Notes from Venice: A summer student talks about one leg of the Northern II trip

My trip to Venice with Art History Abroad was glorious! The location of the hotel introduced me to a new and exciting area of Venice with which I was unfamiliar, allowing me to become delightfully lost in Venice’s intimate streets. For a large part of the group the aim was to become lost: you can only really appreciate Venice when you are in a state of mild desperation when the map has abandoned you and your bearings have failed.

 

Days in Venice were fascinating, visiting various Churches that boasted works by artists such as Titian, Bellini and Carpaccio. One of my favourite afternoons in Venice was my visit to the Accademia. The display of Gothic art in contrast to the later developed Renaissance Art was remarkable and with the help of the tutors this transition in art was explained effortlessly. However the teaching role was not always left to the tutors: student pairs were formed with the instruction to choose a curious painting to explore in front of the rest of the group. For my pair, ‘The Crucifixion of Ten Thousand Martyrs’ by Carpaccio was sufficiently curious to allow for a thorough exploration. Despite our ignorance of the event and having little knowledge of the artist, we were able to give a short presentation on our reaction to the painting.

Our evening lecture -told with glasses of ‘fragolinos’ in hand- allowed the group to fully appreciate our day ventures by associating the transitions in the style of art with the time period.

The Venice Biennale was a delightful contrast as a display of contemporary art. Meandering around the ‘Giardini de Venezia’ was wonderful; stumbling across the various countries’ entries and enjoying the cool shade provided by the trees. The group had different interpretations to the countries’ entries, allowing for good conversation on our thoughts. Despite differing interpretations on the exhibitions, the enjoyment of the morning at the Biennale was shared between all.

 

 

Our free afternoon after the Biennale allowed the group to branch out into all parts of Venetian life: some benefited from a relaxing time at the Lido, whilst others took advantage of the current Manet expedition held at the Doge’s Palace.

One of the highlights for me was our visit to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum on the final day in Venice. Its location on the Grand Canal made the group green with envy and the Modern Art was quite a contrast to the works we had seen before; yet there seemed to be themes running through, as if art was cyclical in nature. I loved their decision to display Peggy Guggenheim’s works of art alongside pictures of her in the house when she lived there.

 

On our last night the tutors arranged a picnic supper on the Punta della Dogana. The view of Venice at twilight was gorgeous. It was a great time to relax and reminisce (with hints of nostalgia) on the trip so far, while also feeling excitement for the next two cities.

Everyone loved our Venice stay; how could we not? The magnificent art, the charming city, the relaxed nature of the visit and the good nature of everyone involved meant that enjoying ourselves was simply inevitable!

 

With thanks to Helen Elston for putting together her memories of Venice, Summer 2013…

Melon Ice-cream and Travertine: A student’s impression of Rome

The capital of Italy was our final and busiest city visit. Before I get to the art, I’m going to have to mention a couple of the most amazing things that happened in Rome. First of all: Melon Ice Cream (ever tried it?), this is best when made by ‘GROM’ and if you ever have the pleasure of going to Italy, your trip will be incomplete without this life-changing substance. Secondly, travertine stone – I admit – I originally thought this quasi-sedimentary calcium carbonate was rather boring – but Helen Oakden’s enthusiasm eventually had our whole group caressing a travertine stone in the centre of Rome. We ignored the slightly startled passers by.

GROM...

Melon and Travertine aside, the art in Rome was beyond belief. The Colosseum and Forum let us dive beyond the world of the Renaissance and appreciate the ancient Rome that was beneath our feet and The Vatican City certainly lived up to expectations. A short tan-top-up for the girls as we queued outside lead us to the most incredible frescos, sculptures, architecture and paintings I’ve yet had the pleasure to see.

The Glorious Basilica of St Peter

 

Michelangelo's incredibly moving Pieta

St Peter’s Basilica was incomprehensibly large – the small letters around the base of the dome interior were in fact, we learned, each 2m high… and finished nearly 400 years ago. Not only is this place the largest church in the world, but also it is also home to Michelangelo’s genuinely moving Pieta. I had never seen my favourite fresco, Raphael’s The School of Athens (best fresco in existence), in the flesh, but when I saw it in the Vatican Palace for the first time I really did feel like I was meeting an old friend.

