The place for art

The 20 best works in the history of spanish art

At AD we don’t want you to miss out on visiting the ARCOmadrid 2020 fair, which will start on February 26, and we suggest you participate in the draw for ten exclusive guided visits. To win them, you just have to tell us which you think is the best work in the history of Spanish art. You can choose three so that it is not so difficult. We have done the same by asking some of the most important galleries and artists what they think are the works worthy of this award, to narrow down the possible answers. And we have loved seeing the variety of opinions and historical eras that have been told us. So we have thought about using their proposals and making a list so that you can help us choose the one you like the most.

I’m still learning, Francisco de Goya


Of all the works that the great Francisco de Goya has to his credit, the José de la Mano gallery has been clear about which one deserves to be on this list, I still learn. “From 1826, held in Madrid and in the Museo Nacional del Prado right now, Francisco de Goya, a true pillar of modernity, portrays himself at eighty years old in his exile from Bordeaux under the legend of I am learning, an inspiring statement of intentions for the art to come ”.

The paintings of the Altamira Caves


Yes, because our history of art begins many many centuries ago, and the Espacio Minimo gallery has wanted to give it its rightful place. “It is the beginning of everything or, at least, the beginning of everything that has come to us. The birth of a universal language prior to writing that combines beauty, ritual and symbol. If art is representation, this is one of his masterpieces ”.

Guernica, Pablo Picasso

Undoubtedly one of the masterpieces of painting of all time, which is why we understand that from the MPA Gallery they have not hesitated to choose it. “Painted in 1937, this work by Pablo Picasso made during the Civil War, was never shown in Spain until the establishment of democracy. He arrived in Madrid from the MoMA in New York, settling in the Casón del Buen Retiro for, in 1992, permanently transferring it to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. The horrors of the Civil War have been reproduced by many other artists, sensitive works that reflect the terrible suffering that wars produce in human beings ”.

Las Meninas, Velázquez

Surely more than one was suffering wondering if we would be able to make this list without including the probably most famous work of Velázquez and that transcends our borders. Well, no. And it has been again from Espacio Minimo, who have reminded us of its dimension, because for them, “after Velázquez’s painting the concept of painting changes. It continues to be the most enigmatic and conceptual work in the history of art, the most unique ”.

Fleeing criticism, Pere Borrell del Caso

It is the paradigm of trompe l’oeil, or what is the same, trick the eye or cheat. And it is that this work manages to deceive us, create an image and even a certain uneasiness, when seeing the face of the child literally trying to leave the painting, in a hasty and even agitated way. For the artist Guillermo Mora is his favorite, he says that he always accompanies him in his studio, for two reasons, “for breaking the barrier of pictorial space, and for being a flight from painting, from painting.”

Still life of game, vegetables and fruits, Juan Sánchez Cotán

“It is one of my favorite works by a Spanish painter, due to the contemporaneity in the way of arranging the elements of the still life that, instead of being arranged in the horizontal plane, are shown to the viewer suspended on ropes in the vertical plane, and this It refers me to the concept of “display” of the contemporary art exhibition ”. The artist Cristina Garrido also did not hesitate to tell us what her bet was.

Half-sunken dog, Francisco de Goya

From the Parra & Romero Gallery they have proposed us this marvel from the time of the black paintings of the painter Maño, because they consider that “they comprise one of the most recognized and particular artistic productions of Spanish and international art of all time. Among all these pieces, Half-Sunken Dog has always held an exceptional place for its strong expressiveness and incredible modernity. It is a silent and awe-inspiring painting on its bill. This work should be part of that list of fundamental works in Spanish art, because it prefigures abstraction almost a century in advance and has a notable influence on the configuration of contemporary art ”

Walk along the sea, Joaquín Sorolla

It transports us to the shore of its beloved Mediterranean, we listen to the waves, feel the air and even make us want to have something fresh from the rich sun that it reflects. And it is that nobody like Sorolla to make us live an eternal summer with this work, undoubtedly one of the most famous, but the most, where there is evidence of his mastery with the brush and his ability to give movement to something as static as a painting

The temptation of Saint Anthony, Eugenio Salvador Dalí

The Catalan genius painted it in 1964, it goes without saying that it is surreal, in the artistic sense of the word, and that it represents Saint Anthony the Abbot in a desert, on his knees and defending himself with a cross from temptations, which in this case they are shaped like horses and elephants. Extravagant and visionary, this painting reflects like few others Dalí’s fascination for the world of dreams and could not be missing from our list.

The crucifixion, Antonio Saura

One of the greatest artists of the 20th century, he claimed to be “aesthetically and emotionally impressed from his youth” by the work of Velázquez and Goya, and believed that “such a great legacy should be taken from Franco’s culture, which placed it in a position opposed to contemporary European Informal Art ”. This work, made between 1959 and 1963, embodies the Spain of that time, where it takes the Crucifixion of Velázquez as a model and gives it a modern and critical treatment, to remove that Christian emblem and turn it into the image of the tragedy of the human condition .

