700 years ago, the culture of Renaissance humanism flourished, inspiring new educational approaches that diverged from the dogmatic utilitarianism of Medieval Europe. Guided by the belief that education could improve society, Renaissance-era teachers trained their students in poetry, mathematics, music, astronomy…a novel combination of traditional academic subjects and the arts. We still use the expression “Renaissance man/woman” today to refer to someone whose talents span a wide variety of fields.
The common saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” asserts that a simple image of an idea can more effectively describe it than the written word.
For many students, reading about history and memorizing facts and timelines isn’t enough to fully grasp the effect these events still have today. I have discovered through my 10 years of museum experience that research, literature, and primary sources really do go hand-in-hand with interpreting images. Speaking through the lens of the Western American art collection with which I work, I will share a few examples of historic paintings. Each painting has a unique story to tell, and each can really speak volumes about what has happened throughout history.