The Courses return to the Prado Museum to “think with their hands”
July 6, 2022

Two years later , the Complutense University Summer Courses return to the Prado National Museum. They do it, as always, and there are already fifteen editions, hand in hand with the Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado . Carlos Zurita , president of this Foundation; Miguel Zalomir , director of the Museum, and the vice-rector for Culture, Sports and University Extension of the UCM, Isabel García , were in charge of inaugurating on the afternoon of this July 5, the proposal designed by Alberto Pancorbo – which picks up the witness left by the late Francisco Calvo Serraller -, and which, for the first time, invites us to look at the most material part of works of art: “Think with your hands. The process of art and the life of works”.

Nearly a hundred people have enrolled in this course which, as its own director pointed out, takes the first part of its title from the famous phrase with which the French poet Denis de Rougemont defined what painting was for him: to think with hands The second part of the title refers to all that part of the creation of a work, which for many years has even been discredited, such as the knowledge of the materials used , from the supports to the paints and colors themselves. As the director of the Prado Museum, Miguel Zalomir , pointed out, there is a growing interest in learning about the different phases of the creative processand, in fact, it is a line in which museography has to advance in the coming years.

Alberto Pancorbo, art historian and head of academic activities at the Fundación Amigos del Prado , explained at the conference that served as the starting point for the conference -titled “Enchanted matter” , an expression borrowed from the poet Charles de Baudelaire- that he went to from the Renaissance when painters sought to move away from the consideration they had until then of artisans , of people who developed a trade, who made things, to another more “noble”, which implied more “ideation” and less manipulation . This change of status caused the artists to move away from the “processes”; others were the ones who prepared the fabrics and canvases, the paints, the brushes… As Pancorbo affirms, this means that much older works are better preserved than more modern ones . A clear example is The Last Supper , by Leonardo , which has been gradually destroyed because the artist did not take into account the materials with which he was working.

The director of the course explained in his inaugural lesson how art is really nothing more than the transformation of common materials into unique materials . A worthless piece of paper after passing through Raphael ‘s hands and capturing the face of a man on it with black chalk -Head of a young apostle , the work was titled- became a unique piece for which in 2012 they paid 36.6 million dollars . The artist, Pancorbo affirmed, “ with his work manages to enchant matter and turn it into special objects with which the world could be enchanted . That is the work of art.”

The course, therefore, is addressing how artists interact with materials , how they think with their hands during this process or how throughout history they have been looking for and discovering new materials , whether supports or colors, with which to work. . Also how museums now face the conservation of works depending on the materials with which they were made. It is, in the words of Vice Chancellor Isabel García , a unique opportunity to look inside the works , to find out what is in them. An opportunity, as pointed out by the president of the Fundación Amigos del Prado, Carlos Zurita , to approach works of art in a different way, toput the focus where it is seldom put . A few days, concluded the director of the Prado Museum, Miguel Zalomir , to move towards a new direction in museography.