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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 brandon.c.arbuckle@gmail.com. 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.