Is a picture really worth a thousand words? ICS Grade 9 students visited the Kunsthaus in Zurich on a trip to learn more about Vanitas painting (Latin, "vanity"), a very specific genre of symbolic, still-life painting that flourished in the Netherlands and Flanders in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Seeing the paintings "live" is very different to seeing them on a computer screen. Our G9s spent the entire morning taking a closer look at the Vanitas paintings, which are part of the magnificent Zurich Kunsthaus collection, and included some works they had previously researched. Vanitas artists were a highly valued and richly compensated group of painters, with many painters receiving lucrative commissions from papal, royal, and wealthy private patrons.
The G9s were asked to select 2 works that had an impact on them, note relevant details about the artist and then make short, 6-8 minute sketches of the paintings as well as completing a 15 minute detailed drawing of a part of their chosen works. The students were also asked to spend time thinking about the symbols they saw in the paintings, recording their observations and considering what the painters were trying to convey those who viewed their works. The students' observations at the Kunsthaus will serve as a basis and as additional inspiration for their own still life artworks, which they will be creating over the next weeks.
Having learned how artists use symbols to represent ideas, as they plan their painting or mixed media piece, our Grade 9s will be asked to consider how to best represent their own personal values – thinking about what is important to them at this moment in their lives, and what values might be important to them in 30 years' time.