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DEPARTMENT OF ART
FIRST SESSION. WATKINS INSTITUTE, NASHVILLE, TENN., July 18, 1889. The Department of Art Education was called to order at 3 P. M., by the President, L. S. Thompson, of New Jersey.
In the absence of the regular Secretary, Thomas H. Corkill, of Nashville, was elected Secretary pro tem.
The President then delivered the inaugural address, which was accompanied by blackboard illustrations.
It was moved that the President appoint the usual committees. The President deferred announcement of committees till later in the session.
William T. Harris, of Massachusetts, read a paper on “Art Education the True Industrial Education - A Cultivation of Esthetic Taste of Universal Utility."
The President announced the following committees :
Committee on Nomination of Officers: T. H. Corkill, I. C. Mulkins, Jesse H. Brown, Miss Sallie Thomas, R. E. Selleck.
Committee on the Report of Art Exhibit: Peter Calvert, Jesse H. Brown, Mrs. Frank Whorley.
The papers read were then discussed by J. H. Brown, of Indianapolis, and J. P. Dake, of Nashville.
The Department then adjourned.
SECOND SESSION.-JULY 19. The second session of the Department was held at the same place, at 3:15 P. M.; President Thompson in the chair.
There being no miscellaneous business, Jesse H. Brown, of Indianapolis, read a paper on “Form-Study, and Its Application in All Grades Below the High School." Mr. Brown, being superintendent of drawing in the Indianapolis schools, exhibited a great variety of work done by his pupils, which he explained to the Department.
The Committee on Nomination of Officers made the following report:
The Committee on the Art Exhibit made a verbal report, which was to be written out in full for the volume of proceedings. The Department then adjourned.
THOMAS H. CORKILL, Secretary pro tem.
EVOLUTION OF SYSTEJIS OF DRAWING IN THE UNITED
LANGDON S. THOMPSON, JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY.
In the early history of teaching drawing to young children in this country, about all that was done was to place a figure of some kind before the child and ask or require him to copy it. Thoughtful teachers and parents soon discovered that there is but little that is educational in such work — that only a few are successful; and they naturally said that the teaching of drawing as they understood it was only a waste of precious time. Hence this method of teaching drawing by the mere imitation or copying of a figure or a picture, frequently beyond the comprehension of the child, is now an exploded idea, although it may still be in use in some parts of our country.
Thoughtful teachers and educators, still believing in the educational value of teaching drawing to little children, began to reason, to analyze, and to experiment on the subject. They looked over the alphabet of graphic expression and discovered that straight lines and curves constitute the simple elements of most all the drawing that can profitably be done by little children. They reasoned further that children must be masters of these elements before they can use them in drawing. Hence they said, “We will have the children practice on vertical, straight lines one after another until they can make them well; then on horizontal lines, oblique lines, and curves, in various positions."
These exercises were followed by combinations of straight lines, forming angles, triangles, quadrilaterals of various kinds, polygons, etc. This method seemed philosophical and logical at first view, and most of the elementary-drawing systems began in that way, five, ten, or fifteen years ago.
In practice, however, it was found that after a child had made one vertical straight line, it had no inner spontaneous motive for making another vertical line along side of it; hence, after making one such line, it made others because the teacher required it to do so--that is, as a mere task. The same experience was passed through in practicing on horizontal and oblique lines, on curves, angles, triangles, squares, circles, and polygons. The child became tired out and disgusted with the whole subject of drawing before he was allowed to make anything that he wanted to make. This method, while not entirely wrong in philosophy, was wrong in practice, and proved unsatisfactory to pupils, teachers, and parents.
Again the thinkers and philosophers came to the rescue. They said, there has been too much analysis, too much abstraction; and so, following the tendency of mind in general when dissatisfied with its present position, they went to the opposite extreme, and said, we must draw entirely from concrete or solid objects. This is the craze that is just now passing over the country.
