Department of Art and Art History Special Programs

Learning Tuscany: Art and Culture in Italy

Summer 2016! May 24 – July 4

Application Deadline: December 1, 2015
Apply Now!

Learn more at an Info Session
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
12:30 – 2 p.m.
Art Building, Room 3.210

Learning Tuscany

The Learning Tuscany program introduces students to art and culture first-hand. Students are given the opportunity to be ambassadors from the United States and Texas, sharing their experiences with students and citizens of Italy. Many make connections that continue to exist today, and many have cited this experience as the most important of their academic careers. The program has trained students from all four of our divisions (Studio Art, Art History, Design, and Visual Art Studies) and students from other majors.

In Italian culture, life and art are inseparable. Countless examples illustrate this—the still-life quality of window displays in Florence, the artisanal care taken by a Sienese stoneworker replacing part of a medieval byway, the sculpted harmony of the Tuscan countryside. We cannot experience these essential qualities of Italian life in a classroom. Only with time and careful observation can we begin to absorb the richness and rhythm of life, and art, in Italy.

This summer program focuses on the cities and landscapes of Tuscany. All students live in the historic facility of Santa Chiara in the town of Castiglion Fiorentino. They take an art history course and a studio course taught by faculty from the UT Department of Art and Art History. Group discussions and visits to other cities, such as Florence, Siena and Rome, serve to frame student experiences within a broader view of Italy. Students then incorporate their new experiences into studio art and art history projects at Santa Chiara.

Courses and Faculty

Gothic and Renaissance Art and Architecture in Central Italy
Dr. Ann Johns, Program Director, Senior Lecturer in Art History

In this course, we will focus on the rich tradition of both Gothic and Renaissance art and architecture in central Italy. In introductory courses, we learn that the Gothic style is the last and most elaborate of medieval modes, whereas the art of the Italian Renaissance is a return to Antiquity, with its classical architectural forms, sculpture balanced into poses of perfect contrapposto, and painting endowed, thanks to the discovery of scientific perspective, with depth and clarity.

What we find when we are in Italy and have the opportunity to look at the real works of art is something much richer and more interesting. We see “Gothic” painters who employ the rudiments of scientific perspective, while we encounter “Renaissance” sculptors and architects who also incorporate Gothic decoration and architectural features into their work. Painters like Fra Angelico and Gentile da Fabriano create stunningly convincing and naturalistic landscapes and fully modeled figures, while still using lavish quantities of gilding and decorative patterning. Brunelleschi’s famous dome of Florence cathedral—the signature monument of the early Renaissance—is encased by graceful Gothic ribs. All of the cities that we will visit—Florence, Rome, Siena, Orvieto, Arezzo, Cortona, and even our own Castiglion Fiorentino—possess countless works of art and architecture that demonstrate the difficulty of separating the Gothic style from the Renaissance once we’re in Italy.

Unlike classes here in Austin, few of our meetings will take place in a classroom. Instead, much of our class discussion will take place on site, in these famous art cities and in front of the objects and buildings of interest. One of the great joys of the Learning Tuscany program is the day-to-day interaction and confrontation with art and architecture, both old and new. Thus much of our examination of Gothic and Renaissance works will take place in cities like Florence, Siena, Orvieto, and Rome, under the gaze of actual works of art such as Duccio’s Maestà and Brunelleschi’s Florence dome. A Gothic monument like the Cathedral of Siena holds, in fact, artistic treasures by some of the greatest sculptors of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, including Nicola Pisano, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Bernini

This course will be taught in tandem with the studio art class offered by Michael Mogavero. All students will be enrolled in both classes. We want your studies and observations about older artistic practices to enrich the art you create over the course of 6 weeks, and we hope that both your on-site and studio projects will enhance your understanding of the art of the extraordinarily beautiful region of Tuscany.


ART 319T / 320 / 320K / 379T 
Ornamentation in Northern Italian Art
Michael Mogavero, Associate Professor in Studio Art

Throughout the history of Italian art, ornamentation has played a critical role in its development. Beginning with Etruscan decorative arts so heavily influenced by Classical Greek works to Renaissance artists and architects who nurtured a unique and original vocabulary of ornamentation in their paintings, sculptures and architecture between the 14th17th centuries.

Ornamentation in the Italian Renaissance was not relegated to a strictly decorative practice. Instead, at its best it played a fundamental role in visually representing religious and philosophical beliefs of the time and was often created as tangible symbols that would solidify man’s orderly relationship with his faith and place in the world. 

Whether it is the mathematical complexities of the floor mosaics in Siena’s Duomo or the magnificent architectural façade of the Italian Gothic style cathedral in Orvieto or Gentile da Fabriano’s important painting “Adoration of the Magi” from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence ornamentation has enhanced the perpetual power and the sustained longevity of so much of Italian art.

These courses will study the history of Italian ornamentation through field trips, lectures and studio work.  Examples of the development of an Italian ornamental style will be viewed and discussed by visits to museum and architectural sites in cities such as; Florence, Rome, Orvieto, Cortona, Sienna & San Gimignano.

Students will be encouraged to keep sketch journals and use photography to record examples of ornamental masterworks viewed on field trips and for further use as source material for studio work.

Studio projects will be designed to involve students in creating their own drawing and painting projects by utilizing ornamental design as the basis for producing original artworks. Comparisons will be made between ornamentation employed by Renaissance artists and its current relevance in contemporary art, architecture and culture. Projects will consist of preparatory works, final studio projects, class critiques and a final exhibition.


Program Costs

View Itemized Costs

Financial Aid

Learn more about using financial aid to fund study abroad costs.


Departmental Scholarships

Several scholarships are available to students participating in the Learning Tuscany program. Download the application materials below.

Application Deadline
Monday, October 19, 5 p.m.

PDF DocumentApplication for scholarships available to Art History majors

PDF Document Application for scholarships available to Studio Art majors

PDF Document Application for scholarships available to Visual Art Studies majors

PDF DocumentApplication for scholarships available to all department majors (Art History, Design, Studio Art, and Visual Art Studies)

Non-Departmental Scholarships

Students can also find other non-departmental scholarship opportunities on the Study Abroad Office website.