Neil Dittman ‘19 —German Expressionism

Neil Ditman at Lehnbach Haus and Pinakothek der Moderne

Neil Dittman ’19 — I would like to extended a deep gratitude for the opportunities afforded by the Givens family. With their generosity, I was able to engage with art from all around the German-speaking world. My primary focus of study was the Blaue Reiter and the BrückeGerman expressionist movements.  My first excursion was to Munich, the birthplace of theBlaue Reiter Expressionist movement. There, I went to the Lehnbach Haus and Pinakothek der Moderne because of their impressive collections featuring works from Franz Marc, August Macke, Paul Klee, Gabrielle Münter, and Wassily Kandinsky. From Munich, I was able to swing down to Kochel am See so see the Franz Marc Museum.

Franz Marc was a particularly interesting artist to study because of his color theory. He assigned colors various symbolic affects, imbuing his works with an extra layer of subtext. He liked to paint animals and a lot of his work focuses on the nature of animals. One work that I was able to see in Basel, Switzerland was his movement-defining masterpiece  “Tierschicksale”. This was the absolute highlight of my experience studying art abroad. “Tierschicksale” (The Fate of the Animals) depicts the apocalypse from the perspective of the animals. The massive piece was partially destroyed in a fire and later restored by Paul Klee. It was absolutely stunning to see in person, and I cannot thank the Givens family enough for allowing me the opportunity.

My next stop was the Brücke Museum, Nationalmuseum, and Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. These museums house the best collections of Brücke art. The Brücke was a German Expressionist movement that thought of themselves as a bridge between the present and future of art. There, I was able to see works from the movement’s founders, including Ernst Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rotluff, Fritz Bleyl, and Erich Heckel. What I found particularly interesting was the movement’s fascination with art from Africa, which at the time was considered “primitive”. Cultural exoticism, however racist or reductivist it may be,  can still fascinating to observe because it reveals a lot about the social climate from which it was conceived.

One of the most interesting aspects of this particular study was seeing art that marked the shift from representational art to abstract art. For me, this shift serves as a reminder that many ideas that are taken as a given in our world were once ideas on the cutting edge. This was an idea that was reinforced in my history of installation art course I completed in Germany. The members of of the Blaue Reiter and Brücke movements pushed the boundaries of art and what could be considered art, much like Minimalism, Prefab, and Earth Art movements that would emerge in the late 20th century. My experiences I have amassed with the help of the Givens family has helped me construct a more cohesive narrative in art history. I no longer view pieces of art as individual, isolated incidents, but rather points on a line, or chapters in a book that will never be finished.

Evan Hansen ’19: Madrid Spain

Evan Hansen ’19 —

Evan Hansen

Where?: El Badii Palace, Marrakech Morocco

When?: 03/11/2018

What?: My travels were not limited to Spain as Joel Janak ‘19 and myself tackled Morocco. El Badii Palace was completed towards the end of the 16th century and was a lavish display of the best craftsmanship of the Saadian period. This was one of the most important stops on our trip because it encapsulates the Arabic architecture found in many northeastern Spanish cities.

I am currently taking the Spanish course

SPA-47407 “Introduction to Spanish Art,” which investigates the rich 19th and 20th-century Spanish art. Additionally, Dr. Enrique Peláez has provided us with an analysis of Roman, Medieval, and Gothic influences. Our class has visited several museums and cathedrals in Spain to explore topics from the ‘Golden Age’ of painting (Velázquez, El Greco, Murillo, Ribera), to the famous names of the 20th century (Gaudí, Picasso, Dalí,Miró).

