login    password    artist  buyer  gallery  
Not a member? Register
Indepth Arts News:

"Drawn to Art: Art Education and the American Experience, 1800-1950"
2003-08-04 until 2004-01-04
Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
San Marino, CA, USA

The emergence of art instruction in this country and the democratic ideals that made art education accessible to all youngsters, not just the privileged elite, are explored in a new exhibition at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Opening August 2 and continuing through January 4, "Drawn to Art: Art Education and the American Experience, 1800-1950" will showcase the materials and methods used for teaching art to young Americans in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Among the 79 objects on display in the West Hall of the Library are vintage paint boxes, Victorian-era coloring books, stencil kits, slates, tracing books, drawing manuals, crayons and colored pencils, books on educational theory, and a Chautauqua combination drawing board and writing desk from the late 19th century.

The material is drawn primarily from the Diana Korzenik Art Education Collection, an archive of more than 1,400 artifacts, books, and ephemera donated to The Huntington by Boston educator Diana Korzenik in 1997. The collection complements The Huntington's own extensive holdings in American history and art, creating an incomparable resource for the study of art education in the United States.

National support for art instruction began with the idea, popularized during the mid-19th century, that art is a worthwhile pursuit for all, not just for aspiring artists or the upper classes. The democratization of art education in this country in turn led to a reconsideration of its place in American public schools. Yet, despite persuasive arguments made for art education from the 1800s right up to the present, public support for mandatory art instruction in the schools has fluctuated. The exhibit enables visitors to reflect on the role art plays in education today as they view it in a historical context.

Many of the individuals whose ideas first began to shape American attitudes toward art education were Europeans. Among these were British artist Joshua Reynolds, whose Discourses at the Royal Academy (1820), on display in the exhibition, was one of the most influential publications in the history of Western art. Swiss educator Johann Pestalozzi, a follower of Rousseau, and Pestalozzi's disciple, German pedagogue Friedrich Froebel, taught that art instruction - drawing or manipulation of tangible objects - enhanced children's understanding of the conceptual. American artists such as Rembrandt Peale, John Gadsby Chapman, and John Rubens Smith also wrote influential works on the subject, espousing the belief that drawing was a skill within reach of all.

Leading educators and social reformers of the 19th century saw art education not just as an aesthetic exercise but as a way of facilitating cognitive learning and the development of useful skills. Materials such as blocks, modeling clay, paper weaving kits and parquetry tiles-several examples of which are on view-cultivated children's innate ability to reason and observe. In an increasingly industrial society, drawing and design were marketable skills, as sought-after in an educated workforce as the "Three Rs."

"Art also provided students with a medium for spiritual enrichment and the understanding of self," says Cathy Cherbosque, curator of historical prints and ephemera at The Huntington and curator of the exhibition. "Over the course of the twentieth century, educators increasingly promoted the notion that children learn to see their artistic creations as reflections of self. Art making provided opportunities to relate that self to other individuals and cultures."

Art education brought commercial benefits, as well. Businesses recognized that their own interests could be served by linking art to products as diverse as coffee and pianos through small promotional booklets meant for drawing and coloring. Several of these graphically appealing booklets are displayed. Fleischmann Co.'s "Easy Drawing for Little Ones" (circa 1890), the "Dutch Boy's Jingle Paint Book" (1921), the "Heinz Kindergarten Book No. 5: Pictures to Trace, Jingles to Learn," (circa 1910) and Singer Sewing Machine Co.'s "The Singer Drawing Book for Young Artists" (circa 1900) all built brand loyalty while teaching youngsters how to draw.

Formal drawing manuals are also on view, ranging from The Compleat Drawing-Master, published in 1763, to Learn to Draw with Jon Gnagy, familiar to many art students from the 1950s. These and other manuals indicate a gradual shift away from rigid exercises towards methods that encouraged spontaneity and individuality. Other developments in art education that are traced in the exhibition are the expansion of art materials for home and classroom, an increased emphasis on self-expression, the use of art to promote patriotism and serve practical needs during wartime, and an awareness of other cultures.

Enhancing the exhibition are nearly two dozen photographic images on loan from the collection of Lillian Moats and Christie Ann Hewlett depicting children engaged in art making at Children's House, a non-profit community art center in Detroit during the 1930's and 1940's. A continuous video presentation will feature a 16mm film of young artists at Children's House in Detroit, Michigan, circa 1940.

LECTURE: Diana Korzenik will give a public lecture entitled "The Changing Concept of Artistic Giftedness" on Wednesday, October 8, at 7:30 p.m. Admission to the lecture is free. Information: (626) 405-2100.

Copyright The Huntington

Related Links:


Discover over 150,000 works of contemporary art. Search by medium, subject matter, price and theme... research over 200,000 works by over 22,000 masters in the indepth art history section. Browse through new Art Blogs. Use our advanced artwork search interface.

Call for Artists, Premiere Portfolio sign-up for your Free Portfolio or create an Artist Portfolio today and sell your art at the marketplace for contemporary Art! Start a Gallery Site to exclusively showcase your gallery. Keep track of contemporary art with your free MYabsolutearts account.


Copyright 1995-2013. World Wide Arts Resources Corporation. All rights reserved