John and Joan's Travels through France, Spain and Italy travel blog

The rain in Spain

stays wherever we go, as far as we can tell. And it is cold and miserable.

San Sebastian curves around two lovely crescent shaped bays with two high peaks on each horn of the crescent. The two beaches look excellent, the main one a gentle swimming beach and the other a surf beach. On the first day we told ourselves that the next day we'd walk around them on the sweeping promenades above, opposite which you get a curve of mainly 19th century buildings. But that night a dirty great booming thunderstorm came crashing into the city out of the Atlantic and the rain has poured down ever since, then followed us to Bilbao, with top temperatures around 12. Disappointing, but in SS we went off to an interesting museum then had a lovely bowl of soupy cod and peppers.

The ground floor of the Museo de San Telmo has a bright clear gallery showing religious art, mainly by Basque painters and sculptors. Some very nice wooden sculptures - one a kind of nativity diorama - another a flying devil with a ferocious face. Some of the paintings are very clumsy, but I stll find them quite touching. I have a great affection for a certain type of religious art, but I'm not sure how to describe what it is that I like about it. You'll think I'm exaggerating or stupid if I tell you that the work of Fra Angelico can bring me to the point of tears, but It's true. Same with Giotto - in fact any number of works in Italian churches before the 'High Renaissance' affect me in that way, and not only work by wellknown artists. I could happily spend the rest of my life wandering from church to church between Venice and Naples looking at the works of many little known artists from the late Roman period right through to the middle of the 1400s. It'd be bliss.

It kept raining in Bilbao. The Guggenheim is a spectacular building,of course,and this is an interesting town. The art inside wasn't as interesting as the building, but we were surprised to find that a whole floor was devoted to very recent work of David Hockney - done last year. I've always enjoyed his early work - I love the meticulous line and bright colour and the way he experiments with different media - but I haven't enjoyed his stuff since it moved away from that precision and clarity. This was fascinating though. A lot of stuff done on iPad and then printed large. A day by day study of the emergence of spring in Yorkshire. My favourite, though, was about 26 small watercolours of fields in Yorkshire done about eight years ago - the old meticulousness and clarity of line. I wasn't keen on most of the other stuff in the gallery, but I've got pretty conservative taste, I know. I don't like art that comes with an essay. I don't go to a gallery to read. I turned off the audio guide after a while. Who writes that stuff? Full of high sounding sentiments and adjectives telling you what to feel when you look at work that can't make you feel it.

We cut Spain short and we're on the plane heading for Rome early. Hugh and Tash sent us a list of Rome put together by Barry Jones for friends of theirs and it's excellent. I reckon I would have missed Velasquez' Pope Innocent without it. I'm DYING to see it.

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