‘We’re all learning new things’: Michelangelo film series at Southworth Library

Jan 30, 2024

From Michelangelo’s greatest works to the Nazis’ plundering of priceless European art during World War II, the Friends of the Dartmouth Libraries is offering free video lessons to anyone who wants to brush up on art history. 

Art enthusiasts and history buffs filed into the Southworth Library Tuesday morning, Jan. 30 to learn about Michelangelo — the 16th century Italian artist immortalized through his famous works such as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the colossal statue of David in Florence.  

This year, the Friends of the Dartmouth Libraries chose to highlight Michelangelo’s life and works in its 33rd Annual Molly Little Film Series, which highlights some of history’s greatest artists through the centuries. The video series will be held at 11 a.m. every Tuesday through Feb. 27 in the Haskell Room at the Southworth Library. 

The Friends of the Dartmouth Libraries is a nonprofit that raises money to support library programs such as the Molly Little Film Series. Last year, the series focused on Leonardo da Vinci. William E. Wallace, an art history professor at Washington University in St. Louis, is teaching this video series produced by the educational streaming platform The Great Courses.

Margaret Hollister, a board member of the Friends of the Dartmouth Libraries, said that next year’s film series will probably focus on famous cases of missing and stolen artwork. This could include historic moments from the Nazis’ plundering of art in Europe to the notorious art theft in 1990 when two men posing as police officers stole 13 famous works of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. 

To this day, the theft remains unsolved, and the Gardner Museum is offering a $10 million reward to anyone with information leading to the recovery of the stolen art. 

“I thought that lost art would be an interesting one,” Hollister said. 

Tina Bruen, also a member of the Friends of the Dartmouth Libraries, said there’s always something new to learn. For example, Bruen said she never knew that Leonardo da Vinci was actually born without a last name. The identifier “da Vinci,” which translates to “from Vinci,” refers to the small Italian village of Vinci where Leonardo was born in 1452. 

“Who would have thought?” Bruen said.  

“The reason he didn’t have a last name is because he was born out of wedlock,” Hollister added. 

This is Bruen’s second year attending the Molly Little Film series. 

“I’ve always been interested in art and art history,” Bruen said. “I’ve never taken an art history class, so I wanted to learn more about these artists — and I have and it’s great.”

Bruen said events like these enhance public libraries and give people something to do during the chillier months. 

“We’re all learning new things that we maybe didn’t know,” Bruen said. “I think it adds to the cultural base of the town.”

Among those in attendance was Bette Low, who has been attending the Molly Little Film Series for a number of years. As a sculptor, Low finds this series to be “intellectually and artistically stimulating.” 

“I just love to hear about the lives of other artists,” Low said. “This series is particularly good because it really goes into the history of his life and how he created what he was doing.”

Attendee Sally Johnston saw many of Michelangelo’s works when she visited Italy. Johnston said the film series gives her a good excuse to get out.

“We’ve been coming for years,” Johnston said. “It’s a great way to get out of the house in the winter.”