Tuesday 10 March 2009: gallery-day 2: thyssen-bornemisza
Rather handily there's a three-gallery ticket available from any of the big three galleries which permits entry into each once over a reasonably long time, possibly a month rather than a mere week but I'd have to check. As the relevant information indicates this place was started by a philanthropic toff and later gifted to the peoples though with the proviso that the walls of the gallery be painted a nasty salmony-pink colour. It's surprising how irritating this became by the end of the day... every now and then your eyes will slip off the edge of a painting and catch sight of the wall and wonder why.
Looking back, we probably went round the wrong way. Start at the top and work downwards, leaving the ground floor until last. The ground floor had the most varied and interesting stuff and though it only covered a third of the footprint of the building (the shop, cafe and a temporary exhibition we didn't bother with take up most of the space) it had a good spread of moderny paintystuff including several works by each of the people with a mere one or two paintings apiece in the Dean gallery in Edinburgh. Scribblings from the notebook include a note to look up to see who Richard Lindner was (his painting had a distinctly yellow-submarine-look to it). Another says "Lucien Freud dead/alive?" which the internet indicates to be the latter though since writing this his more bearded brother has unfortunately changed status. There was a nice picture of a woman wearing a jumper where the wool looked really realistic but which wasn't as impressive at the end of the day when I went back for a second look. Perhaps doing the interesting stuff first was the right way round. Another scribble says "One where face looks considerably less old-fashioned than most turns out to be 1904 rather than c17-18" though that might have been talking about the first floor rather than the ground.
Up the stairs things got considerably worse and the upper floors all blurred together after a while. I think the first floor started off well if gloomy with lots of Dutch landscapes before it degenerated into thousands of black-background portraits, possibly including the one I mentioned above. I don't have any names scribbled down so I assume nothing really jumped out at me.
As with the Reina Sofía one is permitted to egress mid-viewing if you don't feel like waiting twenty minutes to be noticed by a waiter in the expensive café in the grounds so we buggered off for a cheap but nice coffee and muffin elsewhere. Muffins over here seem reasonably reliable and the fridges in several of the coffee shops actually chilled and moistened the food rather than drying it out. Unfortunately there appears to only be the one with free wifi though a laptop might be able to see more than my phone could.
On the second floor you hit the religious painting section which starts off with the usual load of pictures of various saints from panels in churches where the way they're standing or what they hold indicates which saint they're supposed to be. There are also far too many pictures of the baby Jesus than even someone who believes in such things would probably want to see, including Cristo Reucidado by BRAMANTINO (1490ish) which appears to support my christ-as-zombie/vampire theory by portraying the risen-from-the-dead adult Jesus as a grey-skinned bloodshot-eyed evil-looking child-thing. Another featured the baby Jesus with the face of an adult (and no mere normal adult either; an adult with a weird expression) and most of them showing the baby Jesus blessing someone do so with fingers far longer than a baby's fingers usually are in order to be able to get them to bend enough to do that one-handed-blessing-sign thing popular in old-fangled religious imagery. Initially there appeared to be an unwritten rule that the baby Jesus's face must always face stage right which was eventually overturned by ANONÌMO ALEMÁN c.1410 (though that looks suspiciously like it might mean "anonymous German") whose depiction of a nailed-up Jesus looks as if it might be facing left though it was all a bit too twisty to be certain.
Eventually the religiousness faltered and normal painting resumed with some portraits of fat monarchs including one of Henry VIII where he looks almost exactly like Mitch Benn. More landscapey stuff: I've never heard of the Falls of St Anthony but they look quite pleasant if they actually look like the painting and the artist didn't do the usual spruce-up-the-view thing artists are likely to do given any landscape which they feel doesn't have enough half-arches and other classical ruins dotted about it. The Italian section had the usual overload of pictures of Venice though there are a few proper Canalettos there indicating how such things should be done.