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The Object Of Art Study

( Originally Published 1920 )



BY HALSEY C. IVES, LATE DIRECTOR OF THE MUSEUM AND SCHOOL OF FINE ARTS, ST. LOUIS, ETC.

TO the well-educated person a knowledge of art is a necessity, not a luxury. This was recognized by both the Greeks and the people of the Renaissance, as can readily be seen from the many beautiful objects which they have left to us; and, moreover, this knowledge of art was not confined to the wealthy, to the highly educated, but was shared equally by those of the middle class, even by the humblest workman who spent his life producing the common utensils of everyday life.

It would be hard to find any subject, no matter how it be regarded, which opens the way so certainly to so many healthy pleasures and solid benefits as this subject-art. This applies alike to all conditions of people. There is a closer relationship between the aesthetic and practical than we who are struggling with the dry business of every-day life realize, or if we realize, care to admit.

Much that we have to contend with whenever art is discussed as a possible factor in education arises from the mistaken idea entertained by the public in regard to its practical value. Art above every-thing else in the world should be democratic, and instruction in schools should be based upon the idea that its object is not alone to increase the number of artists, i. e., producers of pictures and statues, but also to create a class of skilled workmen who shall have the power to put artistic feeling into the commonplace objects they may be engaged in producing.

It is only within the last twenty years that intelligent people in America have awakened to a consciousness of the great field of activity which is open to art, a field which it is the legitimate province of art to enrich and make almost limitless. Those who recognize the commercial value of art in the industries and manufactures have been first to appreciate this.

The commonly accepted idea of art instruction is that the beginning and end of a thorough course lie in drawing, modelling, and painting alone, and it is true that these studies form the basis of all successful art work. The student must become a thorough draughts-man. To this should be added a knowledge of form, best acquired by the study of modelling. The color sense also should be developed by the study of painting, first by studies of still life, then of the more complex forms found in the human head and figure. The methods used in representing form in color should not be confined to one medium-water color, oil, pastel, chalk, etc., etc. The foundation well established, the range and character of work that may be built upon it is exceedingly varied. It is not unusual for students to spend four or five years in these preliminary studies and then leave their school without a knowledge of the methods of applying their skill in the production of works other than the representation in black and white or color, of the human form, a landscape, or a well-modelled bust from life. It has been a general feeling among young artists and students that any method of expression other than these is a lowering of their art. This feeling is also shared by many art lovers who have con-fined their studies to a narrow field of observation. Art is universal in character; it is limited to no material or product. The commonly accepted division of art into fine art and industrial art is a false one. Art should always be recognized as one. It is unjust and misleading to separate or make a difference between artists, except by the measure of inspiration shown in their work; whether it be on canvas, in marble, plaster, wood, metal, glass, porcelain, or textile. All who serve art technically, should, if they work with an equal degree of conviction, be included in one and the same family.

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