Florence Duomo

Gigapan: Marissa Morgan

Book Arts in Venice Study Abroad Course 2014 – Northern Italy

This summer, eleven students from Western Michigan University spent a month exploring and making art in northern Italy. They worked in printmaking studios in Venice, Padua, Verona, Florence, and Cornuda to create etchings and books about their trip.

We started out in Venice, exploring the city and its museums. We saw St. Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace, and the Accademia. During our week there we explored the city in search for the best gelato and pizza. In Venice, we worked at Scuola Internazionale di Grafica to create etchings based on our explorations of Venice.

The old and new library at the Giorgio Cini Foundation

While in Venice, we had a rare opportunity to look at books from the incunabula period, some of the first printed books. These books are housed in the libraries at the Giorgio Cini Foundation on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.

While staying in Venice we took a day trip to Padua to visit the university and museums. The University of Padua is one of the oldest universities in the world. During the Renaissance, the university's proximity to Venice made it an ideal spot to study human anatomy and conduct dissections that were forbade by Rome. Because of this the University houses the oldest surviving permanent anatomical theatres and drew many scholars like Galileo. We also visited the nearby Scrovegni Chapel to view Giotto's frescos. Giotto is largely considered to be the first artist to contribute to the Italian Renaissance and it clearly shows in the beautifully preserved frescos that cover the inside of the chapel.

Our next stop was Verona to visit the Museo Conte, a printmaking museum and working studio. This studio has been in the same family since 1934 and one of the few studios to have a working linotype. A linotype assembles molds based on keyboard input and casts lead lines of type to be printed. It is rare to have a working one because of the intricacies of the machine and the danger of molten lead. While in Verona, we also visited the supposed balcony from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, a Roman amphitheatre that is still used today, and a castle from the Middle Ages.

Mixing ink in Florence

While in Florence, we created letterpress posters at the Florence School of Fine Arts. The school is housed in a renaissance artist studio. A fresco by the artist is still above the entry door. During our week in Florence we explored much of the city. We climbed up to the cupola of the Duomo and saw the Last Judgment fresco inside the dome of the Duomo. We also took a trip to the Ufftzi Gallery and saw Micelagello's David at the Galleria dell’Accademia. On our last night in Florence we went wine tasting in cellar that use to be part of the old jail.

Type ready to be printed

Cornuda is a tiny town north of Venice that is known for its sparkling wine. The locals were very friendly and curious despite the language barrier. In the other cities we visited you could get by without speaking Italian but here we had to use it everywhere. While in Cornuda, we worked at the Tipoteca Italiana Foundation to create a book of poems about our trip. We worked with Lucio Passerini, a printmaker from Milan to set the type for our book. The museum's collection of presses and type is huge. A group of people have spent two years cataloging the type and have barely made a dent.

Guest Editors

Marissa Morgan is a student at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She is currently studying computer science and art with a particular emphasis on the combination of art and technology. Marissa is currently the outreach and media assistant for the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University as well as an intern at the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center.

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