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December 14, 2004

Comments

Bunny Smedley

That's a thought-provoking post, and I agree with virtually all of it.

Re 'back to basics', though, I think I'd insist that all potential art historians and critics had some practical experience not only in handling and conserving the objects they're writing and thinking about - I'd have them try to produce art of the sort in which they are specialising, too, including making copies of the 'masterpieces' of the period. There are quite a lot of art professionals out there who remain shockingly ignorant of the most basic technical points regarding the choice and application of pigment, the nature of the surface on which it is being applied, the length of time it takes a particular paint to dry, etc., and without wishing to sound like a crazed materialist, sometimes these considerations - the limitations of the medium - actually make more of a difference when it comes to the final result than some critics or historians might imagine. (Trying to paint, and realising that it's harder than it looks, might also occasion a bit of modesty on the part of critics - some hope, eh?)

Miguel Sánchez

I'd have them try to produce art of the sort in which they are specialising, too

I generally agree. Two related items: Randall Jarrell's admonition (in "The Age of Criticism" that to try one's hand at art (writing, in his example, but we can generalize) can be useful even if all it teaches is what is it like to be a failed artist. I 'm not reproducing his thought quite right, but you get the idea. The other is Meyer Schapiro's, and many other art historians in the days before quick and easy photography, practice of sketching objects under study. Very little can be better as a way of really forcing one to look at an artwork.

A lot of the sort of knowledge we are talking about here people in the field do pick up one way or another, of course. Either they are in a program or work with a particular person that emphasize it, or they pick it up in internships or work experiences at museums, archaeological sites, galleries, and so on. But from what I've seen there isn't always an focus on ensuring that such knowledge is acquired as part of a program of study.

Arthistorianish

My undergraduate art history program required, along with various language and history classes, a studio class as well. The same way that the studio dept forced their kiddies into at least one art history class. My esteemed MA program, on the other hand? Zippo. There was a very good conservation class taught, but by no means was it required (or even strongly recommended).

Dan

The same way that the studio dept forced their kiddies into at least one art history class.

Just one?!

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