The Capa Collection at Reina Sofia

The presence of Picasso’s Guernica overshadows the entire museum de Reina Sofia, it is by far the most popular and most lingered upon piece. A side effect of this overshadowing presence and beauty is that a truly important role of the painting is overlooked in favor of its own immense value as a time capsule of the terror of the war. This other role that the work fills is as a theme conclusion.

Capa PhotoThroughout the entire museum the various themes and sentiments that exist in the hallways and on the walls can all be experienced within Picasso’s huge, grotesque masterpiece. One of these other collections that bask in the shadow of Guernica is that of Robert Capa. As a collection of photos, the series serves to bring forward in a very real and contemporary sense the terrible nature of the conflict which gripped Spain.

Famous photos like Death of a Militiaman capture the same terror, while other photos of men fighting from behind their dead or almost dead horses bring a sentiment of the grotesque nature of the conflict which is seen in the aggressive collage style of Guernica. The style of Capa’s photos is arguably more extreme than any other pieces in the museum. The audience is left both disgusted by what they are seeing in the snapshots, but also find themselves unable to look away for the same reason. In contemporary times, it seems as though this sentiment of fascination with the abomination regarding Capa’s work tends to mirror the feelings of Spanish citizens and indeed the society’s feelings as a whole towards the war. It is an event now that is at a distance in time at which fades the atrocity that it represented to the point where the citizenry not only finds itself willing to discuss the topic more openly, but finds itself entranced by the horror that occurred. This feeling is one which permeates the gallery room where Guernica stands, where both Spaniards and foreigners stare for a seemingly unending period of time with a look upon their faces of mixed fascination, disgust, and even a level of pride regarding the imposing work and what it represents in Spanish history. Although it can be argued that the museum exists for the purpose of housing and displaying Guernica and Picasso’s works leading up to and following the 1937 exhibition piece, the other exhibits, especially those regarding the war like the photo collection of Robert Capa, are extremely important in developing the feelings and introducing the viewer to the themes which are included in Guernica.

2 responses to “The Capa Collection at Reina Sofia”

  1. nphoba says:

    What struck me as fascinating about the Robert Capa photo section of Reina Sofia is what wasn’t there. Last semester, we saw Death in the Making, Capa’s book full of photos that he took during the war. The collection in Reina Sofia is brief, which is perhaps forgivable given limited space with so much artwork. But how did they choose which photos to place there? The curators, of course, had to include the most famous of the Capa photos, the soldier at the moment of his death. They did not include photos of the Ciudad Universitaria, which served as part of the front lines in Madrid during the three years of the war. There are several wonderful shots of soldiers perched in a window of the philosophy building with a gun or of the university deserted by war and gunfire. Aside from the warfare photos, there was a photo of two soldiers taking a work of art away, perhaps to a truck to Barcelona, so as to save the painting from the same fate that might befall the museum in which it was housed (a picture like this would seem particularly appropriate to have in a museum). There are also many photos of farmers and workers of all kinds coming to join in the defense. Photos like this might have given a greater context showing that this was a war fought by the pueblo. (Our guide in the museum, Angel Llorente, said that there had been many changes to the layout of the museum and that some artwork had been removed in favor of other works; these are decisions which he didn’t seem to be 100% content with).

  2. calesser says:

    While in our modern world where basically everyone has internet access, seeing an exhibition of photogrpahy seems almost obsolete. The collection of Capa photos proved to be an exception to this theory. Seeing this great selection from Capa’s work in person, all in succession, isolated from the rest of the museum in a relatively small, isolated room, was extremely powerful.

    In viewing the photos Capa’s literal, physical position in all of the suffering and violence became very apparent to me. I think the fact that he put himself in such danger adds even more emotion to the photographs in that he was taking risks in order to serve these events the proper documentation they deserved. it is hard t imagine the war, visual, as an outsider and without these famous photographs I believe it would be nearly impossible.