Darian Phillips ’20 – During my time abroad, I was enrolled in a modern and contemporary art history course, which surveyed artwork from the beginning of the neo-classical period in the 18thcentury up through the abstract expressionism period in the 21stcentury. At the beginning of the semester, I had little to no background knowledge on anything concerning art, therefore whenever I had witnessed a piece of artwork I only recognized the superficial details and never fully appreciated its true value. However, this course offered context on each of the art periods that we discussed and provided insight on the social and political pressures that influenced and motivated each of the artists when composing a given piece of artwork. I discovered that artists from the neo-classical period were infatuated with heroism, nude subjects, dramatic lighting, bright primary colors, and hard and definite edges. On the other hand, artist from the romantic period were inspired by emotion and feeling, and often implemented looser and less precise brushwork in comparison to traditional academic paintings.
As the semester progressed, I continued to develop a keen eye for the seemingly insignificant details of a painting, and consequently, I became intrigued by the various aspects and underlying meaning embedded within a given painting. I specifically recall when a group of friends and myself made a trip to Amsterdam in late November and we had decided to make a stop by the Van Gogh museum. On the brutally cold Saturday afternoon, we elected to ride rental bikes so that we could quickly navigate Amsterdam’s compact roads. By the time we arrived at the museum, our faces were beat red from wind burn, our hands numb, moral was low, and were eager to find warmth and shelter. After we got inside and took a minute to thaw out, we proceeded to begin our journey through the four-story museum. I remember enthusiastically walking from painting to painting and eagerly explaining to my friends the various aspects of each painting that made it unique and describing to them what Van Gogh’s motivations and intentions at the time of their composition. Looking back on it, my friends probably were a bit irritated by my infatuation and could have gone without my poor attempt of being our own Van Gogh tour guide, but I could not contain my excitement for being able to actually witness the artwork that I had been studying in class for weeks in person.
With that being said, I would like to thank the Givens family for this amazing opportunity to explore a subject that I does not pertain to my major and the ability to expand my learning outside of the classroom.