Museo Nacional Del Prado y Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

With the gracious contributions of Mr. and Mrs. Givens, I was able to visit several exhibitions of Spain’s two greatest 20th-century masters: Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. In the classroom we learned the evolution their style, its context in history, and its legacy. However, when I observed the massive canvas I immediately felt a connection. The anti-war message is especially relevant to the increasing tensions of the 21st century. I could not leave the museum without purchasing replica bookmark 🙂

Max Lawson ’19: Spain, Netherlands, France

Max Lawson ’19 — Thanks to the generosity of the Givens family, I was able to travel extensively within Spain, and even take excursions to the Netherlands and France in order to gain a richer and more profound understanding of the art, culture, history, and people of Europe.  With my first trip, I was able to go to Amsterdam with a group of friends I had only made a week beforehand.  It seemed crazy… getting on a plane with people who were basically strangers to go to another country that was even farther away from home than we already were. After landing on the tarmac and taking a bus from Eindhoven to Amsterdam, it was obvious that we had made the right decision.  Amsterdam, known for its tulips and otheramenities, was unlike any city I have ever visited before.  The bustling crowds (although friendly), buildings, and cobbled streets reminded me of the fast-paced streets of New York, but with Baroque architecture, all of which seemed to have been frozen in time.  It was as if an entire society had taken a time machine, but kept the amenities of the 21stcentury.  As we explored the city, we knew that museums would be necessary if we were to truly enjoy what the city had to offer.  The Anne Frank Museum, whose tickets were notorious for being sold out, was first on our list.  To our surprise and fortune, we were able to get tickets two days in advance, and were shuffling through the historic hideout in no time. While maneuvering around the house, the laughter and conversation that usually followed our group was subdued to a quiet lull, as our minds and ears were engrossed with the stories and accounts provided by the audio tour.  As we continued through the house, the tour only got more and more serial.  I was standing in the same rooms, touching the same walls, and walking across the same floors that the Franks had so many years ago.  The chills were unstoppable.  Following the Anne Frank Museum, we made our way to the Van Gogh museum, where we received an in-depth look into the mind and personal life of Vincent Van Gogh. While I was familiar with his more famous paintings such as, Starry Night, Van Gogh self-portrait, andCafé Terrace at Night, my appreciation for his lesser-known works grew as my knowledge of them did.  One of the most celebrated painters in history was an anomaly in his day, and, as a result, his feelings were translated into his paintings through the changes in his artistic style and the colors that represented them.

Following our trip to Amsterdam, the same group of friends took a trip to Madrid for the weekend, eager to see what Spain’s capital city had to offer. Immediately, we were astounded by the change in scenery when compared to Valencia.  Valencia has an older style of architecture, with certain streets and neighborhoods evolving into more modern utopias.  However, Madrid had the same hustle and bustle of many of the cities in the United States.  Hand-laid brick streets were replaced with concrete or asphalt, as cars whirred around corners.  While Madrid seemed to have evolved, the Prado Museum maintained many of the historic relics on which society was built.  Paintings of royal figures such as Philip II, Isabella Clara Eugenia, and Charles IV (whose girlfriends seemed to change as regularly as the days, and, as a result, forced Goya to paint the women alongside him with their heads turned) lined the seemingly endless corridors through which we meandered.  Of course, we got lost, but we were okay with that.  While the Prado Museum maintained a respectful and appreciate relationship to the Spain of old, the Reina Sofia seemed to have paralleled Madrid’s advanced architecture and lifestyle.  As we did in the Prado, our group perused through the different art galleries presented within the Reina Sofia.  When I heard that the Reina Sofia was the more modern of the two storied museums in Madrid, I anticipated strange, abstract pieces that didn’t make sense. Part of me was right.  Some of the pieces were…out there, to say the least. However, it was still interesting to hear the different guides give us the backgrounds on some of the pieces, even if you did have to “squint” your mind in order to see the connections. Once we were free of the dark rooms, flashing lights, and ominous noises of the modern art exhibits, we made our way to arguably the most famous painting ever, La Guernica.  Pablo Picasso’s representation of the Spanish Civil War is both immense and disturbing, both of which I’m sure he aimed to show.  The immensity, partly due to its size (nearly 11 feet tall and 25 feet wide), was complemented with the graphic depictions of the atrocities that occurred in one of Spain’s darkest periods.