Appearance of the Virgin to San Pedro Nolasco, Zurbarán

He is considered the painter who best knew how to interpret Naturalism, and the delicacy of his canvases, with a religious charge, are a world reference. So we could not leave out of our list this Apparition of the Virgin to San Pedro Nolasco, a canvas from 1629 that is part of a commission he receives to decorate the convent of La Merced Calzada in Seville. And as they assure from the Thyssen Museum, “without any iconographic precedent on the subject and based only on literary references, the painter creates in this series, one of the most novel and beautiful sets on the life of San Pedro Nolasco”.

The burial of the Count of Orgaz, El Greco

There is no art history class worth its salt, at least those who have been lucky enough to study the subject, who do not reel off this painting millimeter by millimeter. Because each character, each face, each light, each hand, each expression, is a delight to develop. Probably the best-known work of El Greco, it is impressive even in size, since it is a canvas measuring 4.80 meters by 3.60 meters, and which is still preserved in the same place for which it was painted in Mannerist style. the parish of Santo Tomé de Toledo.

Children eating grapes and melon, Murillo

Here we go a bit out of the expected perhaps, because Murillo’s virgins even have verses, but it seemed to us that this painting, due to its daily life and theme, deserves to be on this list. Because the Sevillian artist liked to observe the street, the boys and urchins who share lunch or play dice in that Seville that was sinking into misery after the ravages of the plague of 49. And that is what this work reflects, to two boys handing out a basket of fruit and where they seem to be planning the next prank.

Portrait of Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris

It is almost unthinkable for us to say cubism and not think about the wonderful Picasso, but the Madrid painter and illustrator, but above all artist Juan Gris, was one of the masters of this discipline, and he demonstrated it with this painting, where you can see the Malaga master , heartfelt and with a palette, we assume and hope that looking for inspiration to start painting. It is a late Cubism since the features of the face can be appreciated in some way. But above all it is a masterpiece that could not be left out of our list.

The little piconera, Julio Romero de Torres

Murillo is to virgins what Romero de Torres is to the “Spanish woman”, with couplets and all. This was the last work he painted, and therefore his pictorial testament. The woman portrayed is María Teresa López, a young woman of Cordoba parents who emigrated to Argentina and returned to stay in her original Córdoba, a landscape that we can see behind the woman’s back. The author’s museum tells us that the work “synthesizes his entire conception of painting and art. It is a summary and compendium of his entire life and artistic career. In this painting, there is something of a message about what Romero de Torres understood painting to be and what he wanted to express with it, something more than the pleasure of contemplating a beautiful and original portrait. Add to his artistic conception, the unconfessed desire to express his conception of life, in a portrait full of maturity, depth and calm.

Large gray painting, Antoni Tàpies

He left us eight years ago, but this Spanish painter, sculptor, and art theorist was one of the exponents of informalism and undoubtedly one of our most prominent current artists. He always felt a certain attraction to elements such as earth, dust or atoms, something that increases his presence in the works he does. This Great Gray Painting is from 1955, and with its color palette and strong lines, it invites reflection and balance.

Gran Vía, Antonio López

Hyperrealism in its purest form, the portrait of a unique place, at a specific time, which he painted for five summers in a row at 6:30 in the morning and which concentrates his pictorial discourse on the inert. Madrid’s street is taken from the perspective of Calle Alcalá and developed with great detail where there is nothing real left to collect. The author always says that “a work is never finished, but the limit of one’s own possibilities is reached”. We never tire of looking at this painting.

The hug, Juan Genovés

Convinced of the transformative power of art and committed to his environment, this work is perhaps a sample of those ideas carried through his hands, in the form of a painting. From this box. Made in 1976, which was a poster for Amnesty International during the transition and served as inspiration for the sculpture El Abrazo, as a tribute to the lawyers murdered in Atocha in 1977 and which can be seen. As the author stated, “this canvas represents the thousands and thousands of people who fight so that our country is no different. This painting represents the reconciliation of the Spanish ”.

Wheat surprise, Maruja MalloÇ

We couldn’t finish our list without including a woman, and of course not just any artist, but the great Maruja Mallo. Her real name was Ana María Gómez González, a native of Viveiro and one of the most important figures of the so-called Generation of 27, so much so that Dalí considered her “half angel, half shellfish.” With the Civil War he had to flee to Argentina and left us 25 years ago. This work, from 1936, is the first of a series of seven canvases that the painter would call The Religion of Work, in this case, she holds three seeds of wheat in one hand and in the other hand three ears sprout, representing the relationship between the human element, work and earth. One of the most important female figures in our history and who has not been given enough artistic relevance. We do it from AD.

Woman, bird, star, Joan Miró

Framed in the so-called abstract surrealism, Miró deeply admired Picasso, and this famous work, despite the title, is also known as Homenaje a Picasso, finishing the canvas precisely on the day the man from Malaga died. The theme represents in an informal and imaginative way three characters drawn from nature. The identification of the characters is open to the imagination of those who contemplate the painting and it is the body that gives us the clues of what it represents, a woman, a bird and a star. And we, the least we can do, is include it in our list.