With Mozart, light desserts and 19th century paintings, the first event of the Penn Art Appreciation Society drew about 30 students to the Bodek Lounge last night.
Elaine Liu, a College and Wharton sophomore, began the club last semester after she saw an unfulfilled need from students who wanted to appreciate art in an informal setting.
“Penn has a pre-professional environment. Penn students want to get multiple degrees and more time to look for jobs, so they don’t have the time to take an art history class,” she said. “The current art clubs on campus do art creation, but we focus on art appreciation, which should be open to everyone.”
Liu has visited several symposiums organized by faculty members. “Those tend to be exclusive, because you have to have in-depth knowledge to understand the art,” she said. “But we don’t want to limit the discussion to art history majors. Students from different majors have different perspectives and life experiences that can contribute to the discussion.”
One of the attendees, a College sophomore named Alex Wang said, “I like art. I am not an art history major. I wish to study art independently as a hobby, to study it leisurely.”
Wang’s favorite part of the evening was the discussion, where students talked about art in small circles, each led by an art history student.
Wang thought the salon moved faster than his Art History 102 recitation had. “We don’t get to discuss in details [here], but you get to hear people’s initial impression and words. You also get to hear the discussion leader’s knowledge about the painting.”
Danielle Harris, a College senior and discussion leader, said the most enjoyable part of art is not viewing the art, but talking about it. “People go to museums with friends and family. They hope to be able to have conversations about art,” she said. “[The event] is for those who want to learn art in an relaxing environment, not in class or sitting by a book themselves.”
She also gave a lecture about Impressionism at the event. Using Monet’s “Sunrise” and Degas’ “The Dance Class” as examples, Harris’ lecture presented three aspects of art analysis – formal, experiential and content-based. Harris chose Impressionism as the topic because it is more accessible for beginners.
“Impressionism talks about the present and requires less previous art history knowledge, such as iconography,” she said. “But I wouldn’t say that Impressionism is less sophisticated or complex.”
Alessia Lenders, a Wharton and College freshman, said that she appreciated the opportunity to learn about art outside the classroom. “I’d like to take an art history class, but the Huntsman program has lots of requirements, so I am not sure if I will have the time to do so.”
In the future, the club will host “art dinners”, an idea borrowed from salons in 18th and 19th century France, where people gathered in informal social settings to try to refine one other’s artistic taste. There will also be short excursions, such as the upcoming trip to see Northern Renaissance prints at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.