Following my trip to Madrid, my mom and I worked our way up into Catalonia’s crown jewel, Barcelona.  Being a FC Barcelona fan ever since I could remember, I couldn’t wait to see what my favorite team’s city had to offer.  Similar to Madrid, parts of Barcelona were very modern; however, we stayed in a part of Barcelona known for its rich history of art and architecture, the Gothic Quarter.  Walking up and down the winding roads in the Gothic Quarter, vendors attended to their stores, selling handmade leather goods and jewelry, a friendly reminder of the days of old.  While browsing the wares at a local shoe store, I was politely informed by the owner that everything I saw were only samples; I would have to get my foot measured in order to have myshoe made.  This attention to authenticity and quality was apparent throughout the rest of the city.  Once we had finished roving through the not-so-commercial commercial sector, we made our way to the Sagrada Familia.  Perhaps Gaudí’s most famous project, it first opened in 1882, and has yet to be finished. While its astonishing visual presence, both in stature (standing at 566 feet) and content were obvious sights to be had, its history was even more intriguing.  When first learning about the Sagrada Família, I had always heard Gaudí’s named attached to it.  However, upon arriving, I learned that Gaudí had actually inherited the project from another architect, Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano, whose name is often overshadowed by Gaudí’s.  What was even more surprising to me was that Gaudí had only received his first offical commission five years prior to taking over the Sagrada Família.  On top of that, Gaudí was said to be “inconsistent” when studying architecure! After oogleing at the Sagrada Família, we made our way to the Picasso Museum, which houses a myriad of the artist’s works throughout his life.  What was most intersting to me was watching Picasso’s styles change throughout his life, varying from abstract figures composed of a few lines and limited colors, to incredibely detailed portraits of himself, his friends, and family members.

The last trip of my semester abroad was spent in Paris, a city whose name alone inspires hopelessly romantic dreams and visions in the heads of travelers worldwide. Like most of Europe, I found myself wandering the streets aimlessly, but enjoying every second of it.  In the day and a half that I spent in Paris, I was able to see some of the city’s most famous sites, such as the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, and the Notre Dame cathedral.  In the same aimless fashion that I roamed the streets of Europe, I immersed myself in the various exhibits of the Louvre, losing track of time and reality in the process.  Of course, I had to see Mona Lisa.  I had heard from others that it was smaller than expected, but it really wastiny.  As a result, the people-watching around it was almost as great seeing the painting with my own eyes.  Traveling further into the labyrinth that is the Louvre, I began to lose track of time.  The museum seemed endless, and I knew that I had to soak in every moment, every piece, and every feeling that I experienced.  In doing so, I hadn’t realized time had passed so quickly, and it was only after my friend Emily told me that we had to leave or else we wouldn’t be able to see the rest of what Paris has to offer!

After breaking free from the Louvre’s illustrious grasp, I was able to see the Arc de Triomphe, a breathtaking monument that Napoleon dedicated to The Grande Armee after conquering most of Europe.  The structure served as a celebration for those who gave their lives for their country, and serves as a constant reminder of the price some individuals paid in order to give the French their current state.  After perusing along the Seine River, we arrived at the Notre Dame cathedral.  Once inside, we were amazed by the stained-glass sunlight that bathed the walls and floors in a multi-technicolor pallet of reds, blues, and greens.

This may sound nuanced, and even elementary, but studying abroad truly opened my eyes as to how bigthe world really is.  Or, maybe I realized how small I was.  While Earth may be 24, 901 miles in circumference, which, granted, is really big, I realized while traveling how there are billions of people all around the world, just like me, whom I’ve never met.  These people, young and old, have lived experiences completely unknown to me, and I was lucky enough to share brief moments in time and space with them.  I think of James, the young Irishman I met outside of our hostel in Amsterdam, who was kind enough to let us know that we might want to move out of the doorway, as his friends were all trying to wrestle another friend of theirs into the hostel (it was his birthday, and he may have over celebrated).  I think of Mahmoud, a Moroccan immigrant living in Granada, and our conversation regarding the history of the Alhambra, and the intersection of Moroccan and Spanish culture.  He worked as a lawyer, and I was thankful for the advice he gave me as someone pursuing a career in law.  Of course, I appreciated the big things, too, like somberly walking through the Anne Frank museum, being reminded that the atrocities in the Holocaust were very real, and not just something we read in history books or autobiographies. An event that, for all of my life, has been out of sight and out of mind, had truly come to fruition in my mind.

