Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

From time to time, athletes, trapeze-performers, and the like, have been secured. Originally, the number of male models was greater than that of female models, as they are rather more instructive as to muscular development; but because the male figure is more familiar to the male students, at least, than that of the female, through opportunities afforded in swimming and the like, for the past two years the sexes have been alternated so that the class sees the same number of each during the season. Rather simple poses, usually standing ones, are employed, as they seem to give the best practical results, and the mental comparison of the different models from week to week is more vivid in simple poses. Poses representing action, or those which depend upon several points of support, are difficult to keep, and confuse the student by constantly varying ; but the model, in going in or out of the room, and moving about during the rests, shows how that particular body looks in action, and is carefully noticed by the students with that view. A proposition to use the last hour of each pose (not of each day,) in noticing and perhaps sketching the action in various positions of the model whose conformation has become familiar during the work of the week, may be carried out in future.

In each year, studies made in the life class which are peculiarly meritorious, are selected by the professor, and, after being signed and dated, are retained by the Academy, a new canvas being given to the student. These studies serve to show the character of the work done in the school, and form a collection possessing great interest, as showing the changes which may take place from time to time in the school methods. The selection is also considered a compliment to the student, and is, in fact, the only thing of the nature of a prize that is offered.

During the Spring Exhibition of 1879, one room was set apart for a students' exhibition, those in attendance at the school being invited to contribute pictures, not studies. A selection from those offered was made by the professors and the committee, and the exhibit proved to be very interesting ; but it has not been repeated, as it was considered better that work of this kind should be offered for the regular Spring Exhibition and submitted to the more rigorous examination that is made by the Committee on Exhibition,

The whole subject of rewards or prizes in such schools is a'somewhat difficult one. Where a number of young people are assembled for the purpose of receiving a general education, and where the principal object is to induce them all to attain a certain amount of proficiency to assist in making them useful members of society, inducements to study are perhaps necessary; but an art school such as ours can hardly be considered as subject to the same conditions. There is no reason for pushing on those who are incompetent or lazy ; on the contrary, it is better that such persons should, as early as possible, abandon the pursuit of art and turn to some other work, and it is the business of the school to furnish facilities for the competent and industrious, and such stimulus as belongs to a healthy tone in the instruction. The students at the Academy come with a considerable amount of knowledge to commence with ; they are somewhat in the position of those who take post-graduate courses in colleges; that is, they are entering a professional school, and are supposed to have every desire to make the most of their opportunities without the spur of temporary prizes. Promotion from the first to the second antique, and to the life class, are to some extent rewards, but more properly examinations which have to be passed, and the true prizes are the acceptance of pictures by the various exhibition committees and the approval of the public, and these can be worked for as soon as it is proper for the student to strive for prizes of any kind. This is the present theory of the school, and it is strongly supported by the Professor of Painting, who considers that working for any other prize is apt to distract the student from the steady course of study, and to take the attention off the regular work.

One peculiarity of the school, which has been somewhat unfavorably criticised, is that in one sense there is little variety in the instruction; that is, the student works first from casts which are almost universally of the nude human figure; he then enters the lise class and continues to work from the nude human figure, usually in simple poses, and he works in the dissecting room also from the human figure. He does some work in the sketch class from a draped figure, and in the portrait class from the head and face; but the main strength is put upon the nude figure. There is a story of a young tenor in Italy, who, after many attempts to induce a famous retired teacher to give him instruction, succeeded, upon promising that he would adhere strictly to his method without complaint. He was given certain exercises, which the master made him study and execute until he began to think that he was wasting his time, when he was told that the course was completed, and that he would find no music that would give him the least trouble, a result that he found he had really attained. The story is instructive, and upon such theory is all good art instruction based. It may be considered somewhat narrow, but the difficulties of attaining that knowledge that is necessary to a successful career as a producer of pictures and sculpture, are so great, that the four or five years of a professional life which are represented by the school work, have to be devoted to steady grinding application to that one thing. The objection that the school does not sufficiently teach the students picture-making, may be met by saying that it is hardly within the province of a school to do so. It is better learned outside, in private studios, in the fields, from nature, by reading, from a careful study of other pictures, of engravings, of art exhibitions; and, in the library, the print room and the exhibitions which are held in the galleries, all freely open to the student, the Academy does as much as it can in this direction. Loan collections of the best pictures obtainable, American and foreign, are among the most useful educators of this kind. It must not be supposed that broad culture is unnecessary ; on the contrary, it is of the greatest importance, but it should be attained as far as possible before and after this particular period of work.

