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Learning Tuscany: Art and Culture in Central Italy

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 art and architecture of Tuscany and central Italy. Students live and work at Santa Chiara, a restored convent that now hosts students from across the United States. The facility is located in the heart of Castiglion Fiorentino, a picturesque Tuscan town that is located along the main train line between Rome and Florence.

Students enroll in an art history course and a studio art course taught by faculty from the Department of Art and Art History at The University of Texas at Austin. These courses focus on art and experience. How do we as contemporary viewers experience art of the past? How can daily observations, whether through drawing, print, painting, photography or sculpture, help inform and enrich this experience? Group discussions and visits to other cities, such as Florence, Siena, and Rome, serve to frame student experiences within a broader view of Italy. The integrated approach of the program balances carefully designed trips with individual and small group projects in order to explore the forces that shaped Italian cities and landscapes.

Video by 2015 Learning Tuscany alum Katie Gregory. View video on YouTube.

2017 Program Details


May 24 – July 4, 2017

Courses and Instructors

ARH 331J — Artistic Practice in Medieval and Renaissance Italy (VAPA)
Dr. Ann Johns, Distinguished Senior Lecturer in Art History

ART 319T/320/320K/379T — Site, Material, Visual Thinking
Dan Sutherland, Associate Professor in Studio Art

In these two courses, we will be examining how artists and architects in Medieval and Renaissance Italy created the works and monuments with which we are all familiar. How did an artist receive his (or her) training? What materials were used? To what extent did the patron condition the ultimate appearance of the work? These are all questions we might ask in a classroom, in Austin; seeing the actual, physical, stunningly beautiful objects, however, forces us to confront their materiality and context.

All students will be enrolled in both the studio and the art history classes. Our aim is twofold: we want your studies and observations about older artistic practices to enrich the art you create over the course of six weeks, and we hope that both your on-site and studio projects will enhance your understanding of the art and culture of the extraordinarily beautiful region of Tuscany.

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