Written by Hannah Katz (University of Wisconsin- Madison), Student Correspondent CET Florence, Summer 2019
I’ve always thought I was one of those people who didn’t “get” art. I could appreciate it from a distance and admire the effort and time it took into the creation of a work but for me, I could never uncover a deeper meaning. An oil painting of a pond simply looked like a pond to me- I could never see anything deeper than the water or the flowers lining the sides. I understand that my previous vision of art has been quite close-minded. To me, art used to be what was found in the museums- framed portraits, intricate sculptures, the like. However, Florence has opened up my eyes and my mind to the vast world of art that exists and the importance of not closing yourself off and thinking that just because you don’t know about something doesn’t mean you can’t understand it and be personally impacted by it.
The biggest revelation that I’ve had about Florentine art, and art in general, is the appreciation of architecture and general building design as a true form of art. In the United States, we take for granted the ease of construction. Skyscrapers can be built in months, housing developments seem to crop up overnight, and so on. It takes visiting an old country (especially one around during classical art periods) to understand the undertaking of designing and constructing a truly breathtaking building. When you’re wandering around Florence and suddenly come face to face with the Duomo in all its glory, it’s impossible not to see building design as an art form. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Duomo is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Not just building, but the most beautiful thing. The intricate designs and the green and pink color scheme coupled with beautifully done frescoes and seemingly impossible to make statues and architecture make for an otherworldly piece of art that is unbelievable.
In addition to the Duomo, there are gorgeous churches and piazzas hiding around every corner. It’s impossible not to see and love the gorgeous bridges stretching across the Arno, or the frescoes painted onto buildings in random alleyways. I say this all without even going to any of the galleries yet (though my tour of the Uffizi is booked for next week). To me, the beauty comes from the appreciation of the small. The pot of flowers perfectly situated on the windowsill or the particular shade of blue used in a fresco. It’s details like these that truly enhanced my appreciation of art.
I feel like as I’ve come to learn and appreciate art, I’ve simultaneously learned more about myself. For me, I’ve learned that I love color and vibrance in everything I see. To me, both in art and in live, liveliness means everything. To someone else, maybe they focus on structure or depth first. This was an important understand because, when it comes down to it, art is personal. That is the fundamental truth I’ve been missing all my life. Perhaps the aforementioned pond isn’t supposed to represent some deep mystery of the universe- maybe it was simply painted to make onlookers feel tranquil and at peace, which it did. After a lifetime of feeling like I was broken or incapable of understanding the deep complexities that come with art, all it took was the admiration of some incredible feats of art and architecture to make me understand what I had longed to get my whole life: art is for emotion, not logic. Sometimes a church is just a church, a building meant to be admired for years to come and to make any onlookers awestruck and completely optimistic in the moment. And in this realm, at least with me, it was successful.