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Artwork paints vivid impression on AP students

By W. Seckar-Anderson
posted April 20, 2011

Encompassing more than 5,000 years of human expression from cultures around the world, the Art Institute of Chicago provides much inspiration and education to those admiring its works. This past Thursday, students taking AP European History had the opportunity to study the cherished masterpieces that hang from the walls of the institute. Paul Stellpflug, AP Euro teacher, finds numerous benefits to a field trip such as this.

“Every artistic movement is a product of the socio-political climate of the time. Students learn the details in class and then apply it at the Chicago Art Institute,” he said. “Additionally, you can’t appreciate a picture of a Renoir, Monet, or Watteau sitting in a classroom looking at a screen the same way you can when you can be only inches away looking at the brushstrokes and minute details.”

Senior Michele Lenz also valued the opportunity to study original artwork and the importance of paying close attention to detail, applying knowledge learned in class.

“My favorite piece of art was ‘Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grand-Jatte’ by Georges Seurat. It was a humongous painting and I just couldn’t stop staring at it,” she said. “Once you get up close, you see all of the effort and incredible detail that he put into this one piece. Seurat uses myriads of coloring and light techniques in this piece to show the neo-impressionism era.”

Another participant of the trip, senior Sami Duehring, gained experience to help understand and appreciate European art.

“I’ve learned how to really appreciate how the artists reflected their history into the pieces of art,” she said. “It’s hard to think about what the artists were going through and AP helped us learn why the paintings were painted to way they were.”

Knowledge learned regarding the time periods in European history could also be applied to the art displayed in Chicago. A visualization of the changing ideas and politics in Europe was seen in the differences between pieces, engendering a timeline through the artwork.

“We learned how art has evolved from every period in time; from the Renaissance to the French Revolution,” stated Lenz. “It was extremely helpful to know all of this information before going to the museum and was even more interesting to apply all that we have learned when depicting which piece was from which era.”

In addition to application of knowledge to the astonishing pieces of art, students will remember the trip as one of their most enjoyable memories of senior year.

“This Chicago trip was the best trip of my high school career,” concluded Lenz. “I have found an immense appreciation for art and gained so much knowledge from this experience.”

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