Have you ever walked around a museum and marveled at how some people can spend what seems like an eternity in front of a piece of artwork? Thanks to one of my Tufts-in-Madrid classes, I’m gradually learning how to become one of those pensive contemplators.
That class is Discovering the Prado Museum, and it takes place in the Prado itself. It’s a small class, capped at 12 students per section, and roughly half of our classes take place at the Museum; the other half is dedicated to classroom theory and analysis sessions. Focus is placed on cultivating art analysis and investigative skills rather than recalling specific details about each work. My favorite assignment so far has been rewriting a cartela, or the descriptive plaque next to a painting, to make it more creative and share information in a way that engages the reader.
I can say with certainty that I had never before considered taking an art history course, but the allure of learning about and visiting the works of the Prado convinced me to enroll. I especially enjoyed our first few classes, which were dedicated to learning the history of the museum—not just why it was created (to house the royal family’s art collection), but also how the building was originally intended to be a natural science museum and the ways in which the museum continues to grow and evolve today.
Thanks to this class, I’ve learned how to appreciate a painting both in terms of what makes it unique and what connects it to other pieces of art. The course has also given me an opportunity to recognize in master works some of the techniques I’m learning in my drawing class, which has provided a uniquely full-circle experience. And, since it’s conducted entirely in Spanish (like all Tufts-in-Madrid classes), it’s helping me improve my fluency and acquire new vocabulary.
So in short, I may have known next to nothing about appreciating art when I came to Madrid, but through this class, I’m learning how to do just that. With Tufts-in-Madrid, the city truly is your classroom, and the Prado in particular is slowly but surely becoming a second home as well.