Dr. Robert Bailey - Journey to Italy
Teaching and studying art history in Arezzo and throughout Italy afford unique opportunities to engage with original works of art and architecture from the past, often in the very places for which they were originally made.
Beholding the Colosseum in Rome or seeing Botticelli’s Birth of Venus in a world-class museum like the Uffizi in Florence are profound experiences. Nothing compares to studying an ancient, medieval, Renaissance, or Baroque artwork or building in person, experiencing all its nuance at firsthand, coming to know the look and feel of the thing itself. Reproductions simply do not compare to this kind of scrutiny, which manifests palpably the importance that visual images and built environments have to our sense of who we have been as people and who we are now.
In other words, you must go and see these things to understand them truly. Standing beneath the crucifix that Cimabue painted for the Basilica of San Domenico in Arezzo and knowing that it has hung in that very location for 750 years, witness to more than three dozen generations of veneration, is singular. Learning that it is one of a handful of artworks that announced the Renaissance in art opens the world in new ways. Being able to visit it at no cost on any day of the week because it is in a church just down the street from the university’s campus in Arezzo is nonpareil.
In my own field, the history of contemporary art, Italy offers the opportunity to visit the Venice Biennale, one of the foremost exhibitions of art being made today. For young artists and art historians in particular, the experience of such an exhibition has paramount importance, as it provides a real-time glimpse into the current state of artmaking from around the globe, which is an essential thing for people beginning to chart their own paths in the world of art. Again, this is something that cannot be gotten elsewhere.
All told, bringing students to Italy to study the art of the past and present is one of the most educationally beneficial things I can do as a teacher and provides some of the most singular experiences my students can have.