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The Fine Arts Department deserves high praise for the strides made during the last three years. It has given several exhibitions in the Fogg Museum which have awakened a more general interest. It has produced for the first time in New England a collection of the paintings of Degas, the great French master. Two years ago it widened the selection of courses by introducing its first course on Italian painting. Next year this course is to be supplemented by one devoted to the Venetian school. And to all persons who are considering the possibility of taking one of the Fine Arts courses, it will be of interest to learn that the preliminary course, Fine Arts 1, is to be altered. There will be two lectures a week instead of one, and the history of painting will be more emphasized than the technical side.
Notwithstanding all this, the fact remains, that the Fine Arts Department is deplorably weak. The number of courses which are now being given on the history of Fine Arts for both College and graduate students amounts to six. These six courses supplemented by six more on freehand drawing and painting, complete the whole scope of the department.
In the first place, it seems a little curious that with the advantages of two of the best galleries in America close at hand, the historical side of Fine Arts is not more emphasized. Would it not be surprising if the English department gave only six courses on English literature? And yet English literature holds very much the same relation toward English composition as the history of art holds toward freehand drawing.
Six courses, moreover, are lamentably few to cover the whole field of art. The courses given on German literature alone,--a subject which holds a place among European languages analagous to that of Italian painting among the schools of every period,--amount to twenty-five. The range of Fine Arts would be probably considered as comprehensive as that of Engineering, which requires four times the number of courses; or that for instance of Geology and Mining, which both contain twice as many courses. In fact it is only when we get down to topics such as Petrology and Metallurgy that Fine Arts can begin to hold its own.
And what do these six courses cover? They skip superficially over ancient art they deal with certain phases of the Renaissance, and they take up the process of engraving. True, there are two courses on Archaeology given by Dr. Chase which supplement the study of ancient art. But there is absolutely no mention whatever of the German and Dutch schools, of the later French schools, of portraiture or modern painting, of the Preraphaelite or English school with the sole exception of Turner. Indeed, one-half of the subject is dictatorially passed over. Is not this a rather serious neglect of so important a sphere of general culture as Fine Arts?
Of course it is easier to censure than to create. Nevertheless there is great room for improvement. Not only might more courses be given, but a series of courses might be arranged during alternating years to cover more completely the whole field of Fine Arts.
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