Strolling through El Prado

Monday was groovy from start to finish. The rainy morning seemed like the day would be a little gloomy, but the sun started to peak out as the day went on. After hearing more about Madrid’s history, getting to hear about all the local, noteworthy spots, and, of course, taking notes of the many, many recommendations of spots to stop by from our tour guides, a group ventured out to El Prado later in the afternoon. 

The group I started the journey with consisted of all students that had previously researched El Prado alongside me earlier in the semester. While taking our stroll through the city, and even finding some great food along the way, we got to know each other better than we had previously while inside the classroom, and enjoyed each other’s company to a greater extent. We were able to see a whole other half of the city that we had not previously been able to explore while sharing stories along the way about our early travel experiences, and laughing about all of our initial nerves. I was able to make small connections with fellow honors students from a variety of class levels, majors, and even campuses. I am so thankful to have been able to watch how close-knit we have become in such a short amount of time while bonding over new experiences, adventures, and opportunities. 

As we approached El Prado, a line wrapped around almost half of the building itself, and, after seeing all that the museum holds, it is no wonder why. We made our way through the museum while keeping in mind all that we had read earlier on in the semester, and recalling some of the most noteworthy pieces we wanted to be able to see in person. I, myself, can hardly draw a straight line, so seeing the exquisite detail and attention that went into all of the pieces of art that are displayed throughout the museum was more than impressive. We kept reminding each other how long ago some of the paintings were actually created, and it was truly astonishing to reflect on the amount of creativity and imaginativeness that every artist on display embodied. I admire the attention to detail and level of experience in all of the works, and urge that this location be put on the top of your bucket list as words do not do it justice. 

The works of Francisco Goya were typically surrounded by a small crowd, and there is no wonder why. I admire his tendency to stray from the more typical art style of his time that usually depicted religious scenes or nature, and, instead, address social issues and step out of the box, all while using colors and techniques that truly stand out among others’ works. The group that I enjoyed all that the museum had to offer with unanimously agreed that seeing Saturn Devouring His Son was something we had to witness in person, mostly just due to its ability to make almost anyone do an initial double-take and question what the artist’s true goal was. It is shocking and definitely a little gorey, but the colors and hidden meaning behind the painting is what really made me appreciate seeing the real deal in person to a greater extent. The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch was another noteworthy piece that we, collectively, spent the longest amount of time admiring, purely because of how much there is to see in the painting, and how comical some of the individual scenes or objects are in the bigger picture. Another student mentioned that Bosch was daring, especially for the 1500s, to paint such bizarre scenes, and, similarly to Goya, I think this work stood out due to the tendency of the artist to stray from the norm of the time. This lesson can be taken away from this experience, but also applied in other aspects of life. It is beneficial, in most cases, to stray from the norm and venture onto new experiences. I am very thankful I went out on a limb and initially submitted my application to apply for study abroad, as I would likely never have had the opportunity or excuse to take a stroll through El Prado, and gain a newfound appreciation and respect for historical artwork as a whole. Being able to connect what I gained from class discussions and presentations to real-world situations was incredible and I am absolutely thrilled to see where the rest of our trip leads us.