Art History Visits the Getty Museum

Dr. Emily Beeny Escorting EWU Art History Students through the Getty Museum

Los Angeles Art History Trip

3 people walking towards a sign that says Manet and has an image of a woman with a bonnet and an umbrella.
Professor Catherine Girard and students walk to the Getty Museum.

On October 25-26, 2019, eleven EWU students enrolled in Catherine Girard’s art history seminar travelled to Los Angeles, California, where they visited the special exhibition Manet and Modern Beauty at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Made possible by a generous grant from the Art History Fund to Travel to Special Exhibitions administered by College Art Association (CAA), this trip allowed students to experience hands-on how the materiality of an artwork may shape its meaning.

Arrival at the Getty

Large billboard poster with the title Manet and Modern Beauty. Image of a woman wearing a bonnet and holding an umbrella. In front of the billboard is a group of students posing for a photo.
Upon arrival to the Getty Museum, students proudly posed under a poster of Jeanne and her umbrella.


Under an eternal sun, students explored the architecture of the Getty and contemplated the city of Los Angeles.

Front steps of the Getty Museum
Students walking up the front steps of the Getty Muesum.
Getty Museum Art History Trip - Maggie Harty enjoying the sunshine
Maggie enjoys the sunshine while admiring the Getty Museum building.
Getty Museum art history trip - students standing and admiring the view
Eastern Art History students admiring the view.

Exhibition Pavilion

The excitement was palpable as students finally entered the exhibition!

Getty Museum Art History Trip - Students enter with excitement
Jill Beville smiles at the camera with excitement as the group enters the Getty Museum.

Meeting “Their” Paintings

After studying from the exhibition catalogue endlessly, the students finally got a first-hand look at Manet’s painterly technique. The minute details of the floral still lifes, nudes, and portraits came to life before their very eyes. Rumor has it that many students were moved to tears when they first met “their” painting in the flesh.

EWU Art History Students at the Getty Museum
Jessica Buswell stands next to the portrait that she spent the quarter researching.
EWU Art History Students at the Getty Museum
Catherine Girard, Maggie Harty, and Myranda Schee stand and smile as they take in the beautiful work before them.
EWU Art History Students at the Getty Museum
Destiny Vaught and Tim Lacey discussing the complexity of the brushstrokes used to create such a timeless piece of art.

Deep Looking Sessions

During their time in the Manet exhibition, students completed two “deep looking” sessions. Each session consisted of spending one hour alone in front of their painting to examine its pictorial surface to write.

EWU Art History Student at the Getty Museum
Madison takes notes of a portrait for her paper.
EWU Art History Students at the Getty Museum
Maggie and Myranda sit and take notes as they take in all that they have seen.

Maneuvering Through the Crowds

Eastern Students at the Getty MuseumThe exhibition was very popular and always packed. Students had to maneuver through the crowds to create a sustained intimacy with their paintings.


The hours spent examining the surface of the artworks provided exceptional access to material questions as Manet used various brushwork techniques—from prima to scraping. Students discovered that the figure known as the Father of Modernism had a nuanced understanding of women’s experiences, and that he represented women sitters as whole beings with complex inner lives.

EWU Art History Student viewing a painting
Lexus taking notes in the museum.
EWU Art History Student viewing a painting
Erin writing down some quick notes.

Emily Beeny, Curator

Students loved Beeny’s cool demeanor and cowboy boots! The appreciation was mutual as Beeny expressed her deep admiration for our students’ “loving attention to the show,” adding that “meeting a group of undergraduates so knowledgeable about and so engaged with this generally little-known aspect of Manet’s oeuvre was impressive, moving, and more than a little surreal.”

Dr. Emily Beeny Escorting EWU Art History Students through the Getty MuseumDr. Emily Beeny Escorting EWU Art History Students through the Getty Museum

A Love of Books, Pastel, and Dogs

During a group discussion in the exhibition, Girard referenced the exhibition catalog that the students had read before the trip.

Girard was disappointed that the Portrait of Maria Frederike van Reede-Athlone at Seven, an eighteenth-century pastel on vellum by  Jean-Étienne Liotard, was not on display. After students found her a print and replica puppy (which she cradled in her left arm), she was thrilled again.

Dr. Girard Presents the exhibition catalogueDr. Girard stands holding a stuffed dog and a photo of a piece of Art of a woman holding the same dog

Final Reflections

As the group prepared to leave Los Angeles, Girard reflected that this experience reaffirmed her commitment to inclusive pedagogy, and to creating opportunities for the beautiful and creative beings of the Inland Northwest. Many EWU students are first-generation with little travel experience, and most had not set foot in a major art museum despite their deep-seated interest for art. Most importantly, this trip created a crack in the façade of an art world that sometimes feels distant, sheltered behind a wall of privileges to which our student population does not have access.

The students and Girard express their gratitude to CAA for its commitment to diversity in art history by offering the Art History Fund for Travel to Special Exhibitions to EWU.

Polaroid of Art History Students at the Getty Museum