Notebook, 1993-

Perspective - The 1880's - 1900-1920, "Composition" - 1900-1920, 'School Arts' - 1900-1920, Art Education Associations - 1900-1920, Art Education in the Museum of Art - 1900-1920, The Modernists - 1914-1920, War and Post War - 1920's, Progressive Education - 1920's-1930's, Professional Stabilization - 1930's, Museum Education during the Depression - 1930's, National Government in Art - 1940's, A Psychology and Philosophy for Art Education

Notes from: Logan, Frederick M . Growth of Art in American Schools, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1955.

Growth of Art
in American Schools

A Perspective on Art Education

Historians of Cultural Development - What Was Taught and What was Learned - "Art in Everyday Life" - Scope of the Volume

A century and three-quarters of democracy has established the American people as mechanical innovators. We habitually think of our efforts as inventive, scientific, ingenious in nature. [pg. 1]

We have made an effort to domesticate the fine arts for the daily life, the emotional expansion, and the education of all citizens. [pg. 2 ]

Our first fifty years as a nation were cramped by warfare, financial problems, industrial shortcomings, and primitive communication and travel facilities. True, works of art were being produced, there were some art teachers, and the beginnings of some of our present art institutions trace to the five decades ending in 1825; but the interest was shared by a scant few, the achievements being scattered and not too encouraging to the artists. [pg. 2]

By the time the Civil War broke out, a much more tolerable environment for the arts existed through the combined work of writers, artists, teachers, and by an increasing number of citizens who were concerned that the home-grown arts should become vigorous and well supported. Ralph Waldo Emerson dreamed of the day when all Americans would understand the arts. "Art should exhilarate and throw down the walls of circumstance on every side . . . . " [Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Complete Essays and Other Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson,Modern Library, 1940, p. 312 ] [pg. 2]

Horace Mann, writing in his reports on education of the values of teaching drawing, believed that drawing would be indispensable in achieving greater literacy and ability to express ideas. It seemed justifiable to conclude that if men of intellectual grasp and leadership thought art had a place in life, it should therefore be taught in the schools. [pg. 2]

During a century of tax-supported school operation, the arts frequently in small ways, have usually been a part of the school day. The educational objectives in art have shifted by the decade. [pg. 2]

Under the imported and widely heralded direction of Walter Smith, in the Boston Schools of 1873, the emphasis was on drawing as an aid to developing manual skills. The teacher and student handbook was titled Teachers Manual of Free Hand Drawing and Designing, [Walter Smith, Teachers Manual of Free Hand Drawing and Designing, Boston, 1873], and this book had been preceded by a lecture series, Industrial Drawing in the Public Schools, [3], indicating precisely SmithÍs interests and vocational aims. [pg. 2-3]

By 1890
The "appreciation of the beautiful" was standard equipment everywhere among serious art teachers. Timidly painted watercolors, clay modeling done under the dominating presence of casts from the antique, were counted upon as the nearest approach to productions of beauty possible to school children. The doing of these works was expected to form a lifelong devotion to the fine arts. [pg. 3]

Meanwhile, diverse activities in architecture, painting, the design fields, and sculpture have been developing in America, and have influenced and been influenced by the restless aesthetic wanderings of the teachers of art. Disparate achievements like the building of the great suspension span of the Brooklyn Bridge, and the founding of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; the masterly, but long-unrecognized painting of Albert Pinkham Ryder; the ingenuity of nineteenth-century designers of plywood furniture, plumbing fixtures, and the makers of hand tools--all are now absorbed into the fabric of art theory and philosophy. The books and magazines which have recorded art accomplishment, the WorldÍs Fairs come and gone, the great museums of art established through the century and active in exhibition and education, have paralleled the work of the artists. This growth in art product and the broadening of art interpretation is reflected wherever art is being taught in the present day. [1955] [pg. 3]

For fifty years and more our historians, novelists, and poets have been showing us how rich we are in human and physical resources. Long ago their emphasis shifted from the military-political narrative to the way people have acted in creating the cultural environment out of the materials at hand: the earth, the weather, the mixture of racial heritage, the European aesthetic forms and their subsequent adaptations to this soil and people. [pg. 4]