We see successful artists who have such diverse antecedents and attainments, that it is impossible to say what it is that makes them successful, except as to one thing; all great artists know the fundamental work thoroughly, and upon that should we put the strength of our resources. When the school is richer, it should add to its course instruction on many subjects connected with art, of great importance in themselves, a knowledge of which, however, does not appear, judging by a study of the successful artists, to be invariably essential. The addition of the best examples of modern landscape to the permanent collection of the Academy, would be of the greatest use to the students, and it is to be hoped that those who are disposed to make presents of pictures will let this fact weigh with them in their selections.

· One of the most important innovations lately made has been the substitution of modelling classes, to which all the life class students are admitted, for the old sculpture class, which was for sculptors only. In this way, the painters model as well as paint, and the good effect of this practice became evident almost immediately. It is in accordance with the general theory of the school, that the students should gain accurate information rather than merely acquire the knack of representing something; and nothing increases more rapidly the knowledge of the figure than modelling it. The student studies it from all sides and sees the relation of the parts, and the effect of the pose upon the action of the muscles, much more distinctly than when painting from the one side of a model exposed to him from his fixed position in the painting class. The work is in clay, the figure being usually about twenty-two inches high, stands and irons for the support of the figures being provided by the Academy. The figure is complete,—not a bas-relief, or a high relief, as in the sculpture class of the Beaux Arts of Paris.

The modelling classes commence with the life classes on the first of October, and have three days in the week, of three hours each ; the same number for the women as for the men. Each pose, continues from four to six weeks, depending somewhat upon the value of the model. During the past season, for the first time, a horse was used as the model for a six weeks' pose, the men's and women's classes working together for this purpose. Wax was used as more convenient than clay, the size of the studies being about eight inches in height to the withers, where a horse is usually measured. It is proposed to devote one pose each season to the horse or some other animal. Although at first sight it might seem quite easy for any student, while in the country for the summer, to obtain facilities for working from so common an animal as a horse, there are in reality great practical difficulties in getting control of one not owned by the student himself, for a period long enough to enable him to make a careful study, and in getting proper

places to work at him with any kind of comfort; and as a dead · horse, properly prepared, was in the dissecting room at the time that

the living horse was in the modelling room, unusual opportunities were surnished to the student. The horse enters so largely into the composition of pictures and statuary, especially into works of the higher order, such as historical subjects, and is generally so badly drawn, even by those who profess to have made some study of the animal, that the work seems to be of value. Like the work from the human model, it is intended more to give an accurate fundamental knowledge of the animal, than to teach how to portray him in his varied movements, which are only to be studied out of doors.

The anatomical study is so much more complete than in other art schools, that it requires special notice. Acting upon the principle that everything that can be, should be learned from the original source, the advanced students are encouraged to dissect and to examine for themselves, thus becoming familiar with the mechanism of the body, without which knowledge it is impossible to portray correctly those poses which, from their nature, a model cannot readily assume at will or retain. Dr. W. W. Keen, Professor of Artistic Anatomy, lectures to the general class twice a week, for eighteen weeks each season. These lectures are illustrated by the skeleton, the cadaver, which is prepared by proper dissection for the subject of each lecture in succession, and by the living model. The frame-work to which the muscles are attached, the form and the action of the muscles, are thus clearly exhibited. The cadaver is used in preference to a manikin, because it is the original material, and not a copy.

Some of the students are, for one reason or another, content with the anatomical information obtained at the lectures and from the text books which are recommended by the professor ; but the majority of the working class pursue the study still further, into the dissecting room. A number of demonstrators are selected each year by the Professor of Artistic Anatomy from the advanced members of the class, who form a sort of committee having charge of the dissecting room under a chief demonstrator, making the prosections for the anatomical lectures and supervising tlte others in their dissecting work. Both the men and the women dissect, usually at different hours, as a matter of convenience; and there are two women demonstrators. Animals are dissected for the purpose of the study of comparative anatomy, and the demonstrators of anatomy use largely the nude living model, along with the dissected body.

These facilities for the study of anatomy are much superior to those possessed by any art school in the world; in the European

« VorigeDoorgaan »