Review: Art School Tour to Madrid

Category: Art, General, Trips

Aphra Mactaggart (IH L6) reviews the Upper School half-term Art Department trip to Madrid.

After a quick, early morning flight, we wasted no time stepping out of our hotel to the Atocha Train Station. We were greeted by towering ferns and plants, unexpectedly, inside the building. Spanish architects Alberto de Palacio Elissagne and Gustav Eiffel redesigned the station after a fire in 1892. Whilst maintaining the history of this monument, they skilfully incorporated modern, angular design with the prominent and organic installation of botanical gardens. Here we studied the nature of the locals and aura of Madrid, sketching and photographing its architectural beauty.

During the afternoon, we walked to the world famous Museo del Prado. This inspirational museum holds one of the largest art collections in the world, featuring works by Bosch, Caravaggio, El Greco, Goya and Velázquez. We visited an exceptional Ingres exhibition, an important forerunner of the late 19th and early 20th Century artistic revolutions. Ingres’s fascinating works were presented chronologically, with particular attention being paid to his complex relationship with portraiture. That evening, we ventured into the Old Town and ate a delicious, traditional meal of paella and fish at the Restaurante La Catedral, whilst comparing and enthusing over our sketches of the day.  

We took a short trip to the Caixa Forum the next morning, to the abandoned electrical station, redesigned into a contemporary art gallery by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron. Its striking architecture, fuses cast-iron and steel with futuristic design. The main exhibition featured over 100 works by the innovative Spanish artist Joan Miró. His Surrealist paintings, sculptures and ceramics, focused on how important specific objects and Miro’s culture were to his art. He defined his artistic process in the late 1920s as the “assassination of painting”.

GALLERY: Art School Tour to Madrid

Walking through the bustling streets of Madrid, we passed through old stamp shops, the Plaza Major and on to the vibrant food market, Mercado de San Miguel, which features the best of every local delicacy. The different flavours of Spain’s capital city portrayed itself in traditional tapas, paella, fresh seafood and much more.
We later explored the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, which houses Picasso’s extensive monochromatic masterpiece, Guernica. An incredible work of art, and an icon of the Spanish Civil War. As well as Picasso, the Reina Sofia displayed art from Constant, installations by Alexander Calder, and further works by Miró and Dalí. That evening, we walked through central Madrid, taking in the atmosphere of the night to the Museo de Jamón restaurant. We let the evident excitement of Picasso sink in over a meal of local tapas.
In the beaming morning sunshine, we took a short walk to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. Marvelling at the vast variation of paintings by Goya, Van Gogh, Matisse, Freud and Picasso, we spent a few hours sketching and photographing its vast collection of works. After lunch, we visited the Chocolateria San Gines, where we were presented with towering plates of churros and cups of hot melted chocolate.

On a return visit to the Museo del Prado in the afternoon, Mr Parnham gave two passionate and informative talks to our group, in front of key paintings by El Greco and Velásquez, and in particular, Las Meninas.  Our Artist in Residence, Archie Franks, further expressed his great enthusiasm for Goya’s 14 Black Paintings. We all felt inspired by their knowledge and overwhelmed by the amount of exceptional art. During our long walk through Madrid at night, back to the hotel, we were all moved by the lights of the Plaza De La Cibeles.

The mesmerising beauty of the Royal Palace of Madrid welcomed us on our last day. The intricate detail of the glistening white stone was emphasised by the clear blue sky. We viewed 50 of the 2,000 luxuriously decorated rooms in awe. The architecture of the Palacio Real and Cathedral de La Almudena provided inspiration for photographs and dynamic sketches.

Our remaining hours were spent exploring our favourite elements of Madrid; sketching, souvenir shopping and embracing the culture of such a beautiful city. Thank you to Mr Parnham, who led the trip, Mr Wilkins, Miss Von Weissenburg and Archie Franks. It was a stimulating and truly inspiring four-day adventure, spent with wonderful people, learning about exceptional art and surrounding ourselves with remarkable culture.

Aphra Mactaggart (IH L6)

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