Above all, the most valuable things I took away from study abroad are the little things, the intangible idiosyncrasies that we often take for granted: memories, laughter amongst friends, the smell of the burning Fallas, the taste of a perfectly-cooked croquet, and the hugs from a host mother.

Ian Finley ’19 —Lucerne, Madrid, and Paris

Finley at Reina Sofia Museum

Ian Finley ‘19 — It was the 27th of January when I decided to take my first trip in Spain outside of Valencia, where I was studying for the semester, and my first choice was naturally Madrid. This trip was made possible thanks to the Givens family and the Givens Scholarship, which allowed me to visit some of the artistic masterpieces that I had learned about in my art class while abroad. When I was going to Madrid and looking at the Spanish countryside through the window of bus, I knew that it was political capital of Spain. However, after my journey, I realized that Madrid was one of the cultural and artistic capitals of the entire world.

My trip consisted of a variety of visits to new sites with the goal of taking advantage of all that Madrid had to offer. My first chance to experience the artistic patronage of the city was in the Royal Palace. I had never been in a palace before, and this palace did not disappoint. Every room had its own style and everyone of those styles provoked a tremendous sense of awe due to its beauty and opulence.

After this visit, I went to the Reina Sofia Museum, a museum of modern art. There, I saw Picasso’s masterpiece, Guernica, a painting of grand proportions that depicts a tragic scene after the bombing of a town during the Spanish Civil War. I have seen plenty of pictures of this work on a computer screen in various art and spanish classes, but I was never fully able to appreciate the gravity of the event and the importance of the painting until I was able to stand in front of it and allow myself to be overwhelmed by its sheer size and the quantity of details. On top of this painting, I had the opportunity to appreciate many other artistic gems by other famous painters, such as Salvador Dali.

The following day, I went to the museum that contains possibly the finest collection of paintings of anywhere in the world: the Prado Museum. When I enter the Prado, I was blown away by the beauty that lives inside its walls. Velazquez, Goya, El Greco- these are just some of the names that grace the collection. It was an amazing to have the opportunity to walk through these halls and be able to admire the vivid colors of El Greco’s works and to stare back into the eyes of the Velazquez in his masterpiece, Las Meninas. This trip was only possible through the help of the Givens Scholarship, and I am so very grateful to the Givens family for providing me and several of my fellow Wabash students the opportunity to engage in culture and art in such an intimate way. It was an trip that shaped my study abroad experience and one that I will not soon forget.

David Daugherty ’19: Cordoba, Seville, and Lisbon

Seville at the Plaza de España

David Daugherty ’19 — Throughout my time studying abroad in Europe this spring, I have found myself in awe of all of the architecture. Every day on my walk to class I am surrounding by incredible architecture and history – the fact that the building I have my classes in is older than the USA never fails to astound me. Furthermore, my class on Islamic art and architecture has further cultivated my desire to experience architecture with a more advanced level of understanding of the stylistic decisions. Through the generous support of the Givens family, I have had the incredibly opportunity to travel to a variety of places to experience different styles including Morocco, Cordoba, Paris, Prague, and Seville.

My class on Islamic architecture has truly allowed me to experience every single aspect of Granada – my place of study. In our weekly visits, we had the opportunity to see and learn in-depth about the Alhambra, the most famous fortress of the Muslims in the Iberian peninsula, la cathedral de Granada built shortly after the catholic takeover, the Capilla Real (the final resting place of Isabel and Fernando who are credited with starting the Spanish empire), and many more places. Furthermore, being in Spain, we had the unique opportunity to view Mudejar art – a unique blend between Islamic art and catholic/gothic art only existing in Spain.

