Arts Abroad: The Artist’s Journal, Part II

June 10, 2011

One in a series of dispatches about the 2011 summer Arts Abroad programs, this one catching up with faculty member Peter Hristoff and students for the last week of The Artist’s Journal. A gallery of photos can be found on Facebook.

The Brancacci Chapel is one of Florence’s most self-contained masterpieces, and its history makes it an especially appropriate site for a visit by an educational group. Commissioned to create a series of frescoes by the wealthy silk merchant Pietro Brancacci in the 15th century, the painter Masolino hired Masaccio to work with him and was then called to Rome, leaving his assistant to complete the chapel. Today the site’s renown owes mostly to Masaccio’s highly naturalistic, expressive images. “Never had bodies appeared so heavy,” says the narrator of the educational film screened for visitors about the artist’s masterful treatment of the scene of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

The Chapel’s administration requires visitors to arrive well in advance of the 15 short minutes allotted to each group, so the courtyard outside the chapel was the site for a fast-drawing exercise that had students create portraits of one another in 2 minutes. In the less than an hour, each person had filled their notebooks with a gallery of faces.

Following a stop for lunch at Florence’s lively indoor central market (where a panini and glass of wine go for just $5), it was on to Fiesole, a short and breathtaking bus ride up above the city. If hillside villas and olive trees stands and views taking in the whole of Florence weren’t inspiration enough, Hristoff led the group to the site of a 1st-century B.C. Roman amphitheater, where students drew the scene on top of the sketches they had made in Istanbul the week before. Like the bountiful archeological sites in the area that have filled Fiesole’s Museum of Etruscan Art, the students’ work would be a layered record of their travels through Europe.

Images: (top) drawing at the Brancacci Chapel in Florence; (middle and bottom) taking in the Roman Amphitheater in Fiesole.

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