Spain’s legacy of painting is long and rich. The 16th century brought us El Greco and Vel ázquez. T he 17th century offered Coello; the 18th century had Goya and Ribera. But the 19th and 20th centuries were a sort of painter’s golden age in Spain, from Picasso to Miró to Dalí. And if it’s those modern artists that interest you, Madrid’s Reina Sofia Museum is the place to go.
Top four things to see
1 Without a doubt, the top attraction at the Reina So fía Museum is Pablo Picasso’s Guernica (pronounced with a hard g sound). Painted in 1937, one year into Spain’s devastating Civil War, it was Picasso’s reaction to the bombing of the town of Guernica. Larger than life, visceral, and anguished, it’s a masterpiece from a master painter. The surrounding display is well put-together, with artist’s sketches and photos of the work in progress.
Somewhat surprisingly, it can be difficult to locate the work at first. Head up to the second floor and look for room 206.
2 The Reina Sofía is permanent home to an early Still Life by Salvador Dalí . The painting is notable for showing clearly the styles that influenced Dal í at the beginning of his career, but it’s made exceptional by the fact that it was a gift from Dalí to Spanish poet Federico Gar cía Lorca. This work is just around the corner from the Guernica , in room 203.
3 The museum features many works by Catalan painter Joan Mir ó. I nfluenced by Surrealism and Cubism and known for his experimental style, his pieces often depict aspects of Spanish life with magical realism. One representative painting you can see at the Reina Sofía is House with a Palm Tree in room 209.
4 My favorite painting at the Reina Sofía is La revolución española by French painter Francis Picabia. Also painted in 1937, I appreciate this work for its macabre contrast between the healthy-looking Spanish lady and the two well-dressed skeletons. Spain’s Civil War was a dark time in the country’s history in which it probably felt as though everyone was, like this señora , walking with death.
How to get there
The directions listed on the museum’s website are fairly straight forward and easy to follow. I would add that the museum’s main entrance is not necessarily visible from the street. If you emerge from the Atocha metro station, for example, you are very close, even if you can’t immediately see the museum. Ask anyone on the street (it’s common to ask strangers for directions in Spain) and they can point you in the right direction.
The museum’s open hours and prices are listed here. One thing to note is that entrance is completely free of charge Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for the last two hours (7pm – 9pm). On Sundays, entrance is free from 3pm – 7pm, though some parts of the museum are closed. (Guernica is definitely view-able on Sundays, however!) Entrance is free all day on April 18, May 18, October 12, and December 6, though those days are sure to be very crowded.
A bite to eat afterward
If you’re looking for a post-art snack, the plaza outside the main entrance can look appealing. However, I heartily recommend steering away from those restaurants. The food is over priced and much lower quality than you’ll find in other parts of Madrid. Instead, locate the street Calle Argumosa (visible on this map if you zoom in) and choose any place that strikes your fancy. You pretty much can’t go wrong eating at any establishment on that street – your stomach and your wallet will thank you!