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Museum of National Art of Catalonia

As a history major and art enthusiast, Mary often visits Museums and Art Galleries of countries she travels to.

Theme of the Museum of National Art of Catalonia

Museums have themes, and the Museum of National Art of Catalonia (MNAC) demonstrates that Catalonia is outstanding and unique in its culture and history and deserves to have its voice in the world community.

Thus, the display of individual architectural and art pieces supports this theme of consistent uniqueness and genius in Catalonian artists and history rather than the defining work of many world-class artists connecting with the region. It is an interesting slant and enables one to appreciate its message fully.

Museum of National Art of Catalonia

Museum of National Art of Catalonia

Home of the Museum of National Art of Catalonia: Palau Nacional

The building, the Palau Nacional (National Palace), where the national Museum is, is an excellent chest-pounding statement of power and importance. Flanked by the Congress centre, there is little subtlety as it dominates the city in size and height and displays the symbols of Catalonia that spread out at its feet like crown jewels.

The whole complex is more awe-inspiring than it is beautiful. It was built to impress, not to share. It is almost Stalinesque in its naked fist power. The sum of Catalonia's National Museum of Art is a powerful statement of a unique culture developed over more than 2000 years.

The external impact is almost the opposite of the inside, which is full of light and quite beautiful. With its central domed meeting area used for performances and the display rooms on the sides, the Museum is like an open plaza with its side streets, nooks and alleys empty for exploration.

The trip to the top of the dome is a must-do. You will see a panoramic view of the city with the most landmark attractions. Behind, you can see the Olympic Park.

Palau Nacional Catalonia

Palau Nacional Catalonia

Where is the Museum of National Art of Catalonia located?

A Visit to the Museum of National Art of Catalonia

This current Museum puts together the collections of the Catalonia Museum of Art (founded in 1934) and the Museum of Modern Art (founded in 1945).To visit the Museum is easy. Plaza Espanya is accessible by public transport, including the Metro. Once you reach Plaza Espanya, you won't miss the Palau Nacional, where the Museum is. You will also see the escalators leading up to the Museum, making access a delight for seniors.

The Museum is also accessible for Seniors, so my husband and I walk there to take the collections section by section. The Romanesque Collection is the most impressive, so if your time is limited, go there first and see the paintings and frescoes from the tiny 10th-century churches of the Boi Valley, a World Heritage site. Then, you can enter the great debate, leave the art in its heritage sites with limited accessibility or take it to protected galleries for the world to see.

There are cafes and a beautiful restaurant in the building so you can spend your day there easily. You will not be bored, I promise.

Express your thought on heritage pieces

Romanesque Mural

Romanesque Mural

The Museum's Impressive Romanesque Collection

When we read that this Museum has the best Romanesque collection of frescoes, we immediately went there and were awed.

As you enter the Romanesque collection, the murals are installed on simulations of their original locations and draw you in. They carefully took these from old Churches in the Pyrenees' remote villages.

Romanesque art grew from a Byzantine stock before European Gothic influences took over. At that time, there was some stability in Europe, and with that prosperity, levies and taxes were paid, making the Church, which held so much land, very wealthy. Such wealth enabled them to commission the frescoes as there was a real shortage of silver or bronze for statues.

At that time, there were few artists, as we have today. Many painters and stone masons were artisans working with a team of skilled workers constructing mostly Churches. In some cases, there is a Master. In paintings, the name attached is often the one who commissioned it, not the artist. Recently, art scholars have distinguished some of the Masters' unique characteristics and attributed the art to them.

These Romanesque murals and art are truly magnificent, but for the locals, these are also symbols of the birth of Catalonia.

Christ, Pantocrator

Christ, Pantocrator

Another Example of Romanesque Art

The above Pantocrator, which means Omnipotent or Almighty, is a Romanesque wall painting done by the Master of Taull in 1123 for the Church of St. Clemente de Taull in Catalonia. These Masters stood out from the study of some Romanesque works. Taull is a tiny village in the north of Leida, in the Boi Valley, part of Catalonia.

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Adoration of the Angels

Adoration of the Angels

The Gothic Collection

Gothic architecture evolved most in the 12th century, to peak in the 15th century, morphing into the Renaissance. As wealth grew from trade, individual merchant patrons supported the monastery as the main patron of the art.

With the increase in trade, cities became the centre of life, and the mercantile bourgeoisie, with access to a great deal of money, started to commission construction, paintings of their families and other works of art with more secular themes. The Abbey Church of St. Denis in northern France first recognized Gothic Art, but the style spread rapidly. In Spain, it came from the North pilgrims who travelled to Santiago de Compostela.

Although there was a growing volume of secular art at this time, the religious themes survived and strengthened, as seen in the Gothic collection of the National Museum of Art of Catalonia.

Catalan works comprise much of the collection, with superb pieces from what once was the Aragon Kingdom and Valencia. Many of these are from the late 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries.

