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.