“If people only knew how hard I work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all… Genius is
eternal patience.” – Michelangelo Buonarroti
Just as the classical paradigm merges supernal ideas with natural forms, training at the academy will have a dual focus of cultivating the capacities of artistic conception while honing skills of observation.
This will entail training the memory and the imagination as well as visual accuracy, and studying the laws and tendencies in nature as well as the character and parameters of the material language of art.
Courses will include: cast drawing, cast painting, still life, portraiture, master copying, history of technique, composition and design, sacred geometry, archetypal anatomy, structural drawing, perspective, color theory, plein-air and landscape painting, imaginative realism, studying the model from life in drawing, painting and sculpture, with the totality of these courses finally culminating in multi-figurative compositions. Patterned after the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 19th century Paris, there will be competitions and awards throughout every facet of the program, including a Prix de Rome competition.
“Let whoever may have attained to so much as to have the power of drawing know that he holds a great
treasure.” – Michelangelo Buonarroti
Drawing is the artist’s first language and primary skill, the root from which painting and sculpture grow. It is the most universal of all visual language, the most primitive and the most native to human expression. As such, drawing is the most pure, direct, and immediate translation of artistic impulse.
The essence of this impulse and the strength of this language is line. The raw simplicity of marking a surface with the hand’s movement is at once an act of both the mind and the body. Every line is a trail of the “action thought,” a human record of the synergy of the inner and the outer being. Excellence in this precious skill opens the door to the artist’s greatest achievements.
“The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” – Michelangelo Buonarroti
The ancient craft of sculpting has given a rich legacy to its sister arts, being the first of the visual arts to fulfill its classical potential. Ancient sculpture became the perfect medium to embody classical concepts within classical forms, the most tangible and measurable manifestation of ethereal ideas of the human figure.
It remains the template for studying the artistic vocabulary of the body and canons of sacred proportion, being the three-dimensional mediation from which painting and drawing derive their two-dimensional interpretations of nature. Any study of the classical forms of drawing and painting is incomplete without a study of sculpture.
“For me a work of art must be an elevated interpretation of nature. The search for the ideal has been the
purpose of my life.” – William Adolphe Bouguereau
Built upon the traditions of drawing and sculpture, the grand objective of classical painting throughout the ages was not to faithfully replicate nature, but to intelligently translate it. The idea of replication is a mechanical practice brought by the advent of the camera.
Classical painting is governed by artistic intelligence and intent, a process of purposeful emphasis and insightful filtering, adapted to the limitations of two-dimensions and the parameters of the material qualities of paint. Photo realism, on the other hand, is a modern convention with none of the craft and acumen of artistic translation, owing more to the conventions of photography than to the traditions of art history.
In contrast, the intent of the great masters was fidelity to the essence and feeling of nature through qualitative rather than quantitative “veritas” (truthfulness).
“When we build, let us think that we build forever.” – John Ruskin
The sacred temple, the eternal habitation, the immortal monument—these are the motivations and manifestations of classical architecture.
While the visual arts reflect nature, architecture projects from nature, an appendage of mother earth that encircles the mortal or extends toward the immortal. Of the sister arts, it is the most obscure expression of earthly forms but the most direct expression of cosmic laws. It is also the most integrated with the purposes and priorities of the living.
Reconciling aesthetics with physics, great architecture is the signature of the civilized and the landmark of accomplishment.
“Copy always the finest works…By continual study you shall accustom yourself to their forms and master them so thoroughly that you will be able to put [them] to use…in each your works.” –Giovan Battista Armenini
Understanding art begins with seeing the greatness of the masters before us. This understanding multiplies by mastercopying, an exercise not just of seeing, but of doing—and then of acquiring—those qualities we seek. It is to follow the footpath, not just admire the mountain.
With every step we become better acquainted with the genius and the genesis of greatness. To move the hand and the mind in emulation compels us to consider the thinking of the master on a level that the browsing eye cannot attain. This process also imposes the highest of habits in the creative and technical process, which will then govern our own personal expressions.
“These [plaster heads cast from antique statues] are my teachers, and you will be able to extract from them the
same lineaments as I do, if you have enough talent.” – Guido Reni
Studying from plaster casts highlights the essential ideas of light and form. These examples from classical sculpture embody the distillation of natural forms into aesthetic statements.
Understanding the structure within the surface and the intelligence of its design coincides with drawing its two dimensional reconstruction. From the primary division of light and shadow to the most nuanced subdivisions of tone, studying the effect of light on simple plaster lays the foundation for the most complex endeavors of describing the visual world.
“In order to attain the highest perfection in painting it is necessary to understand the antique, nay to
be so thoroughly possessed of this knowledge that it may diffuse itself everywhere.” –Peter Paul Rubens
Cast painting is an effective introduction to the nature of color and to the language of describing the character of form through the medium of paint. The visual simplicity of a white plaster cast allows careful and critical study of color relationships that otherwise might be missed in objects of intense color. Everything shows on white—including the subtle temperature shifts imposed by the light. Thus a plaster cast can be the birthplace of any color statement and the training ground for the same governing principles in flesh tone.
