Non incautus futuri

A Washington & Lee junior and Marine Officer Candidate in Spain

Lee Eats Crow

with one comment

Every time I go home, it seems my dad and I are always having this conversation:

DAD: You really ought to take an art history class, you know. Broaden your horizons blah blah blah.

LEE: Ha, yeah right. I’ve seen the homework those guys have. My buddy took that class, and he had to memorize like a thousand slides a night.* Plus last time I took a class to “broaden my horizons,” it was music appreciation and I did worse than I’ve ever done in any class, ever.

* I have a tendency to exaggerate in arguments.                                                                                                                                                                     

Well, a gentleman is graceful in defeat, so yes, Dad — I concede. I should have taken art history, and I resolve to take it once I get back to the United States. This sudden change of heart was prompted by my visit to the Prado today in Madrid.

The Velázquez Entrance

The Jerónimos Entrance

The Prado is hands down the coolest museum I’ve ever been to, with the notable exception of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, VA. This is not a fair comparison, because they are two totally different museums. At the Prado you walk around and look at art. At the NMMC, you get to put on an 80-lb pack and walk through chilled rooms that simulate the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. This, and many other such exhibits, have the ultimate effect of making you hyper-motivated. How is the Prado supposed to compete with that? I will revise my earlier statement: the Prado is hands down the coolest art museum I’ve ever been to.

The Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia — the other big art museums in Madrid — have some cool exhibits. The Thyssen-Bornemisza has a bit of everything, and the Reina Sofia has an impressive array of more modern art fare. But the Prado is all about the old stuff, and the old stuff is my favorite. The Prado features European art from the 12th century to the early 20th century, but with a special focus on Spanish paintings. All the masters are represented here: El Greco, Titian, Francisco Goya, Diego Velásquez, Hieronymus Bosch, and many, many more.

In fact, there are so many incredible paintings here that the place is a little overwhelming. I did the first floor in two hours before realizing how tired/ravenous I was. This was bad, because I still had another two floors to go and I really didn’t want to leave. So I ate the most overpriced lunch of all time at the museum cafeteria, and pressed on.

In fairness, it was delicious. Pictured: Rioja wine, a fish empanada, a roll, and a bottle of water. Cost about 13 Euros, or $18.

The thing about seeing all this incredible art was that I realized how little I actually know about art history. I don’t know anything about the techniques these great artists employed, I know precious little about the historical/biographical context of their work, and my knowledge of the Bible, ancient mythology, and the canon of saints is barely sufficient to grasp the general themes of the artists’ works. Who is this Saint Jerome I keep seeing? What is the fascination with the Immaculate Conception, or with the lance that pierced Jesus’ side? What is naturalism?

I’ve got a few tidbits stored away in the brain-box that I’ve picked up from books and various history classes, but it is grossly insufficient. For example, I took a class on Spanish Civilization and Culture, which briefly touched on Francisco Goya’s work. From that class, I learned that Goya suffered an illness during Napoleon’s invasion of Spain that robbed him of his hearing. The war, coupled with his infirmity, prompted an extraordinarily dark turn in Goya’s painting. As a result, Goya produced the “Black Paintings” and later, “The Disasters of War.” This is useful stuff to know! But Goya is the exception, not the rule, because I know absolutely nothing about Sorolla, or Bosch, or Titian, or really 95 percent of the famous Western artists. Es una lástima, a real shame.

So yeah, this was just a long-winded way of saying that I’ll be taking Art History pretty soon.

On the bright side, once I become appreciate of and knowledgeable about art, I will only have to learn how to cook in order to become irresistible to women. Just kidding.

I'm already irresistible to women. Who could say no to those glasses?

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Written by Lee

August 30, 2011 at 13:58

Posted in Spain

One Response

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  1. Very cool stuff about your travels to Spain and the humble way to eat Crow was appreciated by a Father who said similar things to his kids (now men). Hope your travels continue to add to your rich understanding of the beauty of this world and the various ways humans have come to live in it.

    Pat Clifford

    August 30, 2011 at 19:09


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