Monday, February 01, 2010

Who was Herr Cižek? A puzzle for CMers

"Forms V and VI are asked to,––"Describe, with study in sepia, Corot's 'Evening.'" Beyond this of a rough study from memory of a given picture or of any section of it, these picture studies do not afford much material for actual drawing; they are never copied lest an attempt to copy should lessen a child's reverence for great work. We are shy in speaking of what we do in actual drawing since Herr Cizek came among us and shewed what great things children could do with scarcely any obvious teaching and but little suggestion. But probably such work is only to be done under the inspiration of an artist of unusual powers and I am writing for teachers who depend upon their children rather than upon themselves." --Charlotte Mason, Philosophy of Education, page 216

Wikipedia says that Franz Cižek (12 June 1865 – 17 December 1946) "was an Austrian genre and portrait painter as well as a teacher and reformer of art education."

"Cizek regarded himself as a man liberating children from slavery to copying. Adult influences were banned from the Juvenile Art Class; Cizek considered that these were actually harmful. He did not allow pictures by adults although pictures by children were constantly displayed. His pupils were expected to rely only on their own memory and imagination."--from "Christmas: pictures by children, 1922 Special Collections featured item for December 2006" by Ruth Gooding, Cataloguer

Some of the children's Christmas-themed paintings are included in that link, and they're amazing.

Does that theory contradict the idea of having children do picture study of famous paintings by adults, and sometimes do quick memory sketches of them? Apparently not completely, since Miss Mason seemed impressed by what Cižek had brought to art education.

But she also seemed to be saying that our own limitations might force us to adopt a different approach to art instruction--possibly in the same way that a teaching parent who isn't fluent in French would have to approach lessons differently from a native speaker, or someone a little shy of the outdoors would do nature walks from a different perspective from a born naturalist. A symphony musician will likely depend less on commercial music education materials than someone who needs everything spelled out. I kind of like Miss Mason's thought here that "I am writing for teachers who depend upon their children rather than upon themselves." I think she's saying that we're not all going to be able to offer our children such a magical experience as classes with Herr Cižek. Or--we're not going to be able to treat ourselves to an education class with Charlotte Mason!

And some people take that as an argument against homeschooling at all. Shouldn't everything be taught by specialists, experts, people who have made each subject their life's joy?

As homeschoolers, we may sometimes lack live, right-here teachers; but the world of books, not to mention DVDs, television, radio and the Internet, is open to us. The world of creation speaks to each of our hearts, and those who have gone before have recorded their discoveries. Through all the varieties of recorded music, we can learn from the best performers of the last century. We have community-based opportunities of all kinds, if it's live experts we insist on; or, lacking that, we can do what Binky Barnes had the foresight to do before our family even had an Internet connection: email the experts. Politely, of course.

Nobody's an expert in everything. But curiosity and enthusiasm may make up for what we don't think we know enough about.

Homeschooling isn't always an ideal world.

But you know what we have? An idea world.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

This is fascinating! Thank you for digging up the information on Cizek. Hmmmmm...

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