The Wall Street Journal announced last week that Yale will no longer offer its famous survey course, “Introduction to Art History: Renaissance to the Present.” It was taught for decades by Vincent Joseph Scully, Jr., one of Yale’s most celebrated professors, who often attracted casual visitors and packed houses and regularly received standing ovations.
The course was an enthralling introduction to a system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or natural powers.
The class is being discontinued for all the reasons we now hear all too often – “It’s focus is too white, too European, too male, too problematic” – and confirmed by the chairman of the art history department, Tim Barringer.
Barringer will instead teach a course that challenges such Eurocentrism and promises to be very up-to-date, introducing a global perspective.
“Naturally,” Barringer writes, “the course will consider art in relation to questions of gender, class and race, with race explored as simply a social construct. The class will also ponder arts involvement with Western capitalism.”
The Yale Daily News added that art’s relationship with climate change will be a key theme of the class, observing that this is Yale’s latest response to student uneasiness over an idealized Western canon.
While I am not a graduate of an Ivy League school, I was blessed with art history instruction by art curators from world-class museums, several of whom were educated at Yale. While not enamored with world history, in and of itself, the history of art forced me into the timeline of world events.
In studying Matisse, Picasso, and others from the School of Paris, I was introduced to the aesthetics of traditional African sculpture that became a powerful influence on European artists.
While these artists may not have understood the meaning and function of African sculptures, they certainly recognized the spiritual aspect of these compositions and adapted these qualities to move beyond the naturalism that had defined Western art.
Likewise, the Orient, i.e., Turkey, Greece, Middle East, North Africa, exerted its allure on the imaginations of Western artists. Until the Renaissance, Europeans had little contact with the East.
Middle Eastern dress makes an appearance in the artworks of Veronese, Rembrandt and Bellini. European presence in Egypt attracted Western travelers to the Middle East, capturing impressions in paint.
Documenting these exotic cultures had profound effects on architecture and decorative arts of the Empire Period. The strengths of these Orientalist images remained undiminished into the 20th century and are found in the artworks of Renoir, Kandisky and Kokoshka, among others.
Art from the past holds clues to life no longer existing. We can learn about the culture that produced an artwork by deciphering the symbolism within the colors, textures. By comparing artworks providing different perspectives, we can look at events, situations, people, in a well-rounded way.
By analyzing artworks from the past we can rewind time and experience a time period different from our own. Examining art from the past contributes to who we are as people and expands our understanding of other cultures.
TONIGHT: New Artists, New Works! Gallery 195, Feb 7, 4 to 7 p.m.. Join artists and partners in welcoming nine new artists to the Gallery. Join in an evening of art and wine to view the new works, and to meet the artists. 195 S. Main Street, Boerne. 830-331-9904. www.gallery195.com.
TONIGHT: Mark Holly Creative Photography and Digital Artwork reception, Helotes Gallery,
Feb 7, 6:30 to 9 p.m. Join the gallery artists for an exhibit – that continues through Feb 29 – and reception celebrating Mark Holly’s photography and digital art. 14391 Old Bandera Road, Helotes. 210-370-9204. www.helotesgallery.com.
TOMORROW: Second Saturday Art Walk, Surprise your Sweetheart .. .with Art! The Carriage House Gallery, Feb 8, 4 to 7 p.m. Special: Up to 30 percent off for first 14 art buyers through the door. Chocolate, hors d’oeurves, live music. 110 Rosewood Ave., Boerne. 830-248-1184. www.carriagehousegallerytx.com.
Art AfterHours Spring Series, Hill Country Council for the Arts, decorative arts methodology classes. Pioneer House, the AgriCultural Museum and Arts Center, 102 City Park Rd., Boerne:
March 3 – Beginning Jewelry. 10 a.m. to noon or 7 to 9 p.m.
March 31 – Wood Burning. 10 a.m. to noon or 7 to 9 p.m.
April 7 – Alcohol Ink Painting. 10 a.m. to noon or 7 to 9 p.m.
April 21 – Paper Making. 7 to 9 p.m.
May 12 – Marbleizing with Suminagashi Ink. 7 to 9 p.m.
May 26 – Shibori with Indigo Dye. 7 to 9 p.m.
$35 each class or $190 for all six. Register today at www.hccarts.org
Watercolor Rock Formations with Robert Ruhmann, Hill Country Arts Foundation (HCAF). Feb. 29, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Learn about painting rock formations from this award-winning artist. Robert uses watercolors, oils and acrylics; however, his favorite medium is watercolor. He loves painting rock formations, landscapes and seascapes. 120 Point Theatre Rd., S., Ingram. $75 HCAF members or $95 non-members. Call to register: 830-367-5121; www.hcaf.com for workshop supply list.