Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 62.djvu/467

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of furniture are fingerposts to character. We see, in turn, the homes of the loquacious, the conventional, the shallow, the vain, the sincere, the refined, the deceitful, the vulgar; in fact most human virtues and weaknesses are unconsciously stamped on man's chosen surroundings. Such a study of decorative art will fit the student to take up, in the same way, other branches of art, and finally painting and sculpture.

Although now recognized by a few people that these two subjects may be intelligently studied without learning to paint or model, their true educational value is lost through the manner of teaching them. Either they are taught as purely sentimental subjects with which rude facts have nothing to do—as though they possessed some mysterious essence of beauty too ethereal to touch or think on; or else, like chemical substances, they are analyzed into their elements, the relation of their parts determined mathematically and the mannerisms of the artists' pointed out and carefully noted down. Now while certain attributes of a painting and the balance of its parts are curious, and, for certain purposes, important items of knowledge, to single them out and teach them for their own sake, supposing it to be the study of art, is not unlike the mistake of the foolish virgins. The few features of a painting made use of to build up appreciation must be judiciously selected as witnesses to testify to the character of the art and thus assist the student to arrive at a just esthetic decision. The choice of facts for teaching art is determined by the capacity of the learners and like the pawns on a chess board, their value lies in the way they are used. Every choice that man makes illustrates the truth that all appreciation roots in experience; it therefore follows that a work of art is a sealed book to the spectator unless it deals with phenomena which are related to his mental world. For this reason, it is unwise to place before pupils paintings and statues which lead them into a foreign world of ideas and customs. The subject-matter should be explainable by the pupil 's experience, leaving the art as the only new thing. As the character of pictures should be determined by the age and understanding of the pupils, rather than by the glory of the work of art, it naturally follows that for young people it is wise to select those works which portray familiar features of their known world. Our cities contain first-rate collections of modern art which can be thoroughly studied instead of making use of photographs of old masters, so foreign to the pupils. This will not seem so difficult if once recognized that a museum is not a storehouse, but a laboratory.

All art instruction, however good it may be, is bound to remain incomplete unless the school-room, its background, is brought into harmony with it. This can not be done by merely hanging the walls with pictures, as is clearly shown by the attempts in two of our large cities. The class-rooms in at least one public school in each of these