in the moonlight. To conclude, this is definitely one foxy lady, and a person of mysterious and sensual allure at that.
Joan Miró – Painting (Man with Pipe) (1925)
What a goofy old man! The little line coming out of the big, fat square (which I take to be his nose) is what I believe to be the pipe. The old man getting old and has lopsided eyes, and his brain will soon melt and he will turn into a zombie, as indicated by his outstretched hands. He reminds me of Statler and Waldorf:
Though I don't think his jokes would be as funny.
Alberto Sánchez – Maternity (1930-1932)
A sculpture of a mother with a child. You can’t see it so well in this photograph, but the faces are indicated (in an abstract manner) on the other side, almost as if the little guys were wearing hoods. You can also see that the baby is looking at its own shadow as cast on the mother’s side. All along the sculpture little arrows are moving out toward little circles, which I take to be suggestive of the biological processes that resulted in the child.
THE NEXT PART IS NOT INTENDED FOR CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 18
(Noel, if you are looking over your sister's shoulder and reading this, this means you.)
Salvador Dalí – The Great Masturbator (1929)
When we studied Salvador Dalí in school, we all were presented with these paintings:
Or maybe, if we were lucky, this one:
But Dalí also came up with a lot of crazy stuff that just doesn’t make it past the school censorship board these days. Apparently, Dalí had [insert type of Freudian complex here], as shown in the painting below, “The Great Masturbator”:
The picture depicts a woman about to perform fellatio on a man with bleeding knees while being fondled by a grasshopper/locust, who is, in turn, being devoured by ants. The egg (a traditional symbol of female fertility) found near the bottom looks like it came from one of the insects. The woman looks a bit like a bull, too, I think, which is a symbol of male fertility (especially in Spain). So there are some fascinating role-reversals going on here. After seeing this painting, I have no clue as to what Savlador Dalí thought about sex.
"PG" RATING RESUMES
Joan Miró – Portrait II (1938)
I believe this to be the wife of the man in the first portrait by Miro, the one with the goofy old guy with the pipe. She’s wearing lots of bright colors in an attempt to stay young-looking, but her broken nose, her crossed eyes, and her puckering over-lipsticked lips are getting in the way. The egg, seen at about shoulder level, is once again a symbol of fertility. The old lady is inspecting it, aware of the long shadow that it is casting on her face (see the brown on the left-hand side).
Pablo Gargallo – Great Prophet
I take this to be a sculpture of the fictional offspring of John the Baptist and Wolverine. The staff in the Prophet’s left hand is a symbol of power, and the gaping holes represent his muscles, which are so powerful that they’re made out of force-fields rather than metal. Even though the sculpture is made of bronze, Gargallo painted it black to show how woolly this son of John the Baptist and Wolverine (the two most hairy people on the planet) was. The posture is threatening, allowing this soon-to-be-rather-elderly prophet to command respect one last time before everyone figures out he’s gone completely bonkers.
Pablo Picasso – Woman with a Vase
This woman with a flower vase is gazing on at the war scene in Picasso’s Guernica, described below. She is a squat and shell-shocked woman made from bronze, and she, just like those in the Guernica painting, appears to be missing some limbs or to have been melted by the firebombing.
Pedrero – El generalismo (1937)
The museum featured some amazing propaganda (both real and sarcastic) from the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). In this image, Francisco Franco (the big fat man with the red hat, who won the war with the help of the Nazis and was then dictator of Spain from 1939-1975) is following the German war machine, with Mussolini (I believe he’s the third one back) in toe. I’m not sure who the guy in the middle is. Maybe it's Churchill. That would be a hoot.
Pablo Picasso – Guernica (1939)
By 1937, Franco’s forces—the Nationalists—had taken in the upper hand in the Spanish Civil War. The Nationalists realized that with their firebombing technology, they had what it would take to destroy an entire city. However, they hadn’t ever done it yet. In an awful precursor to the firebombing of Dresden, Germany by the Allies in World War II, the Nationalists decided to bomb the civilian market town of Guernica. According to one estimate, about 1,650 people (almost all civilians) died in the attack.
Picasso’s painting is meant to show the confusion of the victims as their buildings collapsed around them. On the left, just under the bull, a mother is screaming as her child dies before her eyes. Just to the right of that, a man grasping a broken knife is trampled by a horse. The outline of a small flower is found just above the knife. You can’t see it well in this picture, but the horse’s teeth are melting. Other objects you might want to spot are a chicken, a woman with pacifiers for nipples, and a woman being devoured by a machine with teeth. The painting is huge, and I spent about twenty minutes walking back and forth trying to piece it all together. I’ve spent a total of about an hour looking at it by now, and I still have a hard time following all the action. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have been in the firebombing, trying to take in this much information at once. Chances are, no person saw or understood more than a snippet of what was going on at any one time. The lady at right holding the lantern, who might be an angel, may be able to grasp everything, but I certainly can’t.
Alfonso Ponce de León – Self Portrait (1936)
At first, I thought this was a portrait of the real Ponce de León, who was a Spanish explorer who went to Florida in search for the Fountain of Youth (just as many retired U.S. citizens do to this very day). I subsequently learned that Alfonso was actually a fascist who was tortured and killed just at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. So, it is interesting that he seemed to predict his own death so well. In any case, this “self portrait” is actually a portrait of Spain at the time, which could be described as a “car crash.” The sign, which says (loosely translated) “no trespassing,” looks like a cross and represents the Catholic Church. Instead of being covered in vines, this cross is covered in barbed wire. This indicates that the Church was, for Alfonso, an instrument of war (or at least very prickly).
Juan Gris – Guitar in Front of the Sea (1925)
Now for some cubism. The white triangle represents some distant (political, social) goal, an “island” out there somewhere to be discovered. The newspaper on the table represents where we are today. Between the two items is the guitar. Thus, between here and there is music. Music will show us the way.
Salvador Dalí – “Self Portrait” (1923) and “Girl at the Window” (1925)
At left is some more cubism for you. The two self-portrait of Dalí shows how obscure he’s become, almost as if he’s just a figure—he doesn’t know himself anymore. You can almost make out the letters on the scrap of newspaper, but I can’t really do it.
At right, a shapely young girl looks out a window. Dr. Bryant asked us to look for similarities between the two, and the only thing I can think of is the color scheme (lots of blues and grays) and the use of a lot of rectangles (in the windows in the second one, and in the cubism cubes in the first one). Other than that, it’s hard to believe that these two pictures were painted by the same painter.
Salvador Dalí – Invisible Man
Finally, a painting that bedazzled everyone in our group who walked past it: another one of Dalí’s surrealist paintings. The great thing about this painting is that you think you see a man in it, but there really isn’t one. The blue eyeballs of the man are just mere repetitions of a pattern started on the left. His hair is actually the clouds. His side, as seen at left, is actually a classical statue. His legs (the blue waterfalls) and his knees (the weird tree-like thing) aren’t body parts at all. His foot is a tiger. Cool!
By the time we got out, we were all completely starving.