Unexpected Voyage

Ziggy’s Unexpected Voyage

I just learned that my college Art History professor died back in January.  Her name was Irma R. Jaffe, PhD, and I doubt she knew who I was.  To her, I was just one of hundreds, probably thousands, of undergraduates who took her introductory Art History class.  To be fair, if you’d asked me about a class I took in college that had a major impact on me, this wouldn’t have been one that would have come to mind.

But when I saw the listing in Fordham’s alumni magazine that Dr. Jaffe had died at age 101, memories came flooding back.  Her class was where I first saw Etruscan art.  I remember Dr. Jaffe’s enthusiasm as she talked about the power of the “archaic smile.”    Her class was where I first became aware of the works of the Dutch master Jan van Eyck.  Her enthusiasm for his use of reflection was contagious.  No matter what time period she was talking about, she had the gift of making it seem special.

She encouraged her students – heck, it probably was an assignment – to go into Manhattan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I wasn’t an art major, but I fell in love with the place and went back repeatedly.  Even among the permanent exhibitions, there was always something new to discover.

I’ve been surprised how often over the last few days I’ve thought about something from those visits.  Survey courses are meant to provide a jumping-off point for further exploration.  This one was certainly successful.

I’ve also been thinking about how often we’re not aware of what will have an influence on us in the future.  It’s always wonderful and delightful when I realize that something like a long ago, almost forgotten, college course set me on an unexpected voyage of exploration, not only into an appreciation of art, but of the peoples and cultures who created it.

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