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wednesday, july 8, 2015 the masterpiece
After taking my last train ride in Europe, I was finally back in Madrid. I had a lot of time to reflect while on the train, mainly about everything that I've seen while on this trip. I'll get into greater detail about all that on Friday with my last blog, but I'll let it be known that I can feel some emotion starting to stir up. I'm going to be experiencing a lot of 'last things' in the next 36 hours, but it will only pertain to this trip. If the future is kind to me, then I'll be back to relive some of these incredible moments.

An incredible moment, for example, like this evening's trip to Museo Reina Sofía. Normally the cost to enter the museum is 8 €, however this evening—and all evenings except Tuesdays—admittance was free between the hours of 19:00-21:00. It was either tonight or tomorrow evening that I'd have to come check it out, and I decided I had waited long enough. It was time to see 'Guernica.'

At exactly 19:00, the line I was standing in started to filter into the museum, and I could feel myself getting more anxious by the second. 'Guernica' is a huge painting by Pablo Picasso that depicts the destruction as a result of war. The symbolism represented throughout the painting is incredible, as each little vignette has it's only story behind it. Even though it's a representation of war and its aftermath, there are symbols of hope: the flower in the hand of the fallen soldier, the light at the top center of the painting, and the almost-invisible dove (even with a broken wing). Another aspect that intrigues me about this painting is the lack of color, yet the viewer doesn't sense that anything is missing without colors. This is a painting I've taught for five years in my AP class, and with each passing year I get more interested in the history of the Spanish Civil War and Picasso's involvement with the painting. In part of my Lilly Grant proposal I mentioned how I've never seen it in person, and that it's something I have to see.

Before making my way to the 2nd story where I'd eventually be standing in front of 'Guernica', I had to make my way through the various galleries. The first floor seemed to be a lot of contemporary art, most of which I didn't understand. Sometimes it's easy to overthink art, but when I see a painting that's just black paint on a canvas or a room full of blocks, then I'm not sure what I'm supposed to see. My brain isn't on that level to 'get it.' There were plenty of neat statues/sculptures that were intriguing, and thankfully I was permitted to take pictures of some of the ones that stood out to me. At one point I came into a room that had hundreds of bells hanging at the end of different colored yarns. The blend of the colors and the different lengths of the yarns created a stunning visual that almost looked like floating bubbles. You can tell I was slightly obsessed with this since I took a few pictures from various angles. It kind of makes me want to make my own version!

Once I made it to the 2nd floor, I began to navigate the various rooms of art pertaining to the Guernica era, and I was wondering when I was going to stumble upon Picasso's masterpiece. As it turns out, it was incredibly hard to miss. I walked into a long corridor and glanced to my right and could see into the next room, and there it was. Along with the painting was a large group of about seventy people standing in front of it. Clearly 'Guernica' is the star of the show, and this was the first time abroad that I've seen a painting receive this much attention. Had I gone to the Louvre, I'm sure I would have seen the same result with the 'Mona Lisa.'

I didn't know how I'd react when I came face-to-face with 'Guernica', and I was surprised that I wasn't as emotional as I thought I'd be. I was more awe-struck than anything. It is an absolutley enormous painting that took up a large portion of the room, as it was the only painting exhibited in this gallery. There were a few things that stood out to me as I studied it for a good twenty minutes, and these were things that I would never have seen by looking at a picture online. There were a few places where I could see through the paint to reveal shapes and figures that Picasso decided to paint over. This was most noticeable in the head of the fallen soldier, as some dark patterns were peeking through the white in his face. Something else that surprised me was that everything was finely outlined. I don't think I ever caught on to that from the pictures I've seen, but everything pops and is very clear. From the horse's mouth I could see drips of white painting falling from his teeth. I had no idea those drips were there, but it provided me with a realization that this is the painting and that it isn't flawless. The drips from the mouth also created an unsettling feeling about the horse, almost like it's rabid.

It was incredible to finally see 'Guernica' in person. It feels so much more real to me, and I'll no longer feel like an amateur when I teach it this fall.

I left Museo Reina Sofía feeling rejuvenated and accomplished, maybe with a little more pep to my step. I had passed some souvenir shops earlier, and I decided I'd stop by on my way back to the apartment and get a few things for teachers, family, and friends. Let it be known that not all souvenir shops are created equal! The first shop I went to was selling souvenirs at a very, very high price, and I knew I could do better than that. So I continued out of the museum district (the three major museums are all on the same street and are very close to each other), and it was a local hole-in-the-wall type souvenir shop that I found some great deals. I did treat myself to a few items at the museum: an eyeglass case with the horse from 'Guernica' on the front, a Joan Miró coffee mug, and a 'Guernica' magnet. I'll buy a few more things tomorrow, assuming I can fit it all into my luggage!

Tomorrow is my last day in Madrid, Spain. My plan is to walk around, absorb as much of the city and sights as I can, and reflect. I think it'll be the best way to spend the day.

pictures from today

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