Art History Transformed

By Cardenas, Tracey Ellyn | School Arts, May 1999 | Go to article overview

Art History Transformed


Cardenas, Tracey Ellyn, School Arts


Students have a tremendous responsibility lying ahead of them, that of advancing civilization. In order to do so, they must first understand the past, so that life may be cultivated based on experience and transformation. Students of art must understand the historical and cultural context under which art was created so that they may communicate with a contemporary artistic vision in an effective manner.

Historical and Cultural Context

We first study nineteenth- and twentieth-century art by introducing many slides, visuals, books, and videos. The students learn the various art movements, from Impressionism through Post-Modernism. We discuss the philosophies and lifestyles of the eras and how they may have affected the arts. We also research the lives of the artists who painted these masterpieces. What were they thinking or feeling? What were they going through, both individually and collectively? Which might have influenced their works? What were they trying to communicate? Did they succeed? How might we some day communicate what we go through, both individually and collectively, and how can we succeed?

The Language of Art

A thorough investigation of these masterpieces must always include an in-depth examination of the use of the art elements and design principles. This is the language of art. It speaks to us visually through line, color, shape, value, texture, form, space, contrast, balance, emphasis, pattern, rhythm, movement, and unity. We discuss this language and graphically represent each element and principle with cut or torn colored paper. Students get to manipulate each element and principle. They practice them in various stages and degrees of exaggeration and visualizing what happens when they are not used at all. …

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