Florence, Day 9: Art History and Its Reflections on Humanity

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On the edge of my seat, hanging on every word rolling off the tongue of my art history  professor, which sounded like a song then and still is music in my ears. That was me, back in college. Who knew this world of art and history was so rich with humanism. To think it is only about the art is to close your eyes to truth. Art history is simply the most beautiful representation of people and how they responded to a time.

We Americans, as an Italian friend of mine recently reminded me, are so wonderfully optimistic. We believe anything is possible and that we as humans are capable of anything. But we are young, our history short, and we do not walk in the footsteps of our history to remind us, to steer us and guide us. It is both our greatest strength and our greatest detriment, for history is a great, great teacher.

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The Renaissance was a response to to many years in darkness. In Medieval times, man meant nothing and achieved little; it is also called the Dark Ages. Only serving God as the church dictated mattered.

The Renaissance was man saying, “Yes, but if God created us in his image, then we do matter. He has blessed us with gifts and talents and we must use them. We have to be the best we can be.”

Let man shine on. The art of this time reflected this attitude and encouraged it. The art honored Gods creation: man. The art influenced the common people to shine. It was a sort of permission slip.

History has a natural pendulum swing. Art reflects how a given people respond to that. And if I may say so, art is such a beautiful way to be taught.

Today started at the Brancacci chapel, where some say Masaccio created the first real Renaissance painting, making the change from Medieval art, where the work was flat, without perspective, and it’s only purpose to glorify God and teach the illiterate masses Bible stories. These paintings honor god’s creation: man and Earth.

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The Renaissance is about humanism, and these humans have expressions on their faces, there is perspective and form, and the lines show more than a outline but a real life scene. Bring on living life out loud and in full color.

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The day went on, and I explored with my teacher Santa Croce, my favorite church in Florence with Giotto (the man who started thinking Renaissance thoughts 100 years ahead of time), the tombs of Dante and Michelangelo and 274 others. The frescos are late Medieval and show the hints of what is to come in the Renaissance. The cloisters are delightful. I could hang out here all day, but my stomach is telling me it’s time for edible art.

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The rest of the day I wandered, reflecting on what we learn from those who go before us. Me, my sketchbook and the city where the front page of the newspaper usually features something about art. Sigh — I have found kindred spirits.

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Live for your passions, allow for beauty and look back only to learn as you move forward, believing you can, in fact, do anything!

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