One of the classes I decided to take during my month here in Spain is a class on the history of Spanish painting and Spain’s great painters. I’ve always loved art, and the class satisfies the required gen ed artistic forms credit that I’ve been putting off so when I saw it on the course list I thought hey, why not?
But I’ve gotten so much more out of the class than I imagined and honestly nothing compares to learning about a painting in the place where it was created, then going to see the work in person a few days later. Especially since I also was able to visit the sites where the artists lived and worked, and got to see the sources of their inspiration in the real-life cities, beaches, and people I passed by. I’ve been to world-famous art museums like the Prado, visited religious sites like El Escorial where every detail and brushstroke detailing the walls and ceiling is full of meaning, and seen works by artists like Velázquez and Dalí that have captivated generations. Having the background knowledge on the artists, the history, the techniques, and the works themselves from my time in class before seeing the paintings mere meters or even centimeters in front of me has made the art come alive for me and is something that I could experience over and over without ever being afraid of the sensation dulling.
I wanted to post about this specifically because yesterday was my last day in Barcelona with my parents (who came to visit as I was finishing up classes and have used me as a translator ever since) and we went to the Museu Picasso after a morning visit to Montserrat. As I traversed the halls of the museums and saw the development of Picasso’s art over the years through his many different inspirations, he became so much more than just the cubist painter that most people consider him to be. I had no idea he sculpted as well as painted, both with techniques that were at times radically different from those of other artists. There was a photo series that was part of a temporary exhibition in the museum that featured Picasso eating a fish which, after sucking the bones dry, he immediately pressed into some clay to use as an inlay for his Bullfight and Fish ceramic plate that he began working on as soon as the meal was finished.
Picasso in La Californie Making Bullfight and Fish
Bullfight and Fish
Also, Picasso’s studies/interpretations of Las Meninas by Velázquez were so cool to me after I spent so much time studying Velázquez and had seen the original work at the Prado a few weeks prior. I really enjoyed comparing the two works and seeing the different pieces of the original painting that Picasso chose to focus on; seeing all 50something works in his Las Meninas series gave me a new insight into his creative process and his interpretation of/attitude toward the Velázquez piece.
Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez
Las Meninas, 1957 by Pablo Picasso
The quantity and caliber of art in this place has truly astounded me in the month and a half I’ve been here. If you ever visit Spain, I would 1000% recommend that you spend some time in the art museums and places like El Palacio Real in Madrid, El Escorial, one or more of the ridiculous number of cathedrals in every city, or anywhere else you can see the beautiful, diverse, imaginative and sometimes weird works that Spain is home to. And if you can take a class on the world-renowned artists filling the country with their works (or at least get an audioguide or book or find a Wikipedia article online), it will only make your experience that much richer.