I have been able to use the funds from the Givens scholarship to have a deeper understanding of Gothic and Romanesque art through my visits where I have then been able to pair this new knowledge with my classroom and experiential learning that my program provides. To me, the one place that left me awestruck was the Great Mosque of Cordoba. In class, we spoke much of aniconism – the opposition to the use of idols – in Islamic art and architecture. This is in stark contrast to the style of the Catholics who frequently used sculptures and paintings as decoration. In the mosque turned cathedral post Reconquista, the Catholics put their own cathedral inside the mosque – leaving the mosque entirely intact. This allowed me the opportunity to, with just a turn of my head, see the immense differences between the two religions and their resulting effect on art and architecture.

Once again, I want to thank the Givens family for their support of students like myself. Because of their financial support, they have given me the experience of a lifetime, and one that I surely will never forget.


Matt Bailey ’19: Art History in Spain

Bailey at the Alcazar de Segovia in the city where he studied

Matt Bailey ’19 — As the high speed AVE train bolted out of the Atacha train station, I watched the city streets of Madrid transform into the open farmland of Castilla- La Mancha. The land reminded me much of the driving west on state road 32 toward Crawfordsville in return to Wabash after a long summer break. At the time of my trip to Toledo, I had lived in Spain for about 7 weeks and had grown accustomed to the lifestyle and language in my home city of Segovia in Castilla y Leon.

I enjoyed my classes and had learned a lot already in the short time I had been there. We had just finished an entire week and a half of studying the life and artwork of Doménikos Theotokópoulos, commonly known as El Greco, in my Spanish art class taught by the outgoing and lovely Profesora Elena. This was perfect timing to use one of my Fridays, which I did not have class, to take the short hour and a half train trip to Toledo. El Greco was born in Greece in the 15thcentury and bounced around Italy and Spain before settling down in Toledo, where he conducted his best artwork. Thanks to the generous scholarship fund of the Givens family, I was able to explore more of the artwork and city that shaped the artwork of El Greco.

The surrounding neighborhoods outside of Toledo did not have the medieval feel that I was expecting as the train pulled up to the station. While almost everyone from my train took a tour bus or taxi into the city, I walked the large incline toward the city. While walking up the long hill into the city, I learned why the city was an important stronghold in the 15thcentury: the whole city sits upon a giant hill and the river Tajo surrounds Toledo making it easy to defend from attackers. My main stop was the El Greco museum, which included a model home of the one El Greco lived in the 15thcentury as well as some of his art that was not housed in the El Prado museum in Madrid. The model home took me back to the 15thcentury as the furniture, bedroom, work space, and kitchen were all designed according to detailed notes written by El Greco himself. Also, the gallery in the home included a lot of artwork of El Greco’s students from his time in Toledo, which many had a similar style to that of El Greco.

Toledo is a really interesting city. The presence of three prominent religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam create really diverse architecture and artwork for a city so small. It’s almost like a miniature Jerusalem. The diversity of the city fitted well for a diverse individual such as El Greco because his style was a mixture of his influences from his time in Greece, Italy, and Spain that was very unique for that time. I am grateful for the opportunity to visit Toledo to see the work of my favorite artist from my class. Also, I am grateful to visit Florence and Rome as well to understand and visualize how the Italian Renaissance influenced the Golden Age of Spanish art that came later. I am very thankful for the genericity of the Givens family to allow me to pursue further knowledge in the world of European art. The funding of the Givens family has increased my desire to travel and see more artwork in the future.

Brandon Arbuckle ’19: Dadaist and Surrealist Art

Brandon Arbuckle ’19 — The course I took while abroad at the University of Aberdeen in Aberdeen, Scotland, was a modern art course which covered works from around the 18thcentury to present day, constructing a chronological narrative of art. Thanks to the Givens Endowed Scholarship I was able to connect classroom history with actual works throughout Europe. In addition to guidance from the Givens Committee, I worked with my professor in Aberdeen to make the most of my experiential journey and scholarship.

