The first-hand experience of great art has an impact that no projection or replica can convey.
On Monday, December 7th, the students in all three sections of World History II traveled to Boston to visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to deepen their sense of the art of the Italian, Spanish, and Dutch Renaissance. The Gardner museum is a replica of a Venetian palazzo with an interior courtyard filled with semi-tropical plants reaching to a glass ceiling three stories above. The walls are a delicate coral, reminiscent of Italian hues, and window casing with arches from three architectural traditions (Roman, Gothic, and Muslim) create the sense of a fairy tale. A late Roman mosaic is at the center of the garden, and the sound of splashing water rustles faintly behind the foliage: students were spellbound by the scene as they were whisked into the upper floors filled with exquisite artwork.
The docents engaged students in observing, wondering about, and developing interpretations of masterpieces such as an early Giotto, standing unprotected on a desk, a Crivelli Annunciation in an urban setting, a Titian rendering of the Rape of Europa. This triad defines developments in Renaissance painting, as well as political sentiments emerging in northern Italy between 1300 and 1650.
In their hour of free time after our tour, students sketched and took notes on pieces that impacted them individually; many chose to return to the courtyard for reflection and conversation in a way that would have delighted Mrs. Gardner. A trip to Boston would not be complete without a little direct experience of the city hallmarks, so we rode the T to Faneuil Hall for sustenance and street performers: students discovered dancers and a free-style artist, to their delight.
Once back on campus, students wrote reflections on their experience. Many suggest we go to Italy next time!