Of the world's great art museums, the Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City had been explored and explained through The Teaching Company's DVD courses. The next great museum left in the "Museum Masterpieces" series was London's National Gallery.
"I passionately wanted to teach this course because of the quality and scope of 700-years of European paintings in the museum's collection," says Catherine B. Scallen, a Case Western Reserve University art historian.
Scallen's drive paid off, and The Teaching Company gave her the nod last year for her second course with the company.
The National Gallery, which was designed as a "people's museum" in 1824, now hosts 5 million visitors annually who come to see the 2,500 works of Western European art.
In its collection are what Scallen describes as the "best of the best" of European artists—works by Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens, Poussin, Claude, Velázquez, Goya, Gainsborough and Turner.
Over the course of the series, Scallen leads her students on a breathtaking virtual tour of the museum with supporting lectures on artists and the evolution of European art between 1200 and 1900.
Scallen's lectures cover the unique history of this museum and the lengths the museum staff took to protect the art work during the World War II air attacks on London. Her students also receive a glimpse into the closed-door and off-limits places like the framing, scientific and conservation departments.
Scallen notes that this lecture series is a wonderful way to prepare for a trip to the London gallery or to view afterwards to understand the history behind some of the paintings seen.
To arrive at a final DVD series takes some preparations. In April 2008, Scallen submitted a proposal for "Museum Masterpieces: the National Gallery: London." Then she began compiling her lecture notes and writing a DVD companion outline. In May, she went on location to London, then filmed the rest of the course last fall in a studio outside Washington, D.C., before a small live audience. The 24 lectures were released as part of "Great Courses" series this summer.
The Teaching Company creates college-level DVD or audio CD courses for an audience of lifelong learners.
Selection as a member of The Teaching Company's "faculty" is highly competitive. The Teaching Company canvasses the nation's leading universities, in search of the very best lecturers. Then it puts them through a rigorous testing and evaluation process including classroom visits, audition tapes, and audience approval.
In 2006, Scallen was selected as the first Case Western Reserve professor to teach in this prestigious educational program. Her first DVD course, the 36-lecture series called the "Art of Northern Renaissance" was produced and released in 2007. Scallen has now contracted for a third Teaching Company course to film in 2010
The Northern Baroque art scholar enjoys teaching in a variety of venues— a classroom of students, a DVD audience, or alumni trips for Case Western Reserve University or for her alma mater, Princeton University. She often receives letters and email questions from those who have seen her DVD courses or traveled with her and enjoys answering them.
Scallen first taught at Case Western Reserve in 1991 when she came as a visiting professor of art history. She became a full-time faculty member in 1995 and received tenure in 2001. She is the author of Rembrandt, Reputation, and the Practice of Connoisseurship (Amsterdam University Press, 2004).
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