Art Appreciation class

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Art Appreciation class

From Virgil Elliott

Published before 2005


Jeffery LeMieux wrote:
Not to create tension, but do you think college art appreciation classes should show and try to explain the ideas behind modernism, or should they only present realist works? Knowing that most students will only take one such class, what do you think a good art appreciation class ought to look like?


Jeffery,

I'm not the one you asked, but I'll put in my thoughts on it anyway. I think at the very least, college art appreciation classes should not continue to ignore an entire category of important 19th century art as if it never existed or as if it were of no importance whatsoever while they gush over the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists and then move on to Picasso and the various isms included as subphyla of modernism. True education is teaching people to be able to think for themselves and make up their own minds about things, logically and objectively, yet how can students make up their minds about things whose existence is never mentioned in the first place? In fact, I question the very premise implied in the words, "Art Appreciation" as title to a university course, which is that people need to be "taught" to appreciate art. That denigrates the idea that they have the ability to recognize and appreciate quality art in the first place, i.e., that their own pitiful minds lack the judgment to be able to tell good from bad, and therefore they must be told which is which. I see that as a big part of the problem right there. Education as programming, as indoctrination, rather than as the development of one's own critical faculties; teaching them what to think rather than equipping them with the ability to think.

I wonder how much has changed in the university system since I was a student in the mid-1960s. Just a few years ago when I was teaching at the college, I was hearing the same BS I had been subjected to as a student thirty years before. I am currently reading a recent book on art history, one that is critical of the moderns, and even this author barely mentions the 19th century academics. Bouguereau, who was the star of the day, is not mentioned at all. This is Paul Johnson's book, Art - A New History, which had been mentioned here on GoodArt, perhaps by you, some months ago. In many respects it's a good book, but I was disappointed about his neglect of the 19th century academics. He also refers to David Hockney as "a fine draftsman," which makes me wonder about his judgment. There is a drawing of Johnson by Hockney in the book, indicating that they are friends. The drawing is awful.

So back to my main point: if art appreciation is something people even need to be taught in the first place, should it not be taught in a fair manner that exposes the students to the various kinds of art and encourages them to develop their own judgment on it?

Virgil Elliott

Virgil Elliott is the author of Traditional Oil Painting: Advanced Techniques and Concepts from the Renaissance to the Present, published in 2007 by Watson-Guptill Publications. He is one of ARC's <u>Living Masters</u>, and an active member of the ASTM Subcommittee on Artists' Paints and Materials. Images of some of his artworks can be seen in ARC's Gallery of Living Masters and on his own web site, www.virgilelliott.com.