People who know me know that I'm a great fan of Diego Velazquez' paintings. I'm such a fan that I named my son, Diego, after him. One day, someone I know with strong opinions, in this case, with a strong opinion he felt was contrary to my love of that painter, could hold his tongue no longer. He said to me, "You know, Velazquez just doesn't reach Rembrandt's level of expression."
An opinion you don't agree with can either stop you in your tracks or help you think out your own position. Probably for a moment I was afraid that this friend's opinion was, in fact, contradictory of mine, and that I would not be able to defend Velazquez. But there's a reason I love Velazquez. What I feel when I look at his work is, for me, so strong that the most powerful expression by other artists can't steal its thunder.
"Well, you're right about Rembrandt's expressiveness," I said to my friend. "No one can touch Rembrandt on the type of expressiveness he has. I will never see anything more touching than some of Rembrandt's self-portraits as an old man. But Velazquez moves me in a completely different way. His vision is so clear, and his pictures are so poised and calm that I can't help but find them very moving. He gives me what I'm looking for."
At the Prado I also enjoyed my other favorite painter, Goya. There's nothing like The Black Paintings, is there? And the Third of May is a tsunami of expression. Interestingly, the rows and rows of Royal portraits by Goya repelled me. Though they didn't do so for any formal reason. Somehow, I see them as unabashedly sarcastic of those poor royal folks, and that is very hard for me to look at. I think he's expressing a hideous emotion in them. If I get there again, one day, I'll try to devote some time them. Maybe then I'll understand them better.
In the visits I've made to European Museums I've been finding Titian surprisingly lively, modern, and dramatic, on a consistent basis. It was so at the Prado, too. One Titian of Jesus with his tormentors surprised me because Jesus' bare arm had dark marks crisscrossing it. They were the figure's arm hair. That's not a detail I recall ever having seen in anything as old as Titian.