The Museum also has Renaissance and Baroque paintings, including Francisco Zurbaran, El Greco and Diego Velasquez.

Orientalism in Modern Art

Orientalism in Modern Art

Modern Art

The Museum's collection of modern art started with a depiction of the artist and his journey toward freedom, towards a portrayal of himself. However, this artist, who wanted to express his freedom, especially from the bourgeoisie, also had to live, so he had to get commissions from this moneyed class. These commissions often were required to depict the patrons' wealth in all its expressions.

France's usually set the trends, including orientalist, landscape and open-air paintings. New media came with modernization and influenced the arts together with the Islamic legacy, as shown in the architectural backgrounds and floral additions.

The artists moved easily from the drawing rooms of the bourgeoisie to the taverns and brothels and social criticism, which all became part of his art. The Museum's collection clearly shows the journey toward the modern century and the gradual loosening of the restrictions of historical models.

Also included in the Modern Art collection are some works from Antoni Gaudi, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Antoni Tapies.

Below is an example of secular art towards which artists of modern times moved. "After the Party" is part of the journey towards independence from their usual patrons, the Church and the Bourgeoisie.

However, the second picture depicts the artists continuing dependence on their bourgeois patrons to put bread on the table.

Modern Secular Art

Modern Secular Art

Bourgeois Painting

Bourgeois Painting

Your Preferred Art

A Visit to the Museum of National Art of Catalonia

Special Exhibitions

The Museum often has temporary exhibitions that are worthwhile visiting. When we visited, the Museum displayed two artists: Francesc Torres and Ramon Pichot.

After you have visited the collections, enjoy the view of the city in the Cafe outside.

For opening hours and prices, here's the link to the Museum's site.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Mary Norton


Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 16, 2019:

Yes, Madrid has the best of El Greco. When we went to Madrid, it was really to see Prado. There is an El Greco Museum in Toledo.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on August 15, 2019:

What a lovely view of the Museum. I didn't get to go when I was there but I would love to. I did get to see the Prado in Madrid. Magnificent. And I got to see the paintings of El Greco in a little church in Toledo. The priest was very happy to show them all and I was so very impressed to see them in the spot where he meant them to be. Thanks for the tour.



Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 12, 2019:

Peggy, I regularly walk to some of our museums here in Toronto to appreciate what I have not noticed before. It is always a joy to see some new works, too. Thanks for visiting again.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 09, 2019:

Hi Mary,

I decided to visit this post of yours again today. Just yesterday we took an out of town guest to our Museum of Fine Arts Houston and she was impressed. We saw some new artwork that had not previously been hung as well as some temporary exhibits. It is always fun visiting art museums.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on June 26, 2018:

You have to be a Senior, though, for the free entrance although on a sunday at 3 p.m., it is free for all.

Robert Sacchi on June 25, 2018:

Convenient location and free, it doesn't get much better than that.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on June 25, 2018:

Thank you. I just love going to this museum as it was an easy walk from where we stayed and it is free for Seniors.

Robert Sacchi on June 24, 2018:

Thanks for the information, and artwork, on this museum, and for showing how to write an article on a museum. Great job.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 12, 2018:

Thanks for the visit. It is one museum we really love. We go there whenever we have time. There is so much to do in the area.

Paula from The Midwest, USA on February 11, 2018:

Hi Mary, I really love museums. I would love to visit ths one someday. Thank you for sharing!

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 24, 2018:

Yes, we were back there the other day and once again, enjoyed looking at the dome of the Palau.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 24, 2018:

I think that these art pieces should be kept where they are best preserved and safest. The Palau Nacional is also impressive. Thanks for sharing the history and beauty.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 23, 2018:

Thank you so much. I am sure you have your own adventure for now as you go deeper into your writing.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on January 22, 2018:

Lovely tour of these delightful museum finds and history. Thanks so much for sharing the adventure. Makes me want to see these in person.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 20, 2018:

We enjoyed those very much. The Museum took those from Boi Valley churches so they were preserved.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 19, 2018:

What a magnificent place! Thanks for showcasing the National Art Museum of Catalonia and some of what it contains. My husband and I would happily spend a day there if we would travel that way again. Those murals are amazing!

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 13, 2018:

This is one place we would end up if my family traveled to the region. Although I appreciate art like I shop--quickly--my teenage daughter slows me, particularly with modern art and interprets. I really enjoyed the modern art you discussed and displayed here.

Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on January 13, 2018:

I like art museums, i liked reading your interesting article.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 12, 2018:

This is very interesting. Mary. I loved looking at the art and learning about it. The museum looks like a wonderful place to explore.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on January 12, 2018:

What great photos! Though I LOVE art museums, it might be a while before I get to this one. So thanks for sharing these treasures with us!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 12, 2018:

That was a fun and educational read. What a magnificent building that is.

Ultimate Hubber on January 12, 2018:

What an amazing collection at the museum! BTW the museum itself is a piece of art.

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