To be able to draw from objects — that is, solids — is certainly a very desirable acquisition; hence there is a fascination in the announcement, “We will draw from objects." What is an object? In this connection it means a solid; a material object, having length, breadth, and thickness. But what objects shall we use? A small minority say take anything that interests the child-a dog, a cat, any animal, a flower, a plant, a house, or even a steam-engine, as we have heard one enthusiast say. Others who have had more experience, or who are more philosophical, say no; not these; but let us begin with geometrical solids, such as the sphere, the cube, the cylinder,
A fair trial, however, with either of these classes of objects with little children and our ordinary teachers, has always shown, and will always show, that only the geniuses, who are always "few and far between," can make anything like creditable representations of solids or objects of three dimensions. Hence, the advocates of object-drawing have been driven to abandon the essence of model-drawing, while still clinging to the fascinating name. If you will go into one of these primary schools where the so-called objectdrawing is taught, this is what you will find: The teacher holds up or presents a cube, and asks the pupils to draw a front view of it. The pupils have previously learned that the real shape of one face of the cube is a square; hence, from memory, they all draw a square. We
from memory, because only one pupil in the room can possibly see the face of a cube as a square, and it is probable that not one can do so. But the teacher answers, each pupil may have a cube which he can hold in such a way as to see a square. Very well; we will suppose that each pupil has a cube and holds it so that he can only see a square, and that he draws what he sees. He is then only drawing from the flat, and not from the solid, because he sees no solid; he only sees a surface of two dimensions, and this he could see just as well from a square drawn on the blackboard or in his book. But the enthusiast still answers, the child is pleased and stimulated, because his square is the representation of a real thing, a solid. My answer is, that here is the great deception: this square that the child has drawn is not in any sense a representation or a picture of a cube. Any characteristic drawing of a cube must show that it is a solid — must show that it has three dimensions. A square can be no more the picture of a cube than it is of millions of square prisms of all imaginable dimensions and proportions. Perhaps you ask, what does the square represent? It only represents itself. It is an entity independent of all cubes and square prisms. Cubes and square prisms depend for their existence on the square, but the square does not depend on them.
Further, in this same primary school where object-drawing is said to be taught, the teacher presents a cylinder and asks the pupils to draw a front view of it, and the pupils draw a rectangle of some kind. The children do not see a rectangle, and cannot see one unless the cylinder happens to be just as long as the distance between their eyes and the axis is placed parallel with a line joining the eyes. This rectangle, then, cannot possibly be a picture of an ordinary right cylinder. A characteristic drawing of a right cylinder, to be recognized as such, must contain at least one ellipse; generally, however, it contains two.
We might present other examples of model-drawing, falsely so called, but these are sufficient to show that its advocates have really abandoned the essential thing in object-drawing in primary schools, and are only clinging to the name because, perhaps, it fascinates pupils, parents and teachers who have not yet discovered its falsity.
In this connection, we desire to call attention to a popular arrangement of the subjects pertaining to drawing that should be taught in public schools; here it is: Constructive Drawing, Representative or Pictorial Drawing, and Decorative Drawing. This looks well on paper, and sounds well to the ear; but it will not bear philosophical investigation, nor will it in the end stand the test of practical experience. The natural order of form-study, which only needs to be stated to be understood, is as follows:
1. The making of real objects in three dimensions, as they exist in spacethat is, the forming of objects in some kind of matter.
2. The decoration of real objects.
Schools are the artificial product of an artificial state of society. We cannot do in the schools everything that the race has done outside of them. We may, however, introduce some types of the different kinds of activities that have occupied the energies of the race.
Under the first head, for instance, we cannot make many things, but we can model the types of all things in clay, and make them of cardboard and sheet-metal.
After the making of a thing, the natural order is to decorate it. This calls forth exercise of the taste; and its cultivation is the most practical and valuable result of the proper study of drawing.
After an object is made and decorated, the third and most abstract step of all is to draw the object pictorially on a flat surface. Even a slight acquaintance with history will convince one that this has been the world's order of evolution or development.
The question will now be asked, “What is to be done with constructive drawing ?” If constructive drawing is to come into any schools except the technical schools, it should come last, and not first. It is an arbitrary language, founded on descriptive geometry. It is not drawing, properly so called, any more than hieroglyphics is drawing. It is true there is a certain