While most areas in the humanities, especially History and Literature, are overcrowded, the Fine Arts Department manages to attract only 25 Harvard concentrators. And a higher than average proportion are in Group IV or lower. There is no reason why a department with such superb physical facilities should not be more popular, particularly in a college which emphasizes the liberal education. The problem lies not in the nature of the subject, but in the department's failure to orient its program toward the undergraduate.
A University department has an obligation to three groups: its graduate students, its undergraduate concentrators, and students from other areas who have a definite interest in the field. It is not easy to strike a proper balance between these interests, and the task is especially complicated in Fine Arts. The department does an excellent job on the graduate level, but its introductory and middle-group courses have failed to attract new concentrators or provide enough general courses for non-concentrators.
Its main survey course, Fine Arts 13, is an introduction to the field. But because of a wide gap between this elementary course and highly specialized middle group courses, Fine Arts 13, though excellent in many respects, has proved to be both the beginning and the end of most students' experience in the arts. The gap was only partially filled two years ago, when the department added Fine Arts 14 to the catalogue. With a new professor appointed to teach it, end a fresh, interpretive approach to original works of art, Fine Arts 14 provided another source of interest for the undergraduate. By appointing a man who was interested in teaching at the introductory levels, the department took a decisive step towards improvement. Unfortunately, this professor has left the College, and Fine Arts 14 will probably not be given next year. Since the only other lower level courses deal with practical work in painting and sculpture, just the single survey course may remain.
The middle level courses, open to both graduate and undergraduate students, provide little added incentive for the non-concentrator. Generally oriented towards training professional art historians, these courses are usually too specialized to arouse much interest. But because they must supply the needs of many graduate students who lack a complete background in the field, this narrowness is almost unavoidable.
It is therefore most important for the department to add to its lower level courses and to use these to attract more concentrators. Fine Arts 14 with its interpretive approach should be preserved and perhaps extended to a full course. By integrating it with Fine Arts 13, both historical and interpretive approaches could be covered more adequately. And to improve its undergraduate areas, the department must fill its coming vacancies with more men who are interested in teaching at the introductory levels.