UK pupils get up-close look at a masterpiece
By Katy Lee, AFPLONDON -- Take a Monet, a Turner and other paintings worth millions of dollars and lend them to schools for a day. It may sound like a looming disaster, but not to British organizers of a project bringing great art to kids.
October 14, 2013, 12:13 am TWN
At Addey and Stanhope, an ethnically-diverse school in south London, 11- and 12-year-old pupils had no idea that the artwork they had been studying was coming to visit them until it turned up this week, accompanied by a white-gloved expert.
“Everyone was like, 'Oh my god, oh my god!'” said Holly, 11, bouncing up and down as her classmates swarmed around the “Byzantine Lady,” a striking 1912 portrait by British artist Vanessa Bell.
“I got goosebumps when I saw it.”
Their amazement, in the words of one teacher, “made it feel a bit like Christmas.”
The “Masterpieces in Schools” project, which is backed by the BBC, includes 26 paintings — collectively worth 14 million pounds (US$22 million, 17 million euros) — that British galleries are lending to schools around Britain this month.
The insurance costs have not been disclosed — but security is so tight that organizers are unable to reveal the names of the paintings or the schools until the canvases are safely back in their galleries.
“First things first — this painting is worth an awful lot of money,” teacher Matthew Teager told the wide-eyed boys and girls as they filed into the drama studio to see the portrait.
“You are not to touch it!”
'Please can we have a masterpiece?'
Pupils had spent hours drawing their own versions of the portrait and learning about the history of its subject — the sixth-century Empress Theodora — as well as the artist, a member of the influential Bloomsbury Group of 20th-century intellectuals and sister of author Virginia Woolf.
As part of the government's art collection, the Byzantine Lady has been displayed on the walls of ministries and embassies, and the children also wrote poems about the conversations she may have overheard.
Most wrote about major events they have studied in history class — the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.