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Art and history in perspective.

Some art teachers consider perspective essential to the art program: others feel it is too technical and that its rigid roles don't interface with expressive "art" objectives. Yet, if Giotto, Masaccio, Botticelli, Leonardo, Durer, Rembrandt, Piranesi and other masters gave so much attention to perspective, how can we discard it as nonessential?

The ability to render space and shapes realistically through perspective fascinates people in general. Students experience a great deal of satisfaction when they are able to attain that "real look." Many students ask that they be taught how to draw like Escher.

Students should know perspective but how can we teach it effectively in the artroom? How can we show the students the principle of foreshortening in the confines of a classroom when we all know that large spaces and volumes are essential if we are to observe those principles? We are compelled to take our students outdoors where they can see buildings get smaller as they recede into space.

Of course, if one happens to live and teach in a region where there's a wealth of beautiful or interesting architecture, it's a welcome advantage. This author happens to teach in an American high school in the Apulia region of Italy. This region abounds with hundreds of Medieval castles, towers and fortresses of the Norman and Swabish period. The architecture is Byzantine, Romanesque or Gothic, and in many cases, more than one style is reflected in the same building.

First, the basics of one-and two-point perspective were covered in class through demonstrations and exercises. Our students were then ready to walk through and around interesting architecture, to experience the space within and without and to choose a point of view and sketch it. This approach to perspective has many advantages. The challenge of on-site sketching, coupled with a discussion on the architecture and history in the various buildings, complements the art activity, adding a humanistic touch to the experience.

Not all students experience immediate success while practicing perspective outdoors. In fact, many realize that working in the classroom from a photograph of a building and sketching an actual building are two very different things. It is important for the teacher to walk among the students to spot those who are having difficulties. In most cases, once the horizon line, vanishing point and a main wall are located, the rest follows naturally.

Fernando Nicotera teaches art in a Department of Defense American high school in Italy.
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Title Annotation:teaching art through perspective study
Author:Nicotera, Fernando
Publication:School Arts
Date:May 1, 1991
Words:407
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