Every few weeks, the National Gallery of Art hosts a “Teen Studio.” At each session, students explore an exhibit, then do a related project. The topics vary widely, from oil painting in Flemish art to pre-Photoshop altered photography. I've been lucky enough to go several times in this last semester.
My favorite session so far explored two seemingly different topics; hand bookmaking and the Pre-Raphaelite school of painting. Nathalie Ryan, who works in the education department at the National Gallery, began by giving a talk about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The Brotherhood tried to return to an earlier style of painting, before the influence of Raphael. They tried very hard to focus on reality even while depicting allegorical or fictional subjects. They also cared a great deal about color and light, using strong bright primary colors rather than the lighter softer pigment preferred by the more Raphaelite Royal Academy of Arts. Here is an example of one of the paintings we looked at while in the gallery:
As a lover of poetry, I especially embraced the idea of making painting more like romantic poetry. The member of the brotherhood who pioneered this idea was William Michael Rossetti, brother of the poet Christina Rossetti. (Families, interestingly, were important to the Pre-Raphaelites. Because of their status as a secret society, all of the models for the brotherhood were family and friends of the five or six artists.)
After the introduction, we took a tour of the new gallery exhibit “Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design.” We saw a lot of wonderful art, but also spent a lot of time talking about it and asking questions. The art wasn’t only painting. The paintings mimicked the view of the human eye just enough to make me think about the paintings as, if not truth, things that the artists had thought about enough to achieve that level of depth. There was also statue, tapestry, furniture and books. I loved how
things that I’m used to thinking about as fiction were depicted with such
a level of reality.
One of my favorite parts of the studio experience is the opportunity to have lunch with other like-minded teens. Each time I've been the food has been great and the company has been excellent.
After lunch, we returned to the studio room where we started, and began to make our own books! Making the books was a lot of fun and also very challenging. The end result was terrific. I look forward to drawing in my book, and making more books in the future.