The Catalan National Art Museum offers a complete history of native art from the Romanesque period through the 1940s. In between are hundreds of samples of the finest art Barcelona has to offer.
There are thousands of objects housed here inside the magnificent Palau Nacional. Perhaps the most notable are those comprising the Romanesque section. Filled with works from the early 11th century through the mid-13th century, the whole period is well covered. Many artifacts from churches around the region have been gathered, often displayed with photos showing the building and location of origin.
Icons, frescoes, sculptures and paintings from the period are well displayed. In many cases, the work is shown nestled within an architectural element reproduced to look like the original setting. This gives the visitor a more complete feel for how the object would have appeared to viewers who saw it when it was first created.
The collection moves seamlessly into the Gothic period covering works from the 13th through the 15th centuries. The focus is still on the art produced in Catalonia (the region of Spain in which Barcelona resides), but the styles cover a wide range. There were many influences on Gothic art, from Italy, the Flemish and others. The diversity is readily visible among the works displayed.
Works by Jaume Huguet, a major artist of the period, form a prominent part of the collection. But there are also many objects from Barcelona’s own Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) that flesh out the rooms. Signs that centuries ago hung outside shops, decorative items from homes and others are on display.
The chronologically arranged works continue into the medieval period, through the entire Renaissance and beyond right up to the 1940s.
The museum houses paintings by Rubens and Goya, and an El Greco. There are works by Zurbarán and Velázquez, as well as a Tintoretto. There are old masters drawn from Fra Angelico, Veronese and Titian not far from a Canaletto.
In addition there are numerous objets d’art, such as chandeliers and furnishings, ranging across many styles.
The Art Nouveau period is well represented in mirrors and others. ‘Moderniste’ works form a significant part of the collection. Furnishings designed by Barcelona’s premier architect, Gaudi, are here. Marquetry from the moderniste carpenter Gaspar Homar sit not far from sculpture by Josep Clara.
The setting is as impressive as the works it houses. The Palau Nacional is an enormous structure with a large central dome and side domes that top an impressive exterior. The visitor walks up a series of steps until the entire 180 degree view is dominated solely by this 19th century-style building. On the way to the entrance visitors can enjoy landscaping and fountains.
The MNAC is easy to find. Just take the metro to the Montjuic district and exit at the Placa Espanya station.