Western Civilization’s Creators Teach A Western Civ Lesson

By Ethan S. ’16

Photos by Ethan S. and Kurren P. ’16

The Renaissance is often hailed as the rebirth of culture in Western Europe after centuries-long Dark Ages. Students in the World Civilizations II course have been learning about the Renaissance since this summer, studying everything from the wry writings of Boccaccio to the gleaming marble sculptures of Michelangelo. To extend the learning beyond the classroom, the Class of 2016 took a trip to Baltimore Friday, Sept. 20

The first stop of our day was the Walters Art Museum. Open since 1909, the Walters houses a collection of 35,000 works of art from all over the world. The collection was established by William Walters, and his son, Henry Walters. The Walters lived in Europe during the Civil War, and they collected numerous works of European art. The sophomore class spent the better part of the morning browsing a 1,700 piece Renaissance trove that Henry Walter bought in a single, massive haul from a Roman palace in the late 19th century.


One of the highlights is a Raphael painting of the Virgin Mary holding the newborn Jesus. Raphael was famous for his attention to details and warm colors, and Mary and her baby seem to glow. Raphael uses the shadow areas to create a sense of depth. Ms. Stuart taught us that a perception of depth is one of the most noticeable artistic developments of the Renaissance. Raphael was also a master of symmetry, and he forms a triangle with the backs, heads, and legs.

Much of the art from the late middle ages was centered on religious subjects. This started to change however, with the dawn of the Renaissance in Florence. As we walked through the rooms and saw the changes firsthand, we could almost travel in time. For Jimmy A., this was the best part of the museum, he “loved seeing the different collections of art, and how the art styles progressed through the years.”

After a couple of hours at the museum, we had thoroughly exhausted our capability to inhale knowledge, and we had built up a mighty appetite doing it. We boarded our coach bus, and drove over to the Federal Hill park, overlooking the Inner Harbor. After a quick trek up the hill, we sat down and enjoyed lunch. After, we took some time to play in the park. Some people swung on the swings, others threw a frisbee, and a large contingent of boys played an action-packed game of football. Refreshed, we journeyed down the hill, to our next museum.

The Visionary Art Museum is a museum unlike any other. It is dedicated to art from artists with no formal training, who do not necessarily create their art with a specific meaning in mind. This philosophy made us think of art in different ways.

Jongha C. liked that it was “more modern and interactive.” We explored the collections for awhile, then we went to a workshop where we could use our creativity. The aim was to create a sculpture that rolled on wheels, using materials provided to us by the museum staff. We all made some great creations! Following the workshop, we sat down on the bus one last time, and returned to our humble school, enriched by a day of exploration.