Thursday, October 04, 2012

On an Art Curriculum

FROM THE ARTICLE An Art Curriculum for Catholic Children, over at New Liturgical Movement:
...The approach is anchored highly on the human person as an image of God and how the invisible and visible meet in Man. This means that we take image making from two poles, one which is based on proportion, rule and ideal, and one which is based on observation, detail and particularity. Drawing exercises move along those poles as we work towards finding balance between the two. All students begin by learning to draw a face through discovery of proportion, balance and symmetry found therein. This approach is extended to the human body. Then as the children perfect their knowledge of the ideal form, they will also be brought to draw strictly from observation, a hand, a drapery or another child’s face. As the student’s knowledge grows, we integrate basic Christian iconology, and so for example the children will learn the elements of a crucifixion and will be asked to produce one based on what they have learned, copying as well from traditional images.

I have found this approach to give amazing results as even the children that seemed to have the least “talent” have advanced their drawing skills by leaps and bounds and have learned to enjoy something they had once found daunting....
The Catholic Church was the greatest patron of the arts in history, and the Body of Christ has in its possession some of the most magnificent works of art ever made. The theory of art that she preserved, elaborated, and upholds therefore ought to be of great importance.

Art, according to the traditional definition, is recta ratio factibilium, that is, “right reason applied to things made,” and so all parts of life include an aspect of art, not simply those artifacts that happen to be exhibited in a museum. Instead, we ought to desire that all things be made artfully. Also, art is not simply an expression of an artist's feelings (although these are not unimportant), but are the products of rational consideration, where the intellect judges feelings and the external senses.

Note that according to the traditional theory, aesthetics is not directly mentioned, but rather it flows out from considerations of first principles. In the quote above, both direct observation as well as theories of proportion, balance, and symmetry are considered important. Good art requires consideration of things from above and from below in the order of Creation. Beauty, the main and most perfect component of aesthetics, comes from above and is expressed by the proportions and symmetries mentioned. When we observe the natural world, this beauty is best expressed in light and in the multitude of colors.

As art is an application of human reason, we can expect that humans with a minimal capacity for reason, such as children, should be able to make good art with enough knowledge and practice. It doesn't take innate genius, as even those who seem to be particularly predisposed to making art still need to learn theory and to develop by practice.


  1. I always felt that there is strong confusion in our culture with mere taste and actual beauty. Actual beauty is not in the eye of the comes from the thing itself (it's unity, harmony, proportion, etc.) To say otherwise, disrespects the thing being observed. Taste is something meaningless to like chocolate and I like vanilla. Would you agree? How do comment on things like "Playboy" magazine images then, that make use of the arts (lighting and so on), but make it's ultimate end in the ugliness of objectifying women for lustful intention? many would just say, "That's art".

  2. Somewhat off topic, but I thought you might find it interesting: if you want to see the results of a godless and beauty-less aesthetic in action, check out this blog post titled "The Very Best of Strange Soviet Architecture":