Art Teachers

‘Art isn’t art until it’s sold. Until then it’s an obsession and a storage problem,’- says an anonymous quote. Perhaps the controversial nature of this statement prevented the writer/speaker from owning upto it. But then it is true that not every artist can become a success, and no one knows that fact better than artists. ‘You can always teach art,’ might be the fall back an art student ought to be prepared to hear. Paying a large sum of money to learn drawing techniques or lithography and sculpture does seem like an indulgence, but, hey, ‘You can always teach art.’

Then again, would you have known Pablo Picasso if his father -José Ruizy Blasco-and teacher had not taught him well? It can be argued that real talent requires no teaching, but in the words of French artist Edgar Degas, ‘Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.’ The most arduous aspect of going to art school is handling the ‘critique’ by a teacher or fellow student. Many students find it demoralizing to be told how to paint because after all  would Cubism a revolutionary new approach created around 1907–08- by artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque have developed if an art teacher with a taste for representational art had tilted his head and murmured, “Tsk, tsk,” to the abstract geometric forms?

     Unarguably so, a professional grasp of drawing, design, painting, a human anatomy course, understanding an outsider’s perspective and art history can guide talent. It could- with certainty- be said that there is a great artist behind every famous one; such as Andrea Del Verrocchio (verro occhio in Italian means true eye) under whose tutelage Leonardo da Vinci learned. Eugéne Boudin, also an artist acted as mentor to none other than Monet by teaching him to use oil paints. ‘Russell was my teacher, and Russell explained colour theory to me,’ said Matisse with reference to John Peter Russell a fellow artist. Marc Chagall’s teacher was a Jewish-Belarusian artist-painter called Yehuda Pen. Mary Cassat who painted at a time when an artist’s life was considered bohemian and women were not accepted as students at the École de Beaux-Arts studied privately under Jean Leon Gerome, a highly regarded teacher at the school.

Art teachers will remain the uncelebrated artists of the world. They are more often than not, the unconventionally attired teacher that stands out in the staff room. It may be a ring they wear in a part of the body that ought not to be pierced, or have an interesting tattoo, or wear a faraway look in their eyes while they suffer through a class of tutoring amateurs that sets them apart. They probably dream at night of exhibiting their work at one of the many Biennales, wish they could frequent Les Deux Magots or La Closerie des Lilas, (cafes in Paris made famous by the likes of Paul Cezanne and Pablo Picasso) but either lack of funds, or family obligations, or a romantic attachment prevented them from following that path. Or blah! They might just exclaim at your assumptions; they don’t need acclaim. They’ll always have their art.

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