Apr 1, 2012

A Visit to Toledo

Self portrait of El Greco
In the Autumn of 1982, my University of Rochester class was holding its 20th reunion (Make me feel old -- we're about to hold our 50th this coming October!). Margo and I had decided to attend and in order to include our dogs, we would be driving.

Shortly before our planned trip, I happened to read an article in Time magazine describing an exhibit that was taking place at the art museum in Toledo, Ohio. The Toledo Museum of Art had organized the exhibition, called El Greco of Toledo, along with the Museo del Prado, Madrid, the National Gallery of Art, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts.  It included  66 catalogued paintings included 32 from Spain and reflected the political, religious, and artistic life of Toledo at the time of El Greco (1541-1614).  As the article described it, the exhibition drew paintings and documents from Spanish churches and monasteries, and from museums and private collections in Europe and America and was the most comprehensive aggregation of El Greco's work ever attempted.  I suggested to Margo that we go to Toledo on our way to Rochester and see the exhibit.
"Portrait of a Lady"

We departed a day early and drove to Toledo.  We went to the art museum the next morning a few minutes before it opened at 9:00 AM.  I was surprised to see such a long line!  I waited until I got to the ticket booth -- about a half-hour as I recall.  I informed the lady that I'd like two tickets.  I was shocked when she said, "I can get you in at 2:00 PM on November 17th."  I must have looked dumbfounded as I explained that we had just driven up from Alabama to see the exhibition and had no idea that we couldn't just walk in!  She turned to her colleague.  "Mary, I've got two people here who have driven all the way from Alabama.  Is there any way we can squeeze them in this morning?"  We received two tickets to be admitted at 11:00 AM.  Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.
"John the Baptist"

The exhibit was spectacular.  It followed El Greco's works chronologically, starting with icon-like portraits and miniatures from his earliest years and progressing to the large awesome altar pieces for which he is best known.  The final gallery into which we progressed contained a single work, his gigantic crucifixion scene that now hangs in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.  I still get goosebumps remembering the moment I saw it!

Considering how serendipitous this experience was, it is remarkable what a lasting impression it made...

"Crucifixion of Jesus"

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