Tag Archives: humanism

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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Florence, Day 3: A Day of Sculpture and the Nude in Art

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The nude in art: It’s a subject of controversy, and I, like many artists, don’t understand why. It’s such a huge part is our art education. I have written about it in the past and explained my reasoning as to why it’s not obscene — it’s art. So today I’ll concentrate on how it is affecting my growth as an artist and as a person. [Click here to read my past musings on the topic.]

I think every artist should have to return to studying from “real life” several times in their journey as an artist, to freshen up how we see, and it’s only a matter of finding a place and the time in which to do this.

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Florence is known as the birthplace of the Renaissance. We all know the term, and many know it means rebirth. But more specifically, it means that here, in this city, there was a spark. Something special where patrons who valued the arts met some of the most gloriously rich creative minds. So the city had money and it knew just what to do with it. It had been a thousand years since the Greeks and Romans (the ancients, as they were called) had made such advances, and the people valued it. The emphasis was all about humanism, which meant representing man as he was, not a glorified version of the gods. And what would representing man as he really is be without intense study of the nude? Many Renaissance artists even worked on corpses to study the anatomy and muscular skeletal make up so they could really get it right.

On this day, I knew my class would be studying from life (that is, a nude model), so before class, I visited the Bargello sculpture museum to really break down how the body was handled through the hands of masters like Michelangelo and Donatello. It is something special to be studying with all of these amazing art works surrounding you for inspiration.

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Today, the city itself will be my subject as I begin my plein air study. It will be exciting to be outside!