. . . . the art teacher was contrarily imbued with the philosophy that creative work called for considerable freedom on the part of the individual. [the teacherÍs] Parisian art studies in the first decade of the century inclined her to the doctrine of letting people have some leeway in getting work accomplished. If she was aware of the progressive-education movement and of the philosophy of John Dewey, she interpreted it brusquely and purposely in a more colloquial vein. The chances are that, like many of her generation of art teachers, she was trying to introduce to the high-school art room some of the freedom of the artistÍs studio. What she taught her students of practice in the arts was not to prove in later years of any great value. What aesthetic and social convictions she instilled were infinitely more permanent. The arts were important ad the artist a person of consequence. The routines of life, in her case the keeping and recording of grades, the establishment and maintenance of class order, were useful only as a means of stimulating student work. To the extent that they did not aid in reaching that goal, she made no secret of her impatience with rigid requirements. The more transitory art influences to which we were subjected might best be described as impressionism in art, with tinctures of the post-impressionism of Gauguin particularly. The British poster makers and the architectural renderers made contributions to our aesthetic. Then, too, the posteresque work of a young Wisconsin artist, Carl Holty, was occasionally in evidence . . . . work dominantly in low key, few color relationships, using the flat pattern of the Lautrec posters with timid gestures toward cubism in the squared-off forms . . . . when we recall that the Museum of Modern Art had not been established, that the art work encouraged in the grades by the progressive-education movement was only in the first few years of its influence, that DeweyÍs definitive philosophy of the arts was still years from publication, that the Bauhaus approach to materials and the crafts was in its midyears in Germany, but virtually unknown to all but a handful of Americans--in the light of this time placement, we must consider the accomplishments of our high-school art teachers of the nineteen-twenties most favorably. They were probably more successful with their students who developed a special aptitude for the arts and who went on to art schools or college art departments. For the others . . . . the sentimental and precious approach to all the arts often seemed prevalent. The cheerful freedom of their hours in the art room, combined with the innocuous treatment of all themes, the accent on impressionistic, freely handled color and on superficially spirited drawing, when carried no farther, developed little stamina for encountering PicassoÍs paintings or even the designs of Aalto or Le Corbusier. An environment of accomplishment with enjoyable materials had been created, but the effort to comprehend Goya as well as Sargent, Cézanne as well as Joseph Pennell, was not to be found. Maybe we were not ready for such fare. Maybe the teachers were not, or else believed that course content of that intellectual a caliber must be deferred to college years. Whatever the reason, the general art student in high school seldom continued afterward to a mature grasp of art forms. [pg. 6-7]

1930s-mid 50s
Art schools and college departments . . . . the rigidities of cast and anatomical drawing, carried out with nearly uniform precision, had been accompanied by art nouveau ornament in textiles, pottery, and metalcraft . . . . [pg. 7]

At that time "art for art's sake" was a prevalent philosophy in American departments. It was not acknowledged and practiced under that banner, which was more often used to describe the art of England in the eighteen-nineties; but the most widely read critics were dispensing a similar gospel in various forms. Clive BellÍs book, Art [9], originally published in 1913, was a handbook quite popular among our students . . . . Bell wished to isolate a quality which he called "significant form" as the underlying element of all great works of art. This "significant" form was not determined by the literary aspects of the artistÍs work, or by the historical or sociological context in which it was placed. It could be apprehended only by a person who was constantly sharpening his sensitivity to the abstract elements of line and form and color. Herbert ReadÍs article, "Farewell to Formalism," [10] is one of many indications of the movement away from BellÍs position. [pg. 8]

Art students, among them the art teachers of the future, were producing landscape, still life, and figure painting in quantity, in which the only modernist quality evident was a tentative effort toward expressionistic form distortion and arbitrary color schemes following the Franz Marc treatment of the Red Horses. But they were being taught, they were reading, and they believed that the subject matter of a work of art was nothing ; that color, form, the way it was painted, were important to the exclusion of all else. This we held to mystically and inexplicably, regardless of our easily apparent struggle with representational forms in three dimensions. [pg. 8-9]

What is remarkable is not the occasional shortcomings of our small art schools, but the degree to which they were and are alert to the current valuable elements of aesthetic development. [pg. 9]

It is discouraging to realize that some art teachers are thoughtlessly repeating the litany of their student years, teaching the preÎminence of compositional forms, the organization of visual elements, as the only distinguishing quality separating important art forms from trash. Nothing is more irritating to the intelligent layman than to be told, of a Roualt painting in which the human form is twisted to a shape of ugliness and pain, that " . . . . the subject is negligible; you should look at the abstract qualities, the interlocking forms, the rich pigmentation; see how exciting and pleasing it is in dark and light relationships." Nor is it possible to be much more inaccurate aesthetically. For in most Roualt paintings the artist had no intent to provide excitement in abstract qualities as the only reaction to his work. [pg. 9]

The artistÍs social and emotional environment, his total education , and, as a work progresses, his personal "handwriting" with brush or tool--every one of these elements, with the media he is using and the subject attempted, are a part of the work the public sees. [pg. 9]

On this vexatious problem and on other issues, a historical survey and cross section of educational practice should help the teacher in shaping and leading public interest in art. [pg. 9-10]

Many movements in art important to the design of our environment have flourished in the last century. William MorrisÍs arts and crafts movement, the art nouveau period, the cubist painting influence on early modernist furniture, the still-widening circle of influence from the German Bauhaus--all of these in subtle measure have helped to create the "art in everyday life" of the nineteen-fifties. [pg. 10]

And not one of the leading artists of those movements ever supported a theory of dissimilarity between the work of the creative painter and the designer of furniture. There is a creative quality which is inseparable from any true art expression, whether it is clay modeling by a child or the design of a Diesel locomotive by the Raymond Loewy Associates. It is a distinctive characteristic of the designers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that they have insisted on qualitative consistency in all things, printing, wall paper, jewelry, as well as the pictorial arts. [pg. 10]


[Notes from: Logan, Frederick M . Growth of Art in American Schools, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1955.]



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