Raphael's 'School of Athens' in the Vatican Palace
Amazement at seeing the School of Athens, finally...

The two weeks had been good enough already, but it made them all the more worthwhile. To top the day off we had also seen some mind-blowing classical sculpture. Us boys in the group did feel jealous upon seeing the Belvedere torso…!

The Belvedere Torso in all is muscular glory

Of course it wasn’t all go – we did have some down time; the ever-knowledgeable tutors took us out to supper to a roof terrace restaurant which was great fun albeit bittersweet as we knew we were coming to the end of our trip.

Bernini's David in the Borghese Gallery
Outside the Borghese Gallery on our last day...

Our final day was in a similar vein; while we were all soaking up the atmosphere and some incredible sculpture (Berlini’s David is both very emotive and unfortunately overshadowed by Michelangelo’s) in the villa Borghese, everyone was sad to be saying goodbye to such an atmospheric city, and of course to each other. Rome, in the true sense of the word, was awesome, and I know that all of us will want to go back very soon.

With thanks to Hugo Dunn, student on our Northern II summer course 2013.

Happy Coincidence: A Summer Student’s AHA Journey

Originally, I was an English student:  I read lots and loved analysing books. Then last Christmas I became absorbed by my a-level art history course and began learning about artists’ lives, analysing paintings and studying critics. I was hooked.

I first heard of Art History Abroad through a tutoring agency which sent one of the AHA tutors to my house to guide me through my A Level and show me new ways of viewing art. We spent two whole days engrossed in Art History: pawing over the Impressionists, astounded by the 19th century and shocked by the controversial Dadaists. For me, however, there was something bigger in art history which I wanted to explore and which I was getting more of an inkling of the more I read, even though I was not studying it for my exams:  the Italian Renaissance.

Soon after the AHA tutor left and I immersed myself in exam preparation, I decided to apply for the Northern Italy Three Summer course and was awarded a discretionary scholarship. My main objective was to study the Italian Renaissance. I also wanted to be inspired and stretched before I started my Art History BA at York University.

Heslington Hall on the Campus of York University

As it happened, I met one of the Art History Lecturers at York at an open day there later in the summer and he, being a veteran AHA tutor himself, was really impressed that I was going on the course. He was even willing to drop my grade boundaries as a result! This really showed me in what esteem these AHA courses are held.

And I was not disappointed. This esteem was justified  throughout the two weeks in Venice, Florence and Rome.  The tutors’ knowledge amazed me: walking  around churches and galleries they knew every fine detail – even things I’m sure the artists would have forgotten themselves!  They were also happy to sit, sometimes  for twenty minutes  at a time,  answering my never-ending questions on the architecture and paintings which surrounded me.

The Group dressed up as gods and goddesses in Florence

And the art I saw on the trip really did blow my mind. It was so exciting seeing works up close, touching-distance away, compared to the glossy pages in a text book.  And of course,  being in such beautiful locations also helped.
As a group I think that we all got a taste of Italian culture in the evenings:  from dining in quaint pizzerias,  to experiencing the adventure of Florence’s meat houses, to sampling the night life at various night clubs and bars whilst drinking authentic Italian drinks of presseco and sprtiz aperol.

I would encourage anyone who wants to have an exciting, special summer to take part in an AHA trip: it really is an experience of a lifetime.

AHA Summer Course student, 2012

·         AHA offers an annual scholarship.  It is highly prized and valued at the cost of a summer course – £3,400.  It is awarded to the winner of an essay competition :  ‘Write 400 words on a work of art you love, followed by 400 words on a work of art you loath’.  Open to all, this competition requires no prior knowledge of art history, just a sense of enthusiasm and powerful views.

 

·         AHA also awards the odd bursary, entirely on a discretionary basis, to those we feel have a particular desire to study art history and who we feel will make the most of the opportunity.

 

·         Lastly, there are travel funds and awards available at many schools and from many funds.  AHA will happily match fund, to a limit of £200, those who have secured such funding.