Day Fourteen

For our final day in Italy we packed our sketchbooks and set off after breakfast for a day of immersion in Rome, walking the old city, viewing art and sketching. By subway we reached our first destination, Piazza del Popolo and the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo.


Originally built in the 11th century, the church contains two of the greatest paintings of Caravaggio, the Crucifixion of St. Peter, and the Conversion of St. Paul, still in the original locations for which they were commissioned. Santa Maria del Popolo also holds significant work by Raphael, Pinturicchio, and Annibale Caracci, as well as architectural features contributed during the Renaissance by Bramante (the apse) and in the Baroque period by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (the present day facade.)



From the Basilica we headed up to the Pincian hills above Piazza del Popolo where students worked on sketchbook studies of the urban spaces and street life. From there we followed a path through the old city that took us down the Spanish Steps, to the Trevi Fountain, and along the Tiber River to Castel Sant’Angelo where we caught a very crowded city bus (immersion in Rome?!) to Trastevere for lunch.  Back at the hotel in the evening, our last in Italy, we all convened on the terrace of the hotel to reflect on our trip, share observations and suggestions for future trips.

Landscape Painting in Italy was first conceived as a vehicle for getting my most dedicated painting students out of their studio routines and habits, into a radically different culture, history, and visual space than any they were used to. I’ve often thought that an argument could be made that most of the significant changes in painting over the centuries have been the result of travel. Seeing new spaces and new conditions of light have a way of interrupting habitual modes of seeing and being, allowing a space for change. I chose Italy because it has played such a transformational role in landscape painting from the time of Corot and after, and its role is not as well known or celebrated as that of its northern neighbor, France. Looking back on the two weeks we all spent together, I couldn’t have hand-picked a stronger group of young painters. Against this foreign background, these students threw themselves courageously into the challenge of wrestling with this new landscape, and the exciting but often frustrating processes of working outdoors that it entailed. But perhaps the strongest impact of the trip was the increased camaraderie and empathy that the students felt for each other, and the deepening of friendships facilitated by experiences shared together in a strange land.

Photo credits: Rosy Avoscan, Chelsea Dipman, Frank Hobbs


Day Thirteen

Monday the group rose early to board our bus to Rome, the last stop before our departure on Wednesday. After settling in at our hotel, we set off for a walking tour of ancient Rome. Our path led us through the Forum, Trajan’s column, and the Coliseum. After lunch we made our way through the city to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona before heading back to our hotel. Evening found us in Trastevere, across the Tiber, exploring the narrow streets and little piazze before dinner at a favorite trattoria.

Day Twelve

Our final Sunday in Cortona was a free day for everyone to pack, paint or wander the town, and say goodbye. After dinner the group met for a final critique.

IMG_2290Our lodgings, the Hotel Oasi Neumann, once a 16th century convent.

DSC_0808A much anticipated event each night, La Cena (supper.)

1013786_10200108011565132_1283734514_nLast critique in Cortona.

Visiting Artist, Alison Hall

Alison Hall from Hollins University visited us at our hotel and gave our group an engaging talk about her work and the role that Italian art and culture have played in its evolution, and in her thinking about what it means to be an artist. The video below features an interview with the artist on the occasion of her 2013 exhibition at the Taubman Museum in Roanoke, Virginia. In it she discusses particularly the influence of Giotto on her work, and touches on the idea of collaborative working processes, so much a part of the way art was made for centuries, and which, for the artist, relates strongly to her working class origins in a small Virginia town.

Sarah Miatt

Our day spent with artist Sarah Miatt at her home and studio is the subject of an earlier blog post. (“Day Eight.”)  Miatt recently opened an exhibition of her work at Cortona’s MAEC (Museo dell’Accademia Estrusco e della Citta’ di Cortona), a unique pairing of a contemporary artist’s work alongside the collection of Etruscan artifacts for which the museum is renowned. While it is rare for a prestigious historical museum such as the MAEC to open its walls to a contemporary artist, their decision to pursue such an experimental juxtapositioning of the ancient and the new is a tribute to the artist for her profound relationship with Etruscan culture and art, and the influence that it has had on her work over many years. A recent interview with the artist discussing her work, and the exhibition, is captured in the video at the bottom of this post.

Day Eleven

On Saturday morning we made our way down to Camucia to catch the train to Passignano, a small village on Lake Trasimeno. The journey took about 20 minutes from station to station. Our final destination was Isola Maggiore, a large island in the middle of the lake that once was home to about 200 residents who were renowned for their fine handmade lace. From Passignano we caught the ferry to the island and spent the day exploring the island and painting.

Day Ten

Liz Rigdon is a painter from the UK who moved to Italy around 16 years ago. She works mainly in watercolor. On day ten the group marched with their painting gear from the hotel up the southern side of Cortona for a demonstration of watercolor at Liz’s home. After the demo Liz provided materials and personal instruction to students who wished to experiment with watercolor. Others chose to work in oils.