June 23, 2021

The lesson of the teacher who left everything to the Prado Museum | Culture

The lesson of the teacher who left everything to the Prado Museum | Culture

Here is a formula for being an extraordinary person: "X = C + A". That is, knowledge plus attitude. Each morning he wrote it on the blackboard of a classroom at Nervión School in Madrid Carmen Sánchez García, a teacher who asked her students for respect in class, besides knowing the lesson daily. He left an indelible legacy in his students: passion for art, interest in other cultures, openness of mind … He was agnostic, progressive and Felipe González. He died in July 2016, at 86 years old, andIn his testament, only one heir appears: the Prado Museum.

His only vagaries were the Moët Chandon, the flowers and traveling through all the museums of the world. His great passion, his students. The rest, what was left over from a sovereign life, was left to the Prado: a house in Toledo and 800,000 euros; with one condition, everything had to be invested in the acquisition and restoration of cadres "specifically". Among the men, aristocrats and businessmen who have donated their collections to the museum, she is the anonymous teacher. In the almost two centuries of the museum's life, nobody before her He had left an asset to the art gallery.

To reconstruct the anonymous biography of Carmen, we must start from her vital epicenter: the Nervión school, in the privileged Madrid neighborhood of Viso. There is another crucial person in his story, Ramón Velasco, his executor and partner. With him he set up the school 45 years ago, in two chalets. For nine years they had leased the buildings they ended up buying thanks to a mortgage. Ramón was a forest engineer and had resigned his place in the state, after finding his place in the world. I would be a teacher of technical subjects. Today his son Leonardo, a student of Carmen, is the director of the concerted center. They both remember in the meeting room who was the woman to whom the Museo del Prado will dedicate a temporary exhibition in January 2020, with all the purchases that the art gallery has made thanks to their donation. From the museum they prefer not to disclose the list of works acquired, but among them is a Mariano Fortuny and an exquisite portrait painted by the Flemish Renaissance Adriaen Thomasz Key (for which 50,000 euros have been paid).

Portrait of a gentleman, by the Flemish artist Adriaen Thomasz Key, acquired by the Prado with the money donated by Carmen Sánchez.
Portrait of a gentleman, by the Flemish artist Adriaen Thomasz Key, acquired by the Prado with the money donated by Carmen Sánchez.

"I never rested," says Ramón, who met Carmen when her parents proposed that she start a school. The father was a doctor, a specialist in Caesarean, left and intellectual. Its great reference. Carmen was born seven years before the Civil War broke out and studied at the French Lyceum, graduated in History and was also trained in English. In the midst of the dictatorship, a time unfavorable for women to study. "He was a person who wanted to know everything, he kept reading about new teaching methods and traveled around the world to learn new techniques," says Ramón. She taught children to be independent and she was the perfect reference. He was teaching until he was seventy years old and, according to his business partner, he only wanted to read, travel and stay single to continue enjoying his life alone. Marrying him seemed to "waste time."

In the photos they show, she appears surrounded by children or attentive to them. It is austere. He did not believe in God either, but he knew all religions. And I was not a millionaire; the money tested is the fruit of the savings of a lifetime. Of course, in her office as director of the center she had a large sheet of Las Meninas.

"Dear students, I want to send you a hug and a memory from the hospital, I'm fine, do not worry, let's see if I see you soon, kisses and hugs for all, thank you." It is his voice, delicate, a few weeks before passing away, in a voice note that some of his students keep. Pedro went to see her at the hospital and sent the audio on Whatsapp to the group with whom she kept in contact. One of them, Fatima fondly remembers how she lived with them. "I have been at home, with a group of students, at 14 years old, to listen to music," he says in a telephone conversation.

He left in writing his funeral, which coincided with the day of the Virgin of Carmen. These two pieces had to sound and it would be her students who had to say goodbye to her with a few words to her memory. A lay ceremony, in the cemetery of Almudena. Fatima and José Ramón spoke that day to remember the figure of a sovereign woman and with their own criteria at a time when Spain was pursuing that. A brave woman and protector of her freedom. "I've learned from her respect for different thinking, that's her legacy," says Gonzalo, whom they knew as Koko. He saw the birth of democracy when she was around 50 years old and she did not have a good memory of the Civil War either. He came to that chapter and stuck to the book, preferred to stay on the sidelines. It was not like that with the chapters of art history, in which he transcended the materials and told them about his experiences and trips.

Her students remember her as a sovereign woman with her own criteria at a time when in Spain that was being persecuted

At the funeral, José Ramón mentioned his excursions on weekends with the Amigas de los castillos association, with which he toured Spain visiting his historical heritage and on Monday in class he told all the art he had seen on Saturday and Sunday. But nothing matched Toledo. He asked his students to look at the city as a crossroads of civilizations. "Like the essence of Spain," recalls Fatima. It felt good there, because of the dimensions of this city with a village scale, for art. Ramón remembers the visits he made to them, how he went to convents and churches, monasteries and museums.


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