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Art students given on-canvas experience in Siena, Italy

Art students given on-canvas experience in Siena, Italy

By Clayre Benzadon

Section: Arts, Featured

September 25, 2015

If you plan to study abroad at any time during your Brandeis career, don’t miss the opportunity to look into a study abroad program that focuses on the arts in the small, intimate Italian city of Siena, a drawing, arts and society Siena Art Institue. The program is a two-course, five-week intensive, experiential learning summer program. What better way to study art history, especially the Renaissance, than in Italy?

The classes consist of a studio art course and an art history course, taught by Prof. Joseph Wardwell (FA) and by the Siena Art Institute. The classes are aimed at creating an environment to find a source of self-expression, mastery in the arts and extensive learning of art history. The program also involves a combination of studio experience, classroom coursework and field trips to historic cultural sites in Tuscany through field trips to historical places and through Italian masterworks in the classroom, visit the practice traditional techniques in the studio.

The art history class focuses on art from the 13th through the 16th centuries, concentrating on Renaissance, as the Renaissance became the turning point and Golden Age of art, especially in Italy. Painters studied include Giotto, Simone Martini, Brunelleschi, Masaccio, Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.

Students have the privilege of understanding the culture and time period as well as get a closer look at paintings to understand every contour and shade involved in not only the paintings, but also the hidden history behind the artists’ lives and artwork.

Giotto was one of the most important artists who actually lived in Tuscany throughout his childhood. His new style created a model whereby many other Renaissance artists mimicked his work and techniques. The “Ognissanti Madonna,” for example, one of his most well known works, starts to define the Renaissance period’s themes of work: religious pieces with Madonna holding her child and angels surround her, at the bottom of her throne. The angles still wear the haloes around their head, a traditional stylistic element that was prominent in the Byzantine period.

Another important painting that is an example of Tuscany’s first painting on canvas in “The Birth of Venus,” by Sandro Botticelli. In this painting, this is also the first time that we see a depiction of a woman’s naked, sensual body. The Renaissance was a revolutionary time to break boundaries, and in this painting viewers definitely get to see that. The Greek mythology and allegorical references in this painting also point to the Renaissance tradition of adding religious and symbolism in these pieces. Another significant aspect of this piece is that there is more color in this painting than there was before any other artworks before, as Byzantine artwork used mostly dark, neutral colors and now, the piece contains a multitude of blues, light greens, lush pink and tan shades.

This study abroad program is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a unique experience where students will have the opportunity to be surrounded by Italian culture and art, hopefully inspiring them to create their own pieces of art. Art history is an important foundation for understanding why paintings were created in the first place and the symbolism involved in the pieces helps to create a dialogue and debate among students, scholars and art historians to create new meanings and innovations to fit the narrative of our time.

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