Department of Art and Art History Special Programs

Learning Tuscany: Art and Culture in Italy

Summer 2014! May 24 – July 4

Application Deadline: December 1, 2013
Apply Now!


Scholarship Deadline: December 3, 2013
12 $2000 scholarships awarded by the Study Abroad Office
Apply Now!
(Look for "SAO Summer Faculty-led Scholarship")

Several additional $1000 scholarships will offered to accepted participants upon acceptance into the program. These will be awarded by mid December.

Learning Tuscany

The Learning Tuscany program exposes deserving students to art and culture first-hand. Students are given the opportunity to be ambassadors from the United States and Texas, sharing their experiences with students and citizens of Italy. Many make connections that continue to exist today, and many have cited this experience as the most important of their academic careers. Our program is one of the foremost programs of its kind in the United States, and has launched international careers of our alumni. The program has trained students from all four of our divisions (Studio Art, Art History, Design, and Visual Art Studies) and students from other majors.

In Italian culture, life and art are inseparable. Countless examples illustrate this—the still-life quality of window displays in Florence, the artisanal care taken by a Sienese stoneworker replacing part of a medieval byway, the sculpted harmony of the Tuscan countryside. We cannot experience these essential qualities of Italian life in a classroom. Only with time and careful observation can we begin to absorb the richness and rhythm of life, and art, in Italy.

This summer program focuses on the cities and landscapes of Tuscany, and emphasis rests upon understanding the region in which the program is located. All students live in the historic facility of Santa Chiara in the town of Castiglion Fiorentino. They take an art history course and a studio course taught by faculty from the UT Department of Art and Art History. Group discussions and visits to other cities, such as Florence, Siena and Rome, serve to frame student experiences within a broader view of Italy. The integrated approach of the program balances carefully designed trips with work in small groups in order to explore the forces that shaped the Italian city and landscape. Students learn local history, which at Castiglion Fiorentino reaches back to Etruscan times, and live and move among the buildings of past cultures.

Courses and Faculty

ARH 374
The Art and Architecture of Pilgrimage in Medieval and Renaissance Italy
Dr. Ann Johns, Program Director, Senior Lecturer in Art History

ART 319T / ART 320K / ART 379T / ART 320L
Books, Zines and Collection as Gestures of Travel
Leslie Mutchler, Assistant Professor in Studio Art

In these two courses, we will be examining how painters (and other artists and architects) in Medieval and Renaissance Italy created the works and monuments with which we are all familiar. How did a painter receive his (or her) training? What were workshop conditions like? What materials were used? To what extent did the patron condition the ultimate appearance of the work? These are all questions we might ask in a classroom, in Austin; seeing the actual, physical, stunningly beautiful objects, however, forces us to confront their materiality and context.

Through reading, discussion, drawing, painting, site visits, and post-field trip analyses, we will examine such topics as the development and usage of different artistic materials, the rise of how-to manuals, the guild and workshop systems, and the social and economic factors that contributed to the manufacture and marketing of art in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. We will discuss the rising status of both artists and architects during this period; this will be especially important for our understanding of the art of Renaissance and Baroque Rome, as we examine the work of Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and Bernini. We will also discuss modern restoration and conservation techniques, and students will be encouraged to incorporate this new knowledge into their own work.

The studio component of the Learning Tuscany program will be oriented toward the degree of studio experience each student has. A significant goal for all students enrolled will be to develop the practice of and skill to think visually, or in other words to inform what we perceive and understand intellectually with experiments generated with our hands and eyes. Embedded in our practice of drawing onsite will be technical and conceptual discussion points from your peers and professors that will further your studio experiments and your understanding of the historical and contemporary works we will encounter.

Throughout this 6-week course, we will have many opportunities to examine the famous works of Tuscany, Umbria, and Rome, as well as lesser known works in the many nearby hill towns. Unlike classes here in Austin, few of our meetings will take place in a classroom. Instead, much of our drawing and class discussion time will take place on site, in these famous art cities, and in front of the objects and buildings of interest. One of the great joys of the Learning Tuscany program is the day-to-day interaction and confrontation with art and architecture, both old and new. Thus much of our discussion of fresco technique and narrative painting will take place in nearby towns of such as Florence, Assisi, and Arezzo, home to many famous frescoes; likewise, our understanding of tempera painting, devotional altarpieces and gothic sculpture will be enhanced by our visit to Siena, under the gaze of the Duomo and Duccio's Maestà. Both Rome and Florence house splendid collections of works spanning the era of Byzantine icons, created with the ancient technique of encaustic (wax and pigment), through the astonishing oil or canvas works of the great Baroque masters Caravaggio, Gentileschi, and the Carracci. Rome has also become an important hub for contemporary work, and for the summer of 2013, Venice will host the Biennale, one of the world's premiere exhibitions of contemporary art.

This course will be taught in tandem; all students will be enrolled in both the studio and the art history classes. Our aim is twofold: we want your studies and observations about older artistic practices to enrich the art you create over the course of 6 weeks, and we hope that both your on-site and studio projects will enhance your understanding of the art and culture of the extraordinarily beautiful region of Tuscany.


Program Costs

View Itemized Costs

Financial Aid

Learn more about using financial aid to fund study abroad costs.


Departmental Scholarships

The Department of Art and Art History offers several scholarships to students participating in the Learning Tuscany program. There are two scholarships available to Studio Art students, one scholarship available to an Art History student, and one scholarship available to a Visual Art Studies student. Download the applications below.

Applications due October 21

PDF Document Art History Scholarship Application

PDF Document Studio Art Scholarship Application

PDF Document Visual Art Studies Scholarship Application

Non-Departmental Scholarships

Students can also find other non-departmental scholarship opportunities on the Study Abroad Office website.