After an hour of wandering uphill through quiet Catalan neighborhoods, colorful street markets, and quaint coffee shops, I arrived drenched in sweat at Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC). The view from nearby Montjuïc Hill made me even more breathless and I soon met up with the group outside the museum. The goal of our visit to MNAC was to view key images of Catalan art and look deeper into the paintings to enhance our observational and descriptive skills in qualitative research. This intent of visiting the MNAC was very unlike my prior visits to museums in Chicago, such as The Art Institute of Chicago, The Field Museum, and the Museum of Science and Industry, because I visit these locations for leisurely social interaction with my family.
One of the first activities involved interpreting Retaule de sant Pere Martir as a small group. Each individual brought up a new observation about what had happened leading up to murder of the martyr depicted in the center of the painting. I focused on the potential symbolism behind the injuries the martyr sustained, whilst other members of my group described the sentiment of dying for a worthwhile cause in a religious context. This activity allowed me to realize that each person experiences common activities in a completely different way because of their personal biases. While bias often has a negative connotation, it is essential to create focus, form judgments, and make decisions.
Having been randomly chosen as the describer in my group, I led nine of my classmates up to Nestor’s Possessio, hand-in-hand with their eyes closed. I then described the painting in gory detail to have them accurately visualize the piece. After emphasizing the lover’s passionate embrace framed by rich colors, my group opened their eyes to give me feedback. They praised my description of the position of the lovers and colors of the painting, but agreed that they anticipated the figures to be much smaller in comparison to the landscape. This activity was valuable in teaching me to be more specific in describing the scale of objects and ideas, while my classmates enhanced their ability to visualize and add on to the story I was creating.
The most unconventional activity of the day involved creating the story of an unfamiliar painting to convince our group members that we were the expert of the work. I confabulated that Joan Ponc’s Dimoni verd was a depiction of the mindlessness of religion and the role of the individual in society, a theory my classmates praised as “out of this world” (pun intended). I learned that it is important to think on your feet and speak with conviction, especially if you are flying by the seat of your pants.
Disclaimer: All images above have been altered and are not original due to cropping.