From London to Paris, Basel to Prague, I primarily sought out Dadaist and Surrealist art, but saw a vast majority of the pieces we studied in class. In order to understand some of the works I was seeing, I also visited one non-art museum, the Sigmund Freud Museum while in Vienna. Freud, in his dealings with the unconscious mind and dreams, heavily influenced Dadaist and Surrealist artists. Many of the surrealist works I saw, especially from artists like Ernst, Magritte, and Dali, had this ethereal other-worldly feel.

One of the central themes that developed was that of challenging the status quo. It quickly became evident that the works we were studying were more than just paint on canvas (or other mediums), but were relics that shed insight into the social, political, and economic lives of the periods in which they were created. This was especially apparent in the first museum I visited in Amsterdam, the Moco.

The Moco is housed in the Museum Quarter of Amsterdam, and at the time of my visit had works by two artists I was thrilled to see in one place: Banksy and Salvador Dali. Banksy is perhaps one of the most well-known artists of modern times. Banksy usually uses stencils and aerosol paint, spraying his works onto public surfaces from Israel’s West Bank Wall to London Underground Stairwells in England. His politically provocative pieces frequently invoke themes of police brutality, government surveillance, and consumerism. These pieces alongside some of Dali’s most recognized motifs like melting clocks and a plastic sofa in the form of lips made for an interesting experience.

From Amsterdam I ventured to Brussels, Belgium. While I visited many of the museums there, my favorite by far was the Musée Magritte. René Magritte, one of the most well-known surrealist artists of the 20th
century, challenged traditional ideas of art at the time, combining vast landscapes and skyscapes with motifs drawn from dreams and the unconscious mind.

From my short stay in Belgium, I stayed in the heart of Paris with a Couchsurfing host for a week. The sheer quantity of museums is incredible, but my favorite was the Espace Dali in the heart of Montmartre, a quiet hilltop neighborhood with no shortage of great names in art. The Salvador Dali museum is dedicated to his sculptures and engravings: giant brass snails with wings, a pixelated Abraham Lincoln that upon closer inspection is also a woman looking out of a window, and plenty of long-legged knobby-kneed elephants. It was downright bizarre, and fit in with some of the characters I saw while in Paris.

While that was one of many museums I visited in Paris, Berlin in Germany was the next stop of my journey en route to Basel, Switzerland. Berlin seemed to be the “alternative” capital of the world, both socially and artistically. I felt as if every square inch of the city was covered in street art, like metal sculptures chained to pipes, posters pasted up on partitions, or spray painted murals covering entire buildings. I was blown away with the creativity. In a city with a turbulent history, it has carved its place in the art world today. On the train ride from Berlin to Basel, I stared out the window and commented to the passenger next to me, “there’s so much street art here,” as we passed beneath a bridge, columns covered in the graffiti tags of local artists. “I’d call it vandalism,” he replied. I think it’s more than that, but I guess it boils down to personal opinion.

Basel, Switzerland was the smallest city on my journey, and the last until after finals were over. There, I visited the Kunstmuseum, home to great works from surrealist Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, and Jackson Pollock. While their town was small, their collection was incredible and varied. The museum was enjoyable but the hospitality of everyone I encountered really made my stay memorable.
After the conclusion of my final exams, I finally ventured out of the cold corner of Scotland south to Glasgow, Edinburgh, and London. This was the capstone experience to my coursework, and I actually saw a majority of the pieces from our final examination in the flesh, such as Gauguin’s

“Vision After the Sermon” and Renoir’s “The Skiff.” While most students I think can relate to courses they have taken that do not stick with them long after they put down their pencils for the final exam, art history was not one of them for me. Connecting my in-class learning with museum visits helped me tremendously academically, as topics that may not have been immediately understood in class were clarified in particularly well-made exhibitions. Additionally, I now have a new interest to explore when traveling.

I can’t thank the Givens family, the selection committee, and Wabash enough for affording me this incredible opportunity. There are too many places and museums that I visited that I didn’t list in this blog post. I was able to expand my housing budget substantially by Couchsurfing in nearly every place I visited. If you have questions about my experiences or traveling on a budget, please contact me at I left my experience abroad with a much greater appreciation for artistic expression that will stick with me for a lifetime. I look forward to returning to Europe someday.