Today, some people believe the source of art lies in the soul of the individual artist,

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1 Huntington and Scott Gallery Programs INSPIRING ART How Lessons from the Past Can Inspire New Art Grades 4 8 I. Introduction Today, some people believe the source of art lies in the soul of the individual artist, and that art is the product of genius. This lesson plan explores another view of art. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, art educators believed that the best art was derived from ancient and Renaissance examples. Art schools were established to teach these traditions. One of the most important schools established at the time was the Royal Academy of Arts in London. This school, and its first president, Sir Joshua Reynolds, are the subject of this lesson plan. II. Objectives Students will explore the training of artists and learn that they are professionals, earning a living through their art. Like other professionals, artists train for their jobs. Some serve as apprentices. Others enroll in art schools. Some learn on their own. Students will identify the many different types of jobs that require art training. Students will be introduced to the Royal Academy of Arts, founded in 1768, and discover why it is an important example of an art school. Many of the artists featured at the Huntington studied at the Royal Academy, which is located in London. Students will learn about Sir Joshua Reynolds who was the first president of the Royal Academy. He is an important person in history, as a painter and a theorist on art and art education. His writings, assembled in Discourses on Art, provide students with primary source material. 1

2 III. IV. Standards Assessed Visual Arts Standards California Department of Education Standard 1.0 Artistic Perception: Processing, analyzing, and responding to sensory information through the language and skills unique to the visual arts. Standard 2.0 Creative Expression: Creating, performing, and participating in the arts. Standard 3.0 Historical and Cultural Context: Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and culture. Standard 4.0 Aesthetic Valuing: Responding to, analyzing, and making judgments about works in the visual arts. Standard 5.0 Connections, Relationships, and Applications: Connecting and applying what is learned in each art form to learning in other art forms, subject areas, and careers. Background Information The Royal Academy of Arts in London, established in 1768, provided a curriculum that focused on the great art of the past: from the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome, and the more recent civilization of Renaissance Italy. Students drew from plaster casts of ancient works, and reproductions of famous paintings. They were also encouraged to travel to Italy, to see these great monuments of art firsthand. The goal of the Academy s program was to provide a foundation, grounded in lessons from the past, which would allow the aspiring artist to both continue these great traditions and contribute to them. Sir Joshua Reynolds, the first president of the Academy, explained: It is vain for painters or poets to endeavour to invent without materials on which the mind may work, and from which invention must originate. Nothing can come of nothing. (Discourse VI, 210f.) 1 The Royal Academy played many important roles. It offered courses. It provided an exhibition venue for its students and professors, called academicians. And through the lectures and writings of its president, Sir Joshua Reynolds, it developed ideas on the value of art education and the purpose of art: to uplift and improve the moral fabric of society. Among the people attracted to the Royal Academy were many American artists. During the colonial and early republic periods, there were no comparable opportunities here, for study or exhibition of one s art. Artists like John Singleton Copley and Benjamin West, who became the 1 Sir Joshua Reynolds, Discourses on Art, ed. Robert R. Wark (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997), 99. 2

3 Academy s second president in 1792, are represented in the Scott Gallery at the Huntington. Many important paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds are included in the Huntington's main gallery. Today, students can learn about the origins of the Royal Academy and explore key topics: How does the classical past influence artists of later generations? Who was Sir Joshua Reynolds, and how did his art and his ideas on art inspire artists of his own time? Why did American artists like John Singleton Copley leave home and study in London, at the Royal Academy? Background on John Singleton Copley Two paintings at the Huntington, displayed in the Scott Gallery, demonstrate why one American artist John Singleton Copley decided to leave home and study in London, at the Royal Academy. Copley was born in As a boy, he showed great talent in art. But growing up in Boston, he had little access to see art. There were no museums to visit, no schools to attend, and no ancient monuments to study. He taught himself to draw and paint, copying from prints of famous works of art. His natural talents are evident in Sarah Jackson, a painting he made in Boston around Her facial features are strong and specific, her clothing painted realistically, and her overall demeanor suggests self confidence and sophistication. But the figure seems a bit stiff, immobile. The outlines are harsh. Copley knew, already at this time, that he needed to go to school, and he wanted to move to London, to study at the Royal Academy of Arts. One of his paintings, from around this time, was shipped to London and shown to Sir Joshua Reynolds. Although Reynolds was amazed that Copley had this kind of talent, given the fact that he hadn't attended art school, he still criticized his style as having a hardness in the drawing, coldness in the shades, and over minuteness. He also recommended Copley move immediately to London, and commence his studies, before it was too late in life, and before your manner and taste [are] corrupted or fixed by working your little way at Boston. 2 Copley heeded this advice. The painting, Charles, Lord Western, and Shirley Western, from around 1783, shows some of the new skills he acquired in London. His figures are now quite active, their arms outstretched. His brushwork is lively, with individual strokes suggesting movement of the dog and a breeze blowing across the outdoor terrace. Overall, the composition is more complicated. Today, some people prefer Copley s Boston style to the one he developed in London. Important to our discussion is Copley s own preference: he remained in London, joining the circle of artists associated with the Royal Academy of Arts. 2 John W. McCoubrey, American Art, (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1965), 11. This report from Reynolds was repeated, in this letter, by Captain R.G. Bruce. 3

