Tag Archives: Art History

Museo Sorolla

Tucked in the center of Madrid’s busy and bustling metropolis is the Sorolla Museum. When you think of Madrid, you tend to think of the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza, or Reina Sofia. These are the three iconic museums all clustered along a museum avenue that stretches from the post office square down to Atocha Train Station. But if you have a moment of space in Madrid, I cannot recommend enough the tranquility of the beautiful Sorolla Museum.

Joaquín Sorolla is Spain’s great impressionist painter. His colors of terracotta, white, and light blue are seductive. His paintings leave you with a sense of optimism and goodness. His house, which is now the museum, was donated to the state when his widow died. The house remains as it was when Sorolla was alive from his studio, to the dining room, and even the kitchen. Recently, the gardens and water fountain outside were restored as well. They offer a delightful respite from the busy city beyond the wall.

Madrid is the kind of place that needs a museum like this. It is one of those delightful museums that are a little off the beaten path where you can spend a few hours and collect your thoughts away from the cacophony of the Plaza Mayor and Plaza Sant Ana, and the craziness of the Grand Via and the Puerta del Sol. This place offers a breather for tourists and locals alike; a chance to reflect and look back at an age long since gone. I have been several times and each time it feels like I am about to start a yoga session because it is so peaceful and relaxing.

It is easy to get to the museum as well. You can take the Metro to Iglesia (line 1), or if you are adventurous, take the bus. If you are super fit, you can combine it with a walk from the Paseo de la Castellana. For me, I have to admit, I grabbed a cab.

Visiting Versailles in a Virtual World

We’ve been struggling lately with the whole notion of communicating art history to students as they walk through museums or historical places. Let’s rewind to the good old days. Upon entering any historical site you were handed a printed walking tour. Then you would wander at your own pace, reading what you need to help get through the art work.

Fast forward, people walk through museums now with headsets or handsets provided by the museum. For the most part technology adjusts and evolves at the right pace so that the people are comfortable with new devices inside these great treasures.  The challenge for us as educators is to provide the students with a means to go through these museums without being bogged down inside their smartphone device. They could do that from home.

Our main challenge is to get kids to look up and so we’re experimenting with different ways to have them look down, to look up, to look down, to look up – getting a full experience – and then use technology to enhance that experience, not take away from it.

We’ve tried MP3s, tablets and are now moving through the smartphone vortex. But it’s complicated. The other day I went to Versailles with a new idea.  Armed with my tablet I attempted to navigate the museum, take in the extraordinary sites and rooms (including the spectacular Hall of Mirrors) while at the same time trying to answer a time-sensitive quiz.  As this was all happening, I was squashed at the front by a tour group and at the back by another tour group, as we all funneled our way through the various rooms that make up the palace.

And you know what I found myself doing?  Looking down.  I missed some extraordinary paintings as I was desperate to get the questions answered correctly and also to stay in sync with the others doing the quiz. Would I have been better off to just have walked through, keeping my eyes and ears open, taking everything in and then reflecting afterwards? Would it have been helpful to have a guide drone on, not tied to my age-sensitive brain? I think that I’m not sure what the answer is.

For now, my advice is to look up, stay in the moment and let the moment take you like a time machine into another age – simply not possible if you’re looking down.

If you’re planning a trip to Paris – Versailles should not be missed. You can get tickets on their website.