Additionally, cast painting will focus on using the qualities of paint to effectively translate the three dimensional world. Students will lean on these skills with every future brushstroke, preparing them for the more challenging undertakings to come.
STUDYING FROM LIFE
“The long and painful interaction between ideal form remembered and natural appearances is the foundation of all great drawings, from Michelangelo to Degas.” –Kenneth Clark
Studying directly from life has little to do with a cameralike action, for the artist’s translation progresses slowly, every moment its own dilemma of judgment, every line in living dialogue with the possibilities of creation, each stroke building upon the previous toward a synthesis of the artist’s depth of knowledge and the model’s unexpected insights.
Even the simplest drawing from life is a carefully crafted essay, composed of many moments of discovery and comprehension, having layers of struggle and breakthrough wholly absent from the split-second snapshot of an unthinking and uncaring camera.
What the camera scarfs up like a wolf, the artist must nibble away like a lamb, but in the process something is uncovered just as it must be revealed, apropos to the human mind, and thus to the classical method.
LANDSCAPE & PLEINAIR PAINTING
“The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something…to see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion—all in one.” –John Ruskin
Standing as an honored guest before the majesty of Nature, the artist must know when to listen and when to speak, when to curtsy and when to question. All the training in composition, color, and visual description is but preparation to be a ready steward of whatever precious insights are revealed.
This is where color theory meets its model, where the artist must learn to dance between the nature of color and the color of Nature. Here artistic technique is engaged as a translator in the battlefield of light and shadow, atmosphere and form, pulsating vitality and inert substance. If the artist can capture hence some fleeting insight, this gift from Nature can be an enduring testimonial where it might otherwise be missed.
“The individual human organism in its form, function, and essence represents the ordering principles of the entire universe.” –Robert Lawlor
Archetypal anatomy is the study of the powers and principles at play on the structural and superficial forms of the human figure. From studying surface morphology to muscular anatomy to skeletal structure, we learn that the deepest part of us is also that which is most universal. It is in this inner realm we begin to see the causes of the outer forms, and from this paradigm grows many familiar classical interpretations of the human body.
This method also provides the best framework by which to conceive and construct the figure, enabling the classicist to be a figurative artist of imagination, not just of imitation.
“Their most celebrated works…thus wrought with such pains, now appear like the effect of enchantment,
and as if some mighty Genius had struck them off at a blow.” –Sir Joshua Reynolds
Monumental history painting, the pinnacle of the painter’s artistic ambition and classical expression, largely remains a ghost of the past, buried with other magnificent statements and epic allegories that were common when classicists were at the helm of the humanities. Today, the great key that has been lacking at virtually every traditionally oriented art school has been multifigurative compositions.
Without concept and conviction driving every aspect of the art, the grand manner becomes the “grand meander”—overarching swag with underwhelming scope. Certain academies have made remarkable strides among subjects confined to studio poses, but few have understood how the methods of the masters were meant first and foremost to serve the imagination.
Aspiring classicists must reclaim not just a command of craft and beauty, but of creativity and vision.
“Now the sole reason why painters of this sort are not aware of their own error is that they have not
learned geometry, without which no one can either be or become an absolute artist.” –Albrecht Durer
Geometry is the armature of nature and the scaffolding of aesthetics. As an eternal language, it exists concurrent with all of creation and predates its own use. Dealing solely with archetypal forms, geometric concepts operate in a domain outside time or matter, belonging to a set of nonphysical truths that govern physical things and measure the intangible relationship between tangible things.
Therefore, geometry is the qualitative measure of quantitative things, being the idea-form of nature. Further, as both a language of measure and a language of symbolism, sacred geometry is also the quantitative measure of qualitative things, being the form-idea of art.
It is therefore the mean between the laws of the universe and the laws of aesthetics, justifying the claim that Classicism, the philosophy flowing from geometry, is the aesthetic as timeless as the cosmos, natural and sensible to any that have or yet will inhabit this universe. As such, we cannot commune with the ancients without delving into its mysteries, and we cannot ensure an audience into the eternities without employing its principles.
RELIEF & ORNAMENT
“Rhythm imposes unanimity upon the divergent, melody imposes continuity upon the disjointed, and
harmony imposes compatibility upon the incongruous.” — Yehudi Menuhi
Throughout the course of history ornament has been used as the mean between the figurative and the geometric, the habitat and the inhabitant, speaking and affirming to us using symbols our history, ideals and beliefs. It is a language that artists must learn order to contribute to the symphony of the sister-arts made up of painting, sculpture and architecture, where in any given project one may take center-stage and others the supporting role.