This month, degree students in New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles’ Western Art History Class visited the Getty Villa in Malibu, California. They were interested in seeing how the ancient Greeks and Romans developed their depictions of humans and gods, and whether these early creators sought to mimic nature or to reflect individuals in their most ideal forms. There were a lot of surprises to be discovered in the museum.
The Getty Villa was designed to recreate the experience of seeing art in an ancient Roman home. After looking at these art works for weeks on a screen, students were excited to see how the mass and volume of the figures affected them in person.
Through the trip, students learned that ancient Greek art was actually very diverse. Students saw stylized early Greek burial sculptures from the Cycladic civilization, painted burial masks, numerous portraits, busts of Roman rulers and the upper class, and a special exhibition of Roman mosaics. Another highlight was the chance to get up close to a Romano-Egyptian mummy with an intact portrait from 120 CE.
Said one participant, “[My favorite part of the trip] was seeing how there were rings with art in them. It was shocking and interesting to see the different representations of art, beyond the sculptures.”
Each student was assigned to choose one sculpture and write a formal analysis, contextualizing the piece both historically and stylistically, which meant that students had to look at the art rather intentionally and up-close — an experience that was a little unnerving for some students.
“It felt weird lingering to stare at the cloth on a lot of the sculptures,” said one. “How did they make it look so thin?”
Another student was left in awe. “I’ve always been amazed by art, but every time I go to a museum, I have more and more respect and appreciation towards it.”
Students come to NYFA from all over the world and their experiences in the classroom tend to reflect that. For several of the students in the group, this was their first time in an art museum of the Getty’s status, while one student had never seen sculpture of human bodies before.
One student said of their experience, “There is nothing like seeing a sculpture or painting live in front of you. It was my first time being at a place where all sorts of art was right there for your eyes to see.”
When the class discussed their experience afterward, it turned out they learned a lot. Some of the students were impressed with the accuracy of the recreation of Roman society. Comments like, “I was able to see the craftsmanship up close and now have more respect for the artists,” and “I used to just appreciate art, but now I think about who made it and why,” were common among the group of excited scholars. The day was an incredible success.
The New York Film Academy is grateful to the Getty for continuing to curate such important art pieces for our students to experience. One student walked away stating, “I learned that art serves a bigger purpose in a society than it shows. It makes us think more critically.”