4 V. Lesson Activities A. Pre-visit activities for the classroom 1. Assemble and display images from the classical and Renaissance periods. Key works might include the Parthenon and the sibyls (female prophets) from Michelangelo s Sistine Chapel paintings. Works of classical sculpture, showing the entire human form, can also be included. Ask students to describe the details of these works. Encourage them to find as many details as possible. Using the vocabulary list below, practice using words they will hear on the docent tour. (For students in grades 6 8 who have studied these periods, have them make this selection and explain why each work is important.) Explain that some of the art they will see at the Huntington was inspired by the kind of art they ve assembled in this activity. 2. Lead a discussion on art education, stressing that artists, like other professionals, attend school to prepare for future jobs. At the Huntington, they will see works by artists who studied at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. As appropriate to the grade level, read a quote by the Academy's first president, Sir Joshua Reynolds that reveals his belief in an art education that builds on lessons from the past. How can the study of the past help an artist? How can the study of art at the Huntington benefit students today? B. Museum visit 1. Reynolds believed artists should combine elements from the past and present. Encourage your students to look for both at the museum. Docents will help them identify details related to the classical and Italian Renaissance traditions. These may include references to ancient mythology, in stories presented and details included. Earlier art also influenced the way artists composed their works in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Encourage your students to notice a careful balance of parts; strong, clear colors; the use of geometric shapes; and a general feeling of calm in the works they see. Also notice details that belonged to the period when the work was made specifics like fashion and the identity of the people portrayed. 2. If your tour takes place in the Huntington Gallery, encourage your students to look along the bottom of frames for the initials, R.A., which refer to the artist as a Royal Academician, or elected member of the Royal Academy. C. Post-visit activities for the classroom 1. Discuss the importance of public education in the United States. Lead a general discussion on life in the American colonies, when no schools of art were available. How did Americans learn to make art? How would your students feel, if they knew they had a talent and no chance to improve it, by going to school? Or, if they had no chance of becoming a professional artist? Why do artists need to go to school? 4

5 2. Ask your students to step back in history and imagine being the artist, John Singleton Copley. (Girls, as they wish, could assume a fictional character of a woman artist.) Copley grew up in Boston, where he taught himself to draw and paint. He realized his limitations and wanted to be a better artist. To do this, he knew he had to leave home and go to London, to study at the Royal Academy. He moved there in Have your students write a letter from London, one Copley will send his family in Boston. The year is Copley has just finished painting Charles, Lord Western, and Shirley Western, and wants to tell his family about the new style he has learned, comparing it with what he did in Boston, in Sarah Jackson. He describes the Royal Academy and a lecture, or Discourse, he heard by the Academy's president, Sir Joshua Reynolds. He ends the letter with a reflection on how his education is changing his career as an artist. For this activity, students can draw on the observations made during their visit to the Huntington, incorporate a quote by Reynolds, and draw their own conclusion as to whether Copley made the right decision to leave home and pursue his professional dreams by studying in London, at the Royal Academy. 3. For students in grades 6 8, who are conversant in the art of earlier cultures, organize a debate on the merits of mining the past for ideas to use in modern art. Distribute the following quote by Reynolds: He therefore who is acquainted with the works which have pleased different ages and different countries, and has formed his opinion on them, has more materials, and more means of knowing what is analogous to the mind of man, than he who is conversant only with the works of his own age or country. What has pleased, and continues to please, is likely to please again: hence are derived the rules of art, and on this immoveable foundation they must ever stand. (Discourse VII, 515f.) 3 Next, ask them to develop a list of key art objects and monuments from the past, consulting class textbooks and other classroom materials. For the debate, divide the class into two groups. One group argues with Reynolds, that these monuments are important sources of inspiration for artists. The other group argues they are irrelevant. Conclude debate with a discussion of art education today. If the class could organize its own art academy, as Reynolds did in the 18th century, what would they want students to learn? What would form the foundation of their school of art? 3 Reynolds,

6 Vocabulary Vocabulary Academicians Academy Background Balance Classical Colonial Column Commission Composition Diagonal lines Discourse Foreground Horizontal lines Masterpiece Middle ground Painting Plaster casts Portrait artists who are elected by members of an art school, or academy, to become lifetime members and typically teachers an art school the most distant part of a scene the arrangement of elements to create equilibrium, typically through symmetry (an equal distribution of elements) or asymmetry (with a cluster of elements in one area of the composition) a style name given to art made in ancient Greece and Rome describes areas settled by people sent out from their native country for the purpose of settlement; often refers to British colonies of North America an architectural form, a vertical support that rests on the base and supports a roof to order (and agree to pay for) a work of art the organization of elements in a work of art lines that are at an angle the name given to lectures presented by Reynolds at regular meetings of the Royal Academy the nearest part of the scene lines that run side to side major work of any great artist the area between the foreground and the most distant part of a scene a picture created with paint sculptures made of plaster, to imitate important ancient works of art and studied by art students a painting or sculpture of a particular person 6

7 Vocabulary Renaissance a style name given to art made, originally, in Italy in the late 15th and 16th centuries; the style later became adopted in most European countries Royal Academy of Arts a school of art founded in London in 1768 by King George III Style Texture Vertical lines the characteristic expression of an individual artist, or group of artists the tactile (touchable) quality of the surface of an art object lines that are straight up and down 7

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