Saturday, June 16, 2012

Art and Madrid

The summer in Sevilla, as it is on campus, is built around two sessions. At approximately the midpoint of each summer term, the students travel as a group to visit some of the more famous locations in Spain. Last weekend, the students visited Madrid with an emphasis on it's world famous art museums: the Prado, Reina Sofia, Thyssen, and CaxiaForum. In our short time in Madrid, it was impossible to see them all but most of the students visited 2 or 3 of their choice.

Our travel was by a very nice tour bus. It was a long drive and along the way we stopped in one of Spain's extremely nice "bus stops" for a coffee.

We made a three hour stop in Toledo, the capital of Castile-La Mancha and the land of Cervantes' Don Quixote. The city has been inhabited since the Bronze Age and was an important city or regional capital under the Romans, Moors, and Spanish Christians. While under the control of the Moors from northern Africa, Spain experienced a unique period of La Convivencia (the Co-Existence) of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in relative peace from 711-1492. With this history, Toledo provides an interesting backdrop for the engineering students who are currently taking philosophy. We visited the Sephardic Museum which is located in a synagogue that was founded in 1336. It was converted to a church after the expulsion of the city's Jews in 1492 but was restored as a historic site in 1910.

Our stop in Toledo also gave us the opportunity to see one of the best known works, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, of the famous Spanish renaissance painter, El Greco (1541-1614).

The first order of business in Madrid was to check-in at the hotel. Getting 43 students assigned to rooms was accomplished with a minimum of chaos. The hotel had a roof-top deck with a great view of the Royal Palace and the old city.

After everyone had unloaded their bags, we took a short walk to the Royal Chapel of St. Anthony of La Florida which was built in 1792 on the orders of King Carlos IV. The king also commissioned Goya to decorate the ceiling and cupula with frescoes. Goya (1746-1828) is referred to as the last of the Old Masters and the first of the Modernists. The chapel was declared a national monument in 1905 and in 1919, Goya's remains were transferred there. In 1928 an identical chapel was built alongside the original chapel, so that the first one could be converted into a museum.

After the bus ride, a stop in Toledo, and arriving in Madrid, it was finally time for dinner. We all enjoyed a fantastic meal of roast chicken with a hard apple cider.

On Saturday morning, all of the students visited the Reina Sofia art museum where they had the opportunity to view a wide variety of contemporary art, the most famous of which has to be Guernica by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). The giant mural was created in response to the bombing of Guernica by Germany and Italy during the Spanish Civil War and was displayed at the 1937 World's Fair in Paris.

On Saturday afternoon, the students could choose between the Prado and the Thyssen Museums. The Prado Museum of Art was started with the Royal Collection and opened to the public in 1819. The museum contains over 2,300 paintings from the 12th-19th centuries. Students could see the work of Rembrandt (below), Velázquez, El Greco, Raphael, Rubens and many, many others.

The The Thyssen-Bornemisza collection began in the 1920's with the private collection owned by the German-Hungarian entrepreneur and art collector, Heinrich Thyssen. The collection was expanded by his son, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza. Hans Thyssen married a former (1961) Miss Spain, Carmen Cervera, who encouraged him to cede/sell the collection to Spain for the museum in 1993. The Thyssen collection is interesting in that it spans the periods shown separately in the Prado and Reina Sofia. The students could see paintings by van Gogh (below) and many other great masters.

1 comment:

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