I was all set to get through my history pre req this first summer session with Western Civ, but it was cancelled at the last minute. The choices were slim for the evening classes so I enrolled in Art Appreciation.
It’s an art through the ages intensive, but all in all there are worse ways to spend ones evenings than looking at beautiful works of art. In our first class we contemplated the possible reasons for Paleolithic and Neolithic cave paintings. I saw an interesting documentary years ago, (read: I cannot remember the name of it) that suggested a lot of the art was hallucinogenic-ally generated. They went to Africa to talk to Bushmen whom at least had memories of relatives in similar ceremonies producing very similar images: Dots, or spotting that one might experience while on drugs, grid lines, hand prints (babies and people tripping seem to love their own hands).
I read The Story of Art to my children by E.H. Grombich a couple of years back, and it is a wonderful art history book (his book A Little History of the World is also excellent for the under 10 crowd). He didn’t discuss the hallucinogens, but he had a lovely attitude concerning art’s evolution. In his interpretation art does not “improve” or get better, it simply changes and builds upon former ages and techniques. The only problem with the book was that I got it used from Amazon and its previous owner had obviously been a smoker. Now, whenever I look at art, I feel as though I ought to be holding a cigarette.
Sister Wendy also does a wonderful job of presenting art to the masses. Every time I think of her I hear her saying, “Mr. Degas, I don’t think I like you.” Oh my, she is sweet. Simon Schama is another good art/historian documentarian and writer. Last summer I read the first half of his hulking Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution (I harbor high hopes of finishing it this summer), his attention to artist Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun’s influence on the softening attitudes of the hoi polloi towards Marie Antoinette (and the emerging age of Romanticism) were very interesting (alas, poor Marie, too little too late- c’est la vie).
I did not mention the drug induced painting theory in class- don’t want to make the wrong impression; but then when I got home and read the text, there it was- already a well accepted theory. Now if I can just manage to stay alert after 8 pm I may be okay- I just have to remember to bring a supply of my drug of choice: chocolate.