Palermo: The Art of Learning

The Gallery of Modern Art is located inside the restored 15th century convent of Sant’Anna and has many works of art from the last 150 years.

I always enjoy looking at depictions of schools and classrooms and I was very taken with this large painting – Gli Scolari  (The Schoolchildren) – by Felice Casorati. Five students and a teacher with symbols of learning on a blackboard and knowledge represented by a fat book open at a page of geometric drawings and a globe presented on a table with a green cloth.

Gli Scolari

The painting is all shapes, planes and angles Just look at the faces – ovals of solemnity. One student has her eyes closed as if praying, Another has her hand on her heart as if pledging allegiance to geometry. And at the front the smallest child has a round-eyed expression that some might call bordering on distress and alarm.

Not a lot of joy of learning here but certainly the heavy weight of science and mathematics. Learning is a serious business. It demands solemn attention to weighty matters.


Many other paintings also caught my attention and here are a few. This is Il Tram by Mario Sironi (1920)


Here in an older style is Antonino Leto’s Saline Di Trapani (Ca 1881)

And below left is a detail from All’aqua by Ettore De Maria Bergler. Moving into the new century is a portrait of the modern cosmopolitan man about town. – Il Nomade by Pippo Rizzo, 1929.







I was taken by the distinctive way the artist signed his name:





We had one rainy morning and while we sheltered under a shop awning this child – fully equipped for the weather in red boots – splashed joyfully in the puddles.

And speaking of children and thinking back to the puppets of an earlier post – just look at this clip from Truffaut’s The 400 Blows where he captures children enthralled by the action and violence of a puppet show. Suspension of disbelief indeed.


  1. Laura:

    The teacher looks just as frightened as the schoolchildren! Do you know the year?

    • The date is 1927-28. And yes – the teacher does rather have an expression of startled awe. Not surprising with all that heavy duty math and science weighing like a heavy hand of authority and responsibility. Learning here seems abstract and cerebral – all hard edges and cold shapes. But maybe I’m reading too much into it!

  2. Continuing to share these posts to Facebook – with thanks, Elizabeth

  3. Thanks Elizabeth. I really appreciate your comments. And the sharing!

  4. How delightful to be reminded of the puppet show from “400 Blows” after all these years. A totally disarming moment. Reminded me of Etre et Avoir, another film about French kids that affected me the same way. (To Be and To Have, on Netflix, if any readers here haven’t seen it)

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