Finding the Art in Everything

02 July, 2008

High Points

I was uploading some of my photos from my trip to print, and I found myself amazed at all we saw and did. I have led this trip 4 other times, and none of them were as fulfilling and fruitful as this one. So even though I have been home for a few days, I thought I would blog about the high points, city by city, before I forget them.

Out of a dozen days in Rome, these couple were some of the very best. While in Rome, our tour guide through the Vatican took us through the Papal apartments to the Raphael rooms, which included the School of Athens. In front of the painting by Raphael of Plato and Aristotle (and Heraclitus), our guide explained Platonic epistemology to the students in terms they understood. Jen and I also identified some core teaching tendencies in the two of us, and vainly located ourselves in the painting as well. I am Plato, she is Aristotle.

I also saw the Keats and Shelley museum for the first time, which was a treat because I love the Romantics' fascination with Italy. I have often cited Keats as my favorite Romantic, (on my more stable and grounded days I say Wordsworth) and the museum at the spanish steps is the apartment where he died. The museum had a huge stack of first editions, letters, and collected works, as well as a writing desk in the place of Keats. It made me want to write odes.

This is usually my favorite stop on the tour with the students because of the relaxed pace. There is also a tour guide there we have had three times on whom I have more than a small crush. It is always a pleasure to see Giovanni again, who taught me how to order a cappucino in Italian, showed me were the Brancacci chapel was for the Massacio frescoes, and this time showed me where to get my tickets for the Uffizi. I had never been able to get tickets to this incredible gallery, where I saw the Renaissance-era work that is my speciality. Unfortunately, they put the most notorious works behind highly protective glass. This is to keep flash photography from ruining the image in the long term, but as you can see with the light reflections, the image is ruined in a different way, anyway! The best part of this museum, though, was the way we went through it. It is a rare thing to have a companion in a gallery who travels as I do. Jen and I bought the same book, read the same information about the paintings we were seeing (in person!) as we went, and then discussed what we read and saw at the same pace! How much more I digested and kept because of this! When I see a piece of art in person, it becomes part of me, and every reproduction of it reminds me of the time I "met" it. I have never in one day "met" and known so many masterpieces, and I'll continually be delighted because these are some of the most reproduced works.

The highlight of Paris for me was my world history lesson in the Louvre to about half of my group, including my little sister. I walked them through the Italian painting wing, and taught them about Counter Reformation art, and introduced them to DaVinci (both the Mona Lisa, and Madonna of the Rocks) and the picked up how to identify key figures based on colors and symbols, identifying which ones were divine and which ones were human. I used this for a mini theology lesson on the dual nature of Jesus. Then I took them to the French Neo-classical wing and we examined the propaganda paintings by David for Napoleon and talked about modern media and politica propganda, I used Gericault's Raft of the Medusa to teach compositional fundamentals, and I used The Oath of the Horatii and Winged Victory to teach about neoclassicim and the impact of this intellectual trend on modern democracy, natural rights philosophy, and the extension of art to the masses. At one point, I had a trail of eavesdropping strangers who thought I was giving a tour. My glee was uncontainable.

We had great weather in London, making for really lovely days. I got to tour the students (myself!) around Parliament square, up through Trafalgar Square, through the theatre area to Picadilly Circus, narrating as I went. I pointed out 10 Downing St, and explained Nelson's victory over Napoleon. It was so thrilling to teach my students about my favorite city in the world. My sister said I was insuffereable, but I could not have been more delighted. Another favorite time for me was my walk with Jen along the length of the Strand, my blog's namesake, to Fleet Street. This is a picture of me crossing the Strand. I hadn't walked its full length in ages, and it is a lovely, photogenic walk that lets you commune with the literary saints and pass a free afternoon.

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