Hello, my name is Evelyn MacMahon, originally of Harvard, Massachusetts. I am a member of the Class of 2019 and I will be graduating with a double major in Psychology and Art & Art History. I had the joy of studying abroad in Cortona, Italy during the Fall of 2018.
My program is centered around the arts - I took three studio art courses, one art history course, and traveled with faculty and classmates to over ten cities throughout Italy to study Italian masterpieces, architecture, and historical landmarks. During these excursions, I developed the field skills I would come to use during my independent research.
The goal of my independent research was to apply the skills of formal art analysis and documentary photography I had acquired during my semester in Italy to a broader exposure of artwork. Due to the organization of the Cortona program, students have very little opportunity to travel outside of Italy. Thus, my on-site experience of artworks and cultural landmarks was, while exstentive in Italian cities, lacking on a larger European scale.
After the conclusion of my program, I traveled to London, York and Edinburgh on a ten day tour to every museum, church, and castle I could squeeze in. I visited the National Gallery of London, The National Portrait Gallery of London, The Victoria and Albert Museum, York Minster, St. Giles Cathedral, Holyrood Palace, The National Museum of Scotland and more.
At the National Gallery of London, I viewed Da Vinci’s The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist, Botticelli’s Venus and Mars, Raphael’s Portrait of Pope Julius II, and many more italian renaissance masterpieces that I had only yet seen from textbooks or projector screens. I conducted formal analysis in front of the actual paintings and gained insight into the decisions and intentions of the artist. The goal of a formal analysis is to explain how the formal elements of a work of art affect the representation of the subject matter and expressive content. By viewing these artworks on-site, I was able to experience this analysis differently from a book or photo. When I stood in front of Venus and Mars, I could feel the dimensionality and weighted balance of the opposing supine figures. Beyond renaissance artworks, I was able to apply this critical thinking and active research to different art movements, such as impressionism and portraiture. The broad range of arts that I was able to visit in this amount of time was so incredibly enriching - not only was I expanding my mastery of renaissance topics, but I was exposed to a variety that was otherwise missing from my experiences in Italy.
Additionally, during my travel in York and Edinburgh I captured photos using lessons from the Photo and Image Culture course I took in Italy. During our excursions to cities like Umbrio, Siena and Orvieto, our professor instructed us in the art of documentary and landscape photography. During my extended study, I shot photos of churches, cathedrals and cultural sites that I visited in York and Edinburgh. I aimed to create a collection of photos that captured the historical essences of those locations. I focused on architectural features and unexpected point of views, while applying the formal elements of balance and contrast.