This section is from the book "Ideals In Art: Papers Theoretical Practical Critical", by Walter Crane . Also available from Amazon: Ideals in Art: Papers Theoretical, Practical, Critical.
Methods of teaching in art are, I take it, like most other human methods, of strictly relative value, depending at all times largely upon the current conception of the aims, purpose, and province of art.
As this conception necessarily alters from time to time, influenced by all sorts of subtle changes in the social organism (manifesting themselves in what we call Taste), as well as by fundamental economic conditions, so the ideas of what are the true methods in art teaching change also.
Naturally in a time when scepticism is so profound as to reach the temerity of asking such a question as "What is art?" there need be no perceptible shock when inquiries are instituted as to the best methods of art teaching. As important witnesses in the great case of the position of art in general education, or commercial interests v. the expansion of the human mind and the pleasicre of life - methods of art teaching have to be put in the box. What do they say?
Well, have we not the good old (so-called) Academic methods always with us?
Royal College of Art: Design School Craft Classes, Gesso, under Mr. G. Jack
Cabinet designed and decorated in Gesso. By J. R. Shea
The study of the antique by means of shaded drawings, stumped or stippled "up to the nines" (if not further), leading on to equally elaborate life-studies, which somehow are expected to roll the impressions of eight, ten, or more sittings into one entirety - and wonderfully it is done, too, sometimes.
Are we not led to these triumphs through the winsome defiles of freehand and shaded
Royal College of Art: Design School Craft Classes, Pottery under Mr. Lunn
Group of Pottery designed and executed by the Students drawing from the cast, perhaps accompanied by cheerful model drawing, perspective puzzles, and anatomical dissections, and drawings of the human skeleton seen through antique figures, which seem to anticipate the Rontgen rays?
"The proper study of mankind is man," but according to the Academic system it is practically the only study - study of the human frame and form isolated from everything else.
No doubt such isolation, theoretically at least, concentrates the attention upon the most difficult and subtle of all livinof organisms; but the practical question is, do these elaborate and more or less arti ficial studies really give the student a true grasp of form and construction ? Are they not too much practically taken as still-life studies, and approached rather in the imitative spirit?
Then, again, such studies are set and pursued rather with the view to equipping the student with the necessary knowledge of a figure painter. They are intended to prepare him for painting anything or everything (and generally, now, anytkingbut something classical) that can be comprehended or classified as "an easel picture " - that is to say, a work of art not necessarily related to anything else. It is something to be exhibited (while fresh) in the
Royal College of Art: Design School Craft Classes, Wood-Carving, under Mr. G. Jack
Wood-Carving by J. R. Shea
Royal College of Art: Design School Craft Classes, Stained Glass, under Mr. C. W. Whall
Panel designed and executed by A. Kidd
Frieze by J.A. Stevenson Royal College of Art: Modelling School under open market with others of a like (or dis-like) nature, and, if possible, to be purchased and hung in a gallery, or in the more or less darkness of the private dwelling - "to give light unto them that are in the house."
Works of sculpture (or modelling as she is generally practised) may not fare any better (privately) in the end, when one remembers the busts placed back to the windows, or the marble statue forced to an unnatural whiteness by purple velvet hangings - but, certainly, the methods of teaching seem more in relation to the results.
To begin with, a sculptor's or modeller's figure (unless a decorative group or an architectural ornament) is isolated and has no background; and it is undoubtedly a severe test of skill and knowledge to model a figure in clay in the round from the life. Some are of the opinion that it is more difficult to model perfectly a basso-relievo, but there is no end to the work in the round.
I am really inclined to think that ever since the Italian Renascence the sculptor's and modeller's art and aims have dominated methods of art teaching generally, and have been chiefly responsible for what I have termed the Academic method, which seems mainly addressed to the imitation of solid bodies in full relief, or projection in light and shade on a plane surface, which method indeed in painting, at least, is quite opposed to the whole feeling and aim of Decorative art.
In architecture, on the classical and Academic method, the young student is put through the
I an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God. according to the promise of the life which Is Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, peace, from God, the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
I thank God, whom 1 serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day: greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that 1 may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee;
Royal College of Art: Design School, Instructor in Lettering Mr. Johnson
PageofText, written by J. P. Bland five orders, and is expected to master their subtle proportions before he can appreciate their artistic value, and with but a remote chance of making such knowledge of practical value, in a country and climate to which such architectural features are generally unsuitable.
Our methods of art teaching have sailed along in this stately way from time immemorial. Does not Burlington House stand where it did?
At all events a new spirit is abroad, since the arts and handicrafts of design have asserted themselves.
Methods of art teaching in relation to these must at any rate be definite enough. Each craft presents its own conditions and they must be signed, sealed, and delivered at the gate, before any triumph or festival is celebrated within.
Such conditions can be at least comprehended and demonstrated; materials can be practised with and understood, and even if invention in design can never be taught, on the negative side there are certain guides and finger-posts that may at least prevent lapses of taste, and loss of time.
The designer may learn what different means are at his disposal for the expression of line and form; for the colour and beauty of nature, recreated in the translucent glass or precious enamel, or speaking through the graphic printed line or colour of the wood-block - eloquent in a thousand ways by means of following the laws of certain materials in as many different arts.
What are the qualities demanded of a designer in such arts? quickness of invention and hand, power of direct definition of form. The expressive use of firm lines; sensitive appreciation of the value of silhouetted form, and the relief and effect of colours one upon another; perception of life and movement; knowledge of the growth and structure of plants; sense of the relation of the human form to geometric spaces, and power over its abstract treatment, as well as over the forms of the fowls of the air and beasts of the field.
Royal College of Art : Modelling School under Prof. Lanteri
Panel by Vincent Hill
This is a glimpse of the vista of the possibilities of teaching methods opened up by the arts of design, and in so far as those arts are understood and practised and sought after as important and necessary to the completion of a harmonious and refined life, so will our methods of art instruction have to adapt themselves to meet those new old demands.