Despite humans wanting to be practical and efficient, we are helplessly drawn to beauty. That’s what I thought as I watched the clusters of people at the museums and botanical garden in Madrid. We have a collective need for creativity that pushes us beyond ‘survival’ being enough in this crazy world.
Museums can be overwhelming. It is almost impossible to take in that much beauty at once. I like to find 2-3 paintings or aspects of the museum that ‘speak’ to me to make the experience more memorable.
The Women of the Thyssen Museum:
- Carmen Thyssen, a baroness through her marriage to her third husband Heinrich and Miss Spain in 1961, started collecting art in the 1980s using her husband’s fortune. She amassed a collection that includes Monet, Braque, Hassam, Rubens, Degas and many more. There has been a lot of social scandal concerning her collection since her husband’s death that make her life sound like a telenovela. In the museum, the walls are all salmon pink, it is SO bold and one of the requirements made by Carmen. In 2011, she also opened a museum in Malaga that focuses primarily on 19th century Spanish art.
- The nameless woman in The Hotel Room by Edward Hopper is a wonderful piece for a solo female traveler to contemplate. Here is what the museum has to say about this extraordinary work:
“The loneliness of the modern city is a central theme in Hopper’s work. In this painting, a woman sits on the edge of a bed in an anonymous hotel room. It is night and she is tired. She has taken off her hat, dress and shoes, and—too exhausted to unpack—she is checking the time of her train the next day. The space is confined by the wall in the foreground and the chest of drawers on the right; while the long diagonal line of the bed directs our gaze to the background, where an open window turns the viewer into a voyeur on what is happening in the room. The female figure, sunk in her own thoughts, contrasts with the coldness of the room, whose sharp lines and bright, flat colours are heightened by strong artificial lighting from above.”
- Duchess Millicent Sutherland painted by John Singer Sargent in 1904 was much more than a pretty face. A fierce advocate for social reform and better working conditions despite her social status, she was sometimes called ‘meddlesome Millie’. During WW1 she organized an ambulance unit and was recognized by the Belgium, French and British Red Cross for her work during the war. She was married three times and penned several novels. The 1926 review of her novel ‘That Fool of a Woman’ in The Saturday Review stated: The power of the book lies in an emotional but extremely intelligent style, in an analysis of character which is revealed as much by detail as by words, in a feeling for atmosphere (war-charged Europe is particularly real), but mostly in the fact that the heroine is a sentimental heroine with a brain. Never does she see her mistakes quite in time—but neither is she hopelessly stupid nor a wilful misrepresenter of unflattering fact. Lonely, lovely, sentimental creature that she is, very much too late she sees the wherefore and why of foolish choice and subsequent disaster.
More than a pretty face indeed!