Seeing the great European paintings at the Prado (and the El Grecos in Toledo) is an extremely moving experience.
I cannot be other than an American naturally but I know that my attraction toward work over the centuries from Europe before Europeans came here, has been wonderfully rewarding. My wife (who is also a painter) and I were delighted to be able to get very close to the work unlike in many American museums. I speculated that since Europeans grew up with and value quality in art for so many centuries, they have a respect (and understanding) for the collections that America’s “through away” culture does not. Our collections are more at risk since Americans in general, don’t know how to respect such achievements.
For Barbara and me, our close examination increases the visceral spiritual and intellectual connection with the mind and spirit of the artist. It’s as though you are right with the artist as they touch the work with their tools. As painters, this is very meaningful to us in ways that the layman or tourists could never really understand. In fact, the bus loads of tourists at the Church of San Tome in Toledo (that holds El Greco’s Burial of Count Orgaz) was an amazing and heart breaking experience to observe. The painting is barricaded, and poorly lit. So the tourists who dutifully come to see the masterpiece could see it just as well in a postcard.
The sad thing is that they will have no idea of the power and beauty of Greco as the magnificent artist that he is. If they would go across town to the Santa Cruz museum they would get some notion of this wonderful painter. But in their rushed itinerary they can't or won’t do that. In the same district as San Tome is the house of El Greco (which isn’t and never was his house). There too, the work is poorly lit and a real disappointment compared to the breathtaking experience of his work in the Santa Cruz and also at the Prado in Madrid, of course.