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Art Museum Faculty Resource Guide: Art History and Fine Arts

This is a faculty resource guide composed of faculty testimonials and handouts for integrating the La Salle Art Museum into classroom instruction.

The La Salle Art Museum

La Salle Art Museum

The mission of the La Salle University Art museum is to further the University’s Lasallian educational objectives by helping students, other members of the University community and the general public to experience significant, original works of art in an intimate setting and to place them in meaningful contexts. In addition to acquiring, preserving and exhibiting its collections, the Museum offers viewers an opportunity to sharpen their aesthetic perception and to investigate the interrelationships which emerge between art and other disciplines.

A Sample Art History Museum Class by Patricia Haberstroh

James Butler     Because I teach Art History, my classes are frequently in the museum, but the most challenging class is often Art 150, a core course in Patterns. One goal for this course is to overcome prejudices about different kinds of art, and Albert Gleize's 1920 Cubist oil painting, The Man in the City, in the Modern and Contemporary Room, is a good place to start. Because this is not a representational painting, I ask the students if they see a man or a city.

    Most identify some buildings but cannot find the man. I ask them to look more carefully and they then begin to pick out arms legs, and eyes, scattered throughout the painting. Interest develops as the class tends to see the painting as a puzzle to be solved. I then ask them to consider the lines and colors in the painting and they soon identify the geometric forms (triangles, rectangles, etc.) which are the hallmark of Cubism, forms created with bright colors.

    One of my favorite exercises is to bring the students into the Medieval and Renaissance Room and have them examine two scenes from the Stages of the Cross. The earliest picture, the 14th century Siennese crucifixion painting in which Christ is flanked by Mary and Mary Magdalene nicely pairs nicely with a reading from Pope Innocent III in which he excoriates the sins humankind. This Christ is gruesomely pale, with little attempt at realistic depiction, and heavy on the symbolism and iconography of the characters depicted. The extreme emaciation of Christ also anticipates the grim visions of much post-Black Death art.

     On the other side of the entry door is a picture of the scourging of Christ from the mid-1500’s in which every humanistic conceit of the High Renaissance is in play: Christ is so well-nourished and muscular that He looks like He just stepped out of the gym. Here, as accompanied by a reading of Pico Della Mirandola’s “Essay on the Dignity of Man,” the human body in all its realism assumes center stage. In addition, the painting contains a fine example of vanishing point perspective and of effective light and shadow. The religious iconography, which so dominates the first painting is now barely perceptible: Only the barest hint of a halo is present and the students have to crowd in very close to see it.

     Other paintings I enjoy using are Joos Von Cleve’s “Madonna of the Cherries” and Tintoretto’s “Portrait of a Gentleman.” Both of these are highly instructive in showing the eagerness of artists to display their skills of realistic depiction—in the luxury of the Madonna’s velvet and satin garments, and the depiction of historical characters in contemporary dress—and the new artistic trends toward both individualized artistic fame and notoriety, and non-religious patronage.

In the Seventeenth Century Room, the contrast with earlier medieval and Renaissance sensibilities is so striking that students routinely gasp when they enter.  The evolution in skills of realistic and dramatic depiction are, of course, very much on display. But the differences in the way the people portrayed are in some ways even more striking. I usually start with the pair of DeKeyser portraits of a young man and young woman, and ask the students to characterize their personalities and speculate about their religious lives. This gives us a wonderful entry into the Reformation and especially Calvinism. From there we can move into the dramatic “Counter-Reformation” imagery of Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden and the Crucifixion painting there. The still lifes [Vanitas pieces], in addition to wowing students with their almost photographic quality, are very useful in impressing them with the increasing global reach of the Dutch in the subjects contained within: citrus fruits, figs, and what appears to be either Chinese porcelain or Delftware—both interesting subjects to expand on in learning about 17th century trade, technology, mercantilism, and empire. Finally, the picture of the soldiers, in addition to depicting the wealth available to them, shows one other interesting commodity: tobacco and pipes as a consequence of contact with the Americas. Taken together, these images paint a vivid picture of the global reach of the tiny Netherlands in the early modern period.

While these are by no means the only paintings and subjects we explore in these rooms they remain staples of my talks in History 151 or 251 on these subjects.


Previous Art Museum Presentations for English Classes

Art History

Curator presented Japanese prints from the collection for Pat Haberstroh’s class on “Art and Literature.” (The novel the students were reading referred to Japanese prints).

Curator presented Indian miniatures for class on Asian Art.

Professors frequently self-tour the collection, which lends itself to instruction in the history of Western art from the Renaissance to the present.

Fine Arts

Curators regularly take out a selection of drawings from the Museum’s storage to discuss techniques and media of drawing.

David McShane frequently self-tours the collection with his classes.


Curator talked to class about the representation of the human body in art using artworks from the collection.

Recent exhibition (Dec. 2009-Feb. 2010) focused on work by contemporary digital artist.