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A Day Without Art. . . Means Missing Out on the Human Experience Part 1

A Day Without Art. . . Means Missing Out on the Human Experience Part 1

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“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

You’ve heard that familiar phrase. Perhaps you’ve said it yourself. In today’s highly visual culture, the importance of the visual arts in the total human experience cannot be overstated. Integrating art into the standard academic curriculum is a necessity!
“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

You’ve heard that familiar phrase. Perhaps you’ve said it yourself. In today’s highly visual culture, the importance of the visual arts in the total human experience cannot be overstated. Integrating art into the standard academic curriculum is a necessity!

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Published by: The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine on Sep 03, 2012
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A Day Without Art. . . Means Missing Out on the HumanExperiencePart 1Pat Knepley
“A picture is worth a thousand words.” 
You’ve heard that familiar phrase. Perhaps you’ve said it yourself. In today’s highlyvisual culture, the importance of the visual arts in the total human experience cannotbe overstated. Integrating art into the standard academic curriculum is a necessity!It is fairly common to think of the visual arts as paintings or drawings we might seehung on a museum wall. But an appreciation of art is so much more! We aresurrounded by shapes, space, texture, and color. Everything in the averageAmerican home has an art element to it, namely, design: the pattern in thewallpaper or curtain fabric, the shape of the lamp, the candlestick, even theteakettle. And of course there are things on the walls: photos in frames, paintings orprints, perhaps even a sculptural piece. Although our tastes in design will varywidely, we all appreciate the beauty of a well-designed object. Who doesn’t like theclassic lines of the 1965 Ford Mustang? Pure art.So, then, the question becomes, Why should the home educator include the study of art as part of the core classical curriculum? Answer: Because all of humanity throughthe ages has used the arts to tell us stories about every aspect of the lives of thepeople—the culture, the nation, the history, the beliefs. A general understanding of what is involved in art education is probably more valuable to the homeschooler thanany artistic talent.According to one prominent approach to the study of art, Discipline-Based ArtsEducation (DBAE),
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there are four components to a well thought-out art program: arthistory, art criticism, art production, and aesthetics. Home educators should considerall of these components as being equally valuable when they think of teaching “art,” as intimidating as that might be. In this article we will cover the first twocomponents: art history and art criticism, and finish up with the last two in February.The best way to explain how to encompass all four disciplines is to use a familiarpiece of art. Let’s look at Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous fresco, “The Last Supper.” 
Art History
Leonardo Da Vinci was the quintessential Renaissance man of the late fifteenthcentury. He thought of himself as primarily an artist, but Da Vinci was also amathematician, inventor, scientist, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, andwriter. Da Vinci spent his younger years as an apprentice to a master artist andincreased in skill and recognition.Later on, Da Vinci was asked by his wealthy benefactor to paint a fresco to decoratethe refectory (dining hall) in the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Da Vinciworked on this project from 1495 to 1498. Even though Da Vinci was a great painter,he was constantly experimenting with his materials, so this project took a long time!
 
For centuries, frescoes had been painted by mixing tempera or watercolor paint intothe wet plaster of a wall, which required the artist to work quickly before the plasterdried. But Leonardo tried tempera, watercolor, and even oil-based paint on dryplaster in order to get more detail, which took more time. The problem was that thisexperimental technique really didn’t work, and the paint began to flake off veryshortly after the piece was completed.In the 1600s, someone felt it would be allowable to cut a door through the wall thatcontained the Da Vinci fresco; consequently, the portion of the original painting thatportrayed Jesus’ feet and a portion of the table were lost forever! Over the centuries,a series of artists, seeing that Da Vinci’s original brilliant color was flaking off, triedto preserve the masterpiece by painting over the original, but those efforts failed.Then, during World War II, a bomb nearly destroyed the monastery. The refectorysuffered a lot of damage, but amazingly, the wall with the fresco sustained onlyminor damage. Over the ensuing years, rain and water damage to the thinner,repaired walls caused mold to grow on the fresco.After all those years of misfortune, the most famous painting in the world was inserious trouble. So in 1999 a twenty-year restoration was initiated in order to restorethe “Last Supper” to Leonardo Da Vinci’s original vision. Most of the layers of additional paint from other artists have been carefully removed, and we can now seethe fresco as close to its original state as is possible.A suggestion for the home educator is to include this art history perspective about “The Last Supper” in a unit of study on the Renaissance or the role of the church inworld history. 
Art Criticism
Art criticism simply involves talking about art. The viewer will try to get inside thehead of the artist and ask questions such as “What was the artist trying to say?” andlook at the artwork with a critical eye as it relates to application of the seven artelements: line, shape, space, value, color, texture, and form. But the viewer shouldalso look within himself and ask why he likes or dislikes this particular work.Being able to talk about a piece of artwork and make it personal is a good way toincrease critical thinking skills. There are ample opportunities to connect art toeveryday learning. A basic understanding of the seven art elements and the fivedesign principles (balance, proportion, rhythm, emphasis, and unity) can offer agreat way to dive into a conversation when your son admires the graphics in a newgame or your daughter gushes over a fabric design and texture.It was during the era of the Renaissance that artists discovered the principles of linear and aerial perspective to bring more realism to their works. Da Vinci pioneeredthe use of one-point perspective to provide a strong focal point with his sacredsubject matter. For example, when looking at “The Last Supper,” one immediatelynotices the strong perspective that Da Vinci employed in order to direct the viewer’sattention to the head of Jesus. Lines that would follow a path to the point where theceiling meets the floor, in addition to the lines created by the top of the tapestries onthe wall, create a strong vanishing point right at the head of Jesus.

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