We found our visit to the Reina Sofia delightful. Since our visit, the French architect Jean Nouvel has created a new building to house special exhibitions, a larger bookshop, and a restaurant, as well as an interior plaza. If you visit this June, you can see a Juan Gris retrospective. This promises to be an exciting display of his paintings, drawings, and sculpture, of which the museum has a strong collection. One of the foremost Cubists, Gris captured the spirit of his times with striking clarity. Noteworthy Gris canvasses include "Violin and Guitar," "Retrato de Josette," "Still Life in Front of the Cupboard," "Guitar at the Sea," and "The Singer," representative works progressing from 1913 to 1926, the year before this Madrileno artist died at only 40 years of age.
If you read Spanish, do pick up the free brochure "MNCARS La Coleccion Permanente," as it gives you the room numbers of artists’ works on floors 2a to 4a. There’s a Big Three featured in this museum devoted primarily to Spanish artists, which includes Picasso, Miro, and Dali. The "star attraction" is Picasso’s "Guernica," an enormous oil-on-canvass that the ill-fated Republican government commissioned for the 1937 Universal Exhibition in Paris. Unexpectedly and horrifically, Picasso’s subject matter for that commission stemmed from his angry response to Fascist atrocity. On April 26 of that year, Nazi aircraft simpatico to Franco bombed the Basque town of Guernica, killing and maiming civilians in a bizarre preview of efficiently devastating blitzkriegs to come. Ironically, the muted grey, white, and black memorial of that event depicts no bombs, no guns, and no soldiers. Bullfighting symbols occur, but there are no symbols of war. And lots of gaping mouths abound in this scene of the effects of technological indifference to humanity.
This famous cartoon-like work occupies the center of the Sofia’s second floor. Like the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, "Guernica" draws the most attention from visitors. Since I had seen it years ago, in the ‘50s, when it was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I was more interested in the nearby photo collection by Dora Maar that captured the stages during Picasso’s execution of the work. After Franco’s and Picasso’s death, it still took time until "Guernica" returned in 1981 to a non-Franco Spain as the ardently anti-Franco Picasso had stipulated. Later, when the Sofia opened up in a reconverted hospital, "Guernica" was moved appropriately to this contemporary Spanish museum.