Professor Andrea Campbell discusses works on loan from the National Gallery, London with her students.
The students sat in a circle in the exhibition gallery at the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College. Surrounded by important, historic works by Venetian artists, they talked with their professor, Andrea Campbell, about the role artwork played in 16th century Italian culture.
The Venice and the Renaissance class was no ordinary course. Rather than rely on books or images on a computer screen, Andrea, an art history professor, was able to use actual paintings on loan to Randolph from the National Gallery, London. The authentic Venetian Renaissance paintings are featured in the special exhibition, Venetian Visions: Selections from the National Gallery, London. The collection showcases Cima da Conegliano’s David and Jonathan and Madonna and Child as well as Homage to a Poet by a follower of Giorgione, and is open through March 31.
A Profound Experience
“I’m forever telling my students that looking at works of art digitally pales in comparison to the real thing, but they just did not really understand it until they got to see these works in person,” Andrea said. “I think the experience for them has been profound. They read books, articles, and a lot of secondary materials, but to have access to them as primary resources is a very exciting opportunity for them.”
This class was just one way faculty members at Randolph have taken advantage of the special exhibition. Venetian Visions was possible thanks to Randolph’s unique partnership with the National Gallery, London, which was created in 2014. The collaboration is the only one of its kind between the Gallery and a U.S. educational institution.
In addition to the Venetian art exhibit, the National Gallery, London offers a special internship program at the London museum for Randolph students and each year, high level staff members from the Gallery speak at Randolph. So far, Sir Nicholas Penny, retired director, and Ashok Roy, director of collections, have visited Randolph to speak to students and the community through public lectures. The College was also able to offer a special tour and reception at the Gallery during an alumnae trip in the summer.
For Andrea, the collaboration with the National Gallery, London was a unique opportunity to explore some of her passions and share incredible pieces of art with the community. As curator of the exhibition, Andrea traveled to London this summer, where she worked with National Gallery staff to select the four paintings on loan to the College. She also spent time studying the logistics, preservation efforts, and history behind each painting.
As part of the exhibit’s opening reception at Randolph, Andrea shared what she had learned in a special lecture for the public.
“These are just top-notch works of art,” she said. “I think it’s good for the College because it raises our profile, and I think it has brought a lot of excitement to the College. The works in the exhibition speak for themselves and speak to people in different ways.”
Up Close And Personal With Venetian Art
The exhibition opened in fall 2015, bringing a large crowd of visitors. In addition, Andrea is using the paintings as part of a second class this spring.
“My students are already coming up with new ideas and revising their opinions about which artist is better than the other,” Andrea said. “I hope that encourages them to think about their own paths of discovery, not necessarily in art history, but in whatever they want to study. There are new things we can learn all the time, even from really old objects like these paintings.”
Elizabeth Dean ’16 was one of the many students taking advantage of Andrea’s special courses. “This exhibit is a good way to see the benefits of our relationship with the National Gallery, London, beyond just sending students over there for internships,” she said. “This is a way we can really benefit from their collection. Besides—where else in Lynchburg, and at how many other places in the country would you get to see authentic Venetian paintings up close?”
Joe Mielewski ’19 agreed. “It’s incredible to have all this crazy-old Renaissance art accessible to me as a student,” he said. “It’s hard to believe that if I want to look at these paintings in person, all I have to do is walk over here to the Maier.”
A Life-Changing Opportunity
The partnership has expanded learning opportunities for the Lynchburg community and the College’s alumnae and alumni as well.
Laura Bullock Crumbley ’72 never imagined she would have the opportunity to see paintings from the National Gallery, London in person. But in less than a year, she’s been able to see works from the Gallery not only in London, but here in Lynchburg, at the new exhibition at the Maier.
“Nobody else around here has this kind of exhibit, or at least no other small school has anything like it,” she said. “It’s certainly a boon for this community.”
Laura, along with 24 other alumnae and President Bradley W. Bateman, viewed other paintings at the National Gallery, London during a special alumnae trip to London last summer. During her tour of the National Gallery, London, Laura said she was pleased to see George Bellows’ Men of the Docks hanging prominently in the impressionist gallery.
“Men of the Docks is a big deal to the National Gallery staff, and they are really excited to have it,” Laura said. “I was told they wanted to purchase it because it symbolized Americanism as the British interpret us. And you know the artist would be pleased. His painting is hanging across from Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting.”
Laura and the other Randolph and R-MWC constituents enjoyed several other exciting events while in London, but for Laura, nothing topped the experience of touring and attending a private reception at the National Gallery, London.
“Everything the College did for us was special,” she said. “But let’s face it, nobody is going to have cocktails and a buffet dinner in the National Gallery, London on their own.”
During the reception, Laura and the other alumnae had the opportunity to meet Seisha Scott ’16 and Elisabeth Price ’16, the first Randolph students to complete a summer internship at the National Gallery, London.
“The National Gallery staff were so impressed with our students,” Laura said. “They seemed like very poised and very grown up young ladies. They were very lucky—and they knew it. I could tell they appreciated the opportunity.”
After later visiting the American Smithsonian Art Museum in Washington, D.C., Laura realized just how impressive Randolph’s own collection of American artwork really is. She believes Venetian Visions exhibit makes a great temporary addition to the College’s already vast collection of art and provides unique learning opportunities for students.
“I think it’s really exciting for the College and the students,” she said. “Even the ones who don’t think they’re interested in it, someday they will be. Someday the importance is going to dawn on them. It’s a little bit of exposure to something that you might not otherwise have an opportunity to see.”