Kasteel Well Summer Program

The Kasteel Well Summer Program is a 5-week [May 23 - June 29, 2015] intensive program combining on-campus classroom lectures with off-campus museum and gallery visits in major European cities.  Enrollment is limited to 16.  Program participants are required to attend two mandatory travel excursions accompanied by faculty. The Summer 2015 class will travel to Bruges, Ghent, Florence and Venice!

The goal of this 5-week summer program is to study and compare two different means of artistic expression made in two completely different time periods: The ‘pre-modern’, more artisinal style, method, technique, and the meaning and methods of interpretation of old master paintings of the Renaissance, will be compared and contrasted to the methods, meaning and modes of interpretation of modern means of image-making, in particular of digital photography.

The topic this summer will be “THE PORTRAIT AND THE SELF PORTRAIT”.

This summer we will examine the cultural and artistic exchange in Early Modern Europe when international trade, migration and the process of cross-cultural awareness had just begun. Renaissance painting of Florence and Venice in Italy and of Ghent and Bruges in the ‘Low Countries’ during the period 1400-1550 will serve as a case study for commercial and cultural interaction and exchange as reflected in their artworks.

Particular emphasis will be placed on the emergence of individualism and self-awareness of the trading middle class of Bruges and of the ruling class of  the city-states of Florence and Venice. This increased self-esteem generated in the visual arts the rebirth of the genre of portraiture, and established the tradition of self-portraiture.

KW Students study painting at museum in BruggesWe will examine the methods of inquiry we should employ to come to answers of questions such as: How realistic, idealized, political or symbolic were these portraits? What type of portraits or self portraits existed in the Renaissance and for which reasons? What was the purpose, intention and specific function of the portrait? What does the portrait reveal of the inner self, of the inner emotions and thoughts of the sitter? Of his or her position, profession or social status. How important was likeness?What is being revealed of the artist? What were the criteria for portraits in this time period and how does it reflect the Renaissance mentality? How was the relationship between sitter and painter established? How did cultural exchange take place in the Renaissance and how did it effect the evolution of style and meaning in this relatively new genre?

In general, we will investigate the questions we should pose to the visual object under scrutiny and whether the questions we raise were relevant to the time period of the Renaissance and in particular of Renaissance Flanders and Italy.

The digital photography part of the program will reflect upon and critically analyze the medium of photography in general, and of digital photography in particular, both from an ethical and an aesthetical point of view. Students will examine visual experience and representation in our modern visual culture, with  a particular emphasis on the representation, the fashioning and the shaping of the inner and outer self. The subsequent Internet revolution enables people to present themselves instantly before an audience of millions. This implies that we can become the photographer, the sitter, the editor, the publisher and the spectator ourselves.

The group travel excursions help students connect class lecture to gallery/museum visits and facilitates students' ability to visualize, experience, and understand the origin, development, and spread of Renaissance and Baroque art in the Netherlands and Europe. During the excursions, students will work on special photo assignments.

Participants will reside at Emerson College’s Kasteel Well, a medieval, double-moated castle situated in the heart of Holland’s Limburg region. The castle is located in the village of Well in the southeastern part of the Netherlands. Well is five minutes from Germany, approximately two hours from the French-speaking region of Belgium, is easily accessible by mass transit and has a regional airport, Airport Weeze, in its direct vicinity that offers access to many European destinations.


Students will travel to the Belgian city of Bruges.

Museum visit

Students exploring art on a museum visit

KW Digital Photography students

Castle summer students try out their digital cameras