There are two cities in Europe I keep returning to - Madrid and Brussels. Madrid through my participation in Vaughantown and Brussels for various reasons - my sister lived there for 5 years and now a London friend has moved there too.
As in London I want to search out the hidden parts of the city, the smaller museums and galleries, the cafes and bars off the beaten track.
One such place - the Constantin Meunier Museum is a case in point. I had never heard of the artist and sculptor but visited as the museum was in the neighbourhood where my friend N lives and was also close to the excellent Horta Museum (which I visited later the same day).
My guide book told me the CMM was open at very odd times (weekdays but not at lunchtimes and also alternate weekends) and entrance was free. As I approached the museum it looked closed. There was a bell but my knowledge of French is sadly lacking. However as I was dithering the door opened and I was welcomed in.
The proprietor didn't speak English but handed me a useful leaflet in English. This was good. A visit to the highly recommended (by my guide book) Musical Instruments Museum had an entrance fee (5 Euros) but had barely anything in English; I have now discovered there is a lot of information (in various languages) on their website.
Back to the CMM. The first room you see could very well stop you from exploring further as the paintings were very dark and depressing. Constantin Meunier is known for his realistic paintings of workers showing their hardship. I learned this from the handout.
However this first room was by no means representative of the rest of the museum. A corridor towards the back of the house had many sketches and studies in connection with his work. The pièce
de résistance which drew an audible gasp from me was the amazing sculpture studio at the back of the house. It was a room flooded with light and full of larger than life plaster casts for the artist's major works. Although it was a fantastic setting I was entirely alone in the Museum and did have the odd feeling that if I moved too close the sculptures would come to life.
As mentioned this museum is free so I thought I would buy some postcards. However I was told (well I got the gist) that there were none.
What a fantastic place. I wonder how it survives.
I am on a quest to find more places like this so was pleased to find whilst reading the free Eurostar magazine, Metropolitan about a book just released called "The 500 Hidden Secrets of Brussels". This sounds like my perfect book and have used some birthday vouchers to order it.
I just need a similar book on Madrid!
The author of this blog (Joanna
Moncrieff) is a qualified City of Westminster Tour Guide who
specialises in food and drink themed walks in the West End (of London).
Details of all her bookable private walks are listed here and upcoming public walks are here.
Labels: Brussels, Constantin Meunier Museum, museums