Is art your passion? Do sensational brushstrokes with incredible colors, born in the imagination of artistic geniuses make your heart skip a beat? Then France and Spain, home to some of the world’s most famous artists and museums is definitely the place for you. Get on board a Renfe-SNCF en Coopération train and speed your way along to seeing these fantastic treasures – the most famous works of art on exhibition in Spanish and French museums.
1. MONA LISA – PARIS
The Mona Lisa - Dcoetzee, Wikimédia Commons
The legendary “Mona Lisa” painting by Italian genius Leonardo da Vinci is said to be the most famous, most visited and most mentioned piece of art in the entire world
. Truth is, there are not many people who not heard about the mysterious Mona Lisa and her magical smile. The portrait is said to be of Gherardini, painted for her husband, and has been dated back to the first years of the 16th century. Today she sits proudly in the Louvre Museum in Paris, with millions of people coming from all around the world to see her with their own eyes. Want to see all of the amazing works of art Paris has to offer? Take a tour through its museums.
2. WHISTLER’S MOTHER – PARIS
The “Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1”, better known as the Whistler’s Mother, is said to be a Victorian version of the Mona Lisa, and the most famous American painting outside of the United States. Painted by James McNeill Whistler in 1871, the painting is of his mother, Anna Whistler, and is said to only have become famous when American president Franklin Roosevelt became so marveled by it that he used the painting as a Mother’s Day symbol in 1934. The painting has featured in many movies, songs and other creative works, and is currently kept in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France.
3. LAS MENINAS (VELAZQUEZ) – MADRID
The Menines - Calliopejen1, Wikimédia Commons
One of Spanish artist Diego Velazquéz’s most famous paintings, Las Meninas or Ladies-in-Waiting may seem like quite a straightforward piece at first glance, but draws you in with small and complex mysteries, some still unsolved. The most prominent of these mysteries is not who is being painted, as all but one of the characters in the painting have been identified, one of them being the princess of Spain, but what is happening at that moment. On the left we see an easel with a painting, but facing away from us, which poses the question, what is Velazquéz painting? Some say it is the King and Queen, and that their portrait at the back of the room is in fact a mirror mirroring the canvas on the easel. Other’s claim that the throne is not in the line of view of the artist, and that he must be painting something else, which the royal family is overseeing. In any case, the painting is said to be an insight into the Spanish monarchy and court of the 17th century, and can be seen today in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.
4. LAS MENINAS (PICASSO) – BARCELONA
Same name, yet very different masterpiece. This Las Meninas was produced by Pablo Picasso, and is Picasso’s interpretation and “translation” of Velazquéz’s work of art. Thought the elements are, indeed the same, with the princess, the ladies in waiting, the figure on the stairs in the hallway at the back, and the famous easel with a canvas facing away from us, it takes a couple looks to realize the pieces are even related in any way. Picasso took Velazquéz’s image and processed it in his artistic, incredible and somewhat incomprehensible mind and produced a gem of his own. The painting can be seen in the Picasso Museum, which holds many more of his paintings and information of his story, in Barcelona, Spain.
5. GUERNICA – MADRID
Ceramic wall representing the work "Guernica" - Papamanila, Wikimedia Commons
The Guernica painting is widely regarded as Spanish artist Pablo Picasso’s most famous work. The masterpiece is larger than most people think, at 3.5 by 7.8 meters, and entirely painted in tones of black, white and grey. It is a powerful, striking piece produced as a result of the German Nazi bombing of a small Basque town in the North of Spain, Guernica, during the Spanish Civil war in 1937, just 2 years before the official start of the Second World War. The interpretations of this painting are endless, with its wild, exaggerated and interestingly contorted figures leading each person imagination and understanding in a different direction. Painted originally for an exhibition in Paris, it has now found its permanent home in the Museo Nacional Centre de Arte Reína Sofia in Madrid.
6. “LE PENSEUR” – PARIS
Although not a painting, this is a sculpture that could simply not go unmentioned. “The Thinker”, sculpted by Auguste Rodin, is a bronze sculpture on a stone pedestal, inspired by Dante’s The Devine Comedy. The representation of a naked man bent with his elbow rested on one knee, brow furrowed deep in thought has become a worldwide recognized symbol of philosophy. There are around 28 versions of the sculpture around the globe, one if which rests in the Musée Rodin in Paris.
7. SALVADOR DALÍ MUSEUM – FIGUERES
The Dali Theatre and Museum - Figueres
The Dali Theatre and Museum in Figueres, Spain offers not just one, but the largest collection of art by Salvador Dalí in the world.
In the words of Salvador Dalí himself, “I want my museum to be a single block, a labyrinth, a great surrealist object. It will be a totally theatrical museum. The people who come to see it with leave with the sensation of having had a theatrical dream.” And so it was done. Is there really any better way to explain it? In fact, part of the museum was a theatre when Dalí lived in the town, and was one of the first places his art was shown. Under the museum lies a crypt where the legendary artist is buried. Read here for what else to do while in Figueres!
But don’t take our word for it – true art cannot be described, imagined or even seen in pictures. Artists dedicate years of their life to bringing to life exquisite and extraordinary scenes from their lives or their imagination, and leave the explanation up to ours – and hence each work of art is different to each set of eyes. So come see, interpret and be blown away for yourself, and book your Renfe-SNCF en Coopération’s high speed train tickets today.