By Julie Thomson
Students visiting El Greco to Velázquez as part of our guided tours are particularly eager to share their observations about what they see in the works of art in the exhibition. As an educator it is exciting to see students so engaged with works of art from 400 years ago. Since the exhibition opened in August, over 1,500 third-grade through high school students have participated in guided tours of El Greco to Velázquez and we have many more students scheduled to visit before the exhibition closes in November.
After one tour, a home school mother noted, “As my daughter and I were discussing the event she made the comment that she just realized something – you have to study a painting more than once to fully appreciate it.” We are delighted to hear about people discovering both the joys and benefits of repeated encounters with art.<
On our guided tours we lead discussions about the art on view and often we learn or gain new insights from the students. One of my favorite stories comes from a docent who mentioned that in front of El Greco’s St. James, she asked students to make observations about his hands. The students noticed the blurry left one. While they came up with many great reasons about why this was so, one student said that maybe the left side was to show his saint side. The reasoning he shared was that since he was more heavenly, that might be why it wasn’t painted as exactly as his right side.
It is always interesting to learn what works of art students remember most vividly. Students have mentioned the leopards in Francisco Ribalta’s Saint Francis, Gregorio Fernández’s St. Teresa and Peter Paul Rubens’s portrait of the Duke of Lerma. One Southwest Elementary student wrote, “My favorite painting that you showed me was the painting of Mary standing on the moon with the sun behind her and the stars around her head.”
El Greco to Velázquez is an amazing exhibition to see at any age, but it seems that it will continue to be a memorable and eye-opening experience for the thousands of students who will see it at the Nasher Museum.