Fine Arts and the Artist

When the Overseers' "Report on the Visual Arts" made its appearance last year, it attracted enthusiastic attention nationally and raised hopes at Harvard for a revision of the fine arts program. Last week, an eightman faculty committee vetoed what that report had called its "major recommendation," provision for a "Division of the Visual Arts."

The Overseers, in suggesting the creation of such a division, had come to recognize what many undergraduates feel is an unfortunate flaw in Harvard's art program--that little attention is paid to problems of the creative artist. The prevailing sentiment at Fogg was perhaps best expressed by Professor Rosenberg when he announced that creativity in the fine arts program is totally "extra-curricular," opposing it to the "proper guidance" which the department now offers. It is precisely this point of view which has driven many would-be art majors into a substitute field such as Architectural Sciences, which offers some training in graphic technique.

Analysis and historical study, Fogg's present approach to art, are of course, of the greatest pertinence to the study of art. But this approach is necessarily short of the complete picture. The artist's approach is not historical, but creative. It is unsatisfying both to the student who wishes to understand his subject fully and to the student who harbors ambitions to paint or sculpt himself, to teach fine arts without imparting some understanding of the creative process. If an understanding of creativity, its drives and disciplines, are fundamental to the artist, it is inconceivable to assume that they are "extracurricular" to the art student.

The reason for rejection of a "Division of the Visual Arts" is that it would be an unnecessary and unwieldy administrative organ. Instead, another faculty committee is suggested which would "encourage cooperation between parts of the University which have to do with the visual arts." It is never the less highly questionable whether a committee could cope sufficiently with so large a project as the creation and execution of a "new sense of direction" in regard to the visual arts.

The point cannot be overemphasized that neither the Overseers nor those advocating greater stress on creativity at this moment, feel that Fogg should be converted to a professional art school. Such an arrangement seems to have no place as part of a liberal arts program. The feeling, rather, is that an education in art which ignores creativity is incomplete from the scholar's point of view as well as the artist's.

The introduction of lectureships for artists and the presence of artists in residence, another suggestion made by the Overseers, was acclaimed nationally as a sound idea. This would not only enrich Harvard's art program but would inaugurate a valuable attitude toward the artist, viewing him as an articulate intellectual rather than an artisan in his own ivory tower.

If the visual arts are to assume their rightful place in the undergraduate curriculum, the department might well heed President Pusey's words: "The time has come for a new sense of direction and renewed purpose if the study of art at Harvard is to flourish in the coming year."