While most other PA students’ lower year includes plenty of chemical equations and properties, mine was filled with artists ranging from Cimabue and Artemisia Gentileschi to Velazquez and Goya and Marcel Duchamp and Mark Rothko. Taking Art-400: Histories of Art with Mr. Fox for all three terms this year has acquainted me with these artists amongst many others. During class, Mr. Fox would often say things like, “This piece is well worth a trip to (insert cool but obscure travel destination here),” or “When you are in Madrid make sure to see these pieces at the Prado.” A large number of the pieces we studied or other pieces by artists we studied reside in France so this trip has been an art history dream. While art history class exposed me to a myriad of beautiful images, a projector and slide show can only do so much. Here are some “art moments” I had that proved to me that the real thing offers more than just looking at a photo:
- Standing in a room full of Duccio and Giotto at the Louvre felt like being Alice in Wonderland: the canvases that these artists painted on are so large, they are placed in a room of magnificent architecture and ceiling work, and the gold paint that they (especially Giotto) painted with still manages to sparkle after about 700 years. I kept circling the gallery looking upward and admiring.
- While walking through Versailles our tour guide, Josh, told us about how Louis XIV cultivated both French and Italian artists to show that the French were just as talented as the post-Renaissance Italians. Louis XIV ordered for Bernini to make a bust of him but he claimed to be not impressed by Bernini’s work, thus furthering his nationalistic agenda. After viewing this bust on display in Versailles, I have to disagree largely with Louis. I became a huge Bernini fan after studying Apollo and Daphne during winter term with Mr. Fox and I was able to identify the bust as Bernini’s even before Josh told us. Mr. Fox taught us that Bernini tried to capture moments in time and he really does so in the bust: Louis’ hair appears to be blowing in the wind and his cheek is turned to the side in a mighty position.
- After walking through rooms and rooms of impressionist paintings at the Musée d’Orsay, I pushed through a crowd of people to look at Manet’s Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe. A picture online does nothing to show the stunning deep green tones. I also had no idea how large the painting was and so I walked across the painting several times. I truly felt like the eyes of the nude women were moving as well, watching me watching her. Talk about that in terms of “the gaze” and spectatorship and consumption of nudes in art!
- Despite it’s lack of bold colors or a high level of mimesis, the Bayeux Tapestry, in its near 1000-year-old glory, does not fail to impress. Viewing this piece in person allowed me to see the whole cloth at once rather than in fragments and a headset narration system completely immersed me in the story of William and Harold.