An editorial perspective on Roman art

By: Meredith Francis ~Campus News Editor~

We’ve all seen pictures of Michelangelo’s stunning white marble David in our textbooks, online or in travel books, but a group of approximately 40 Xavier students had the opportunity to experience the sculpture firsthand this past June and July on a fiveweek study abroad program in Rome, Italy.

The program, which is led by four Xavier faculty members – E. Paul Colella, Suzanne Chouteau, Kelly Blank & Mary Lisa Vertuca – offers classes in philosophy, art, Italian and education. The art class, which takes place for the first three weeks of the program, is an intensive course that puts students out in the city of Rome and on weekend trips to Assisi, Florence and Siena to see beautiful pieces of art that most of us only see in pictures.

Suzanne Chouteau, a professor of Xavier’s Department of Art who has taught the course for many years, took students out in the city Monday through Thursday to experience Rome and what is has to offer in sculpture, painting and architecture.

For many students, myself included, this course was our first real exposure to art and its
terminology. The majority of the class approached the course as art history, while a small group of talented art students used the course to draw and inspire their own artwork. As a student who did not know much about art besides a high school humanities class, the Rome art class opened me up to new kinds of art. I didn’t think I was a fan of sculpture until I saw Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne and how the artist was able to use solid, still marble to show transformation and movement. It was stunning how Bernini was able to carve small, delicate looking leaves out of marble.

David Photo
Famous artist Michelangelo’s masterpiece sculpture, “David,” as it sits in the Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy.

Professor Chouteau even encouraged the non-drawing students to try our hands at drawing the statue of David. As cartoonish and pathetic as mine turned out, even attempting to draw such a beautiful sculpture gave me a deeper appreciation for the piece.

Bobby Whitacre, a senior art major, participated in the drawing portion of the class and will use some of the work he saw in Rome as inspiration for his senior thesis. As an art student, Whitacre believes he had a unique experience.

“I think being an art student made the trip completely different for me. You go to Italy and everything is beautiful. Art is much more appreciated there,” Whitacre said. “It was amazing seeing art in person that I had studied only out of books before.” Admittedly, some of the days were long and tiring in the hot Italian summer sun.

The class usually met at 8 a.m. and didn’t return until after lunchtime. However, it’s easy to fight through the hunger and forget how tired you are when you’re looking up at The Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel, The Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica or the statue of David in Florence.

In Rome, it seemed, everything was art.