Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Botticelli and Art Academy

A few years ago, when I was waiting for subway in San Francisco, I read a new artist monograph I just bought. A young woman with a large portfolio approached me and introduced herself as an art student from Israel. At that time, there are many such Israeli art students roaming in the city with portfolios trying to make some quick sales.

After I told her that I was not able to buy any of her works, she asked about the large art book I was reading. I told her that it was on Botticelli but she showed no recognition of the name. I wondered if the name should have difference sound in Hebrew so I showed her several images as iconic as Venus de Milo and Leonardo's Mona Lisa, such as Birth of Venus and Primavera. To my amusement, she recognized none of these images either.

I asked her about the education she received from her art academy and to my dismay, they didn't deem necessary to enlighten their students of the masterpieces in the past. Understandably, one don't want to become Botticelli the Minor, but being ignorant of these old masters only limited art student's vision and knowledge. Many times, when a "new" thing was made, it could be very well traced to the old creations. Quite often, I was startled by how modern an old painting was.

Artworks are not just interesting patterns. It should have layers and layers of meanings, like drama and sonnets of William Shakespeare, however big or small the format. Without the solid understanding of the things past, one must struggle to express anything meaningful and new, to the vast sediment of human history.

It's hard to image that if a person wants to be a writer but has not learned the existence of Goethe or Shakespeare. Is fine art so inferior? I hope not.

Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli, c. 1486
Nascita di Venere (Birth of Venus), Sandro Botticelli

Primavera, Sandro Botticelli

Venus and Mars, Sandro Botticelli
Venus and Mars

1 comment:

  1. I, too, was visited by Israeli art students in Seattle in June 2001 who knew nothing about art. Six months later, I learned via Fox News that the Mossad (Israel intelligence agents) were posing as Israeli art students visiting government employees and defense installations - and apparently political activists like myself. I write about this and the seamier side of US intelligence in my recent memoir THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ACT: MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN REFUGEE (www.stuartbramhall.com). I currently live in exile in New Zealand.