Abstract Art

When I was asked to make a speech here I had some arguments against this wish because: for speaking we need at least the language so I must tell you that my friendship with the English language is not very close or complete. On the other hand every language is in some ways a poor medium for the expression of artistic aims.

This is one of the reasons why art is existent at all. Take for instance the word red. Even when you explain this red more precisely through other words, dark, light, deep, flat, active, substantial, loose, dense, transparent, opaque—still we will have different reds in our minds. Only the pigment red, the color by itself, is able to get all the different imaginations into the same direction. But the psychic reactions are still different. We could find many examples of this kind telling us how inadequate the language is for the expression of taste, only one example more: try to describe the taste of sweet or sour—impossible to find the right word. For the first argument I told you, I mean my individualistic English, I beg your pardon for the mistakes I shall make.

And then: understand my psychic situation, my state of mind. I am speaking here in front of my own pictures. I feel the temptation to feel proud. I would like rather to speak about the pictures of another painter. Then at least I would have the possibility of saying something good—or if you like, something bad.

My talk here shall be an answer to the question: what is the matter with abstract art? This question gives the impression that abstract art must be something quite new or something quite unusual, but it only seems so.

Let us observe a lady buying her hat, studying its form, seeking relationship to her face, eyes, mouth, dress—well, she is a judger of abstract forms. Every lady wearing a hat is dealing with abstract forms.

Ask a man who wears a necktie why he wears it—because he likes it. Why he likes the color and the combinations of colors, the lines and the proportions, the rhythm and so on—all qualities of an abstract kind. You see every man with a necktie deals with an abstract form.

What about rugs? Nobody would like to have a rug with the portraits of his family to tramp on, or a landscape, or naturalistic flowers. All rugs have ornaments. You see again everybody deals with abstract forms.

Let us find comparisons in other arts, for instance, in music. Nobody expects that a composer, before composing his work, is going into the woods to listen to a roaring lion or a barking dog, or something nicer, a singing nightingale or blue jay. Everybody thinks that it is all right that he composes out of his imagination, his material, the tones. And it is all right that no nature at all has had influence upon his work.

Why should we painters not have the same right to combine, like the musician, our medium—form, colors, proportions and so on?

You allow the architect to use forms without any representation. You allow the dancer to combine his movements to a composition without any sense of a thing or a situation, or to work only in a musical way. Everybody who likes Fred Astaire is an admirer of abstract art, and he who wants to dance like him, wants to be an abstract artist.

Back to the music:

All of you know the refrains to songs like:

Fulla la fulla la, or

Trallala tralala, or

Fol de rol, or

Hey nonny nonny.

Every child and grown-up likes them.

German ones:


Tsching derassa bum

Hei didel hei didel—de dum

Or two modern American ones:



Well, I see you laughing or smiling so I have to state that you like this combination of acoustic mediums, an abstract part of poetry.

I conclude that you are lovers of abstract art, at least of abstract art in music or poetry, and so I have reason to finish my speech. Anyway it is clear abstract art is neither new nor unusual.

But let us go further on: Somebody will tell me that he doesn't understand it. All right. That I take as an honest confession. But the first conclusion from this statement would be: then don't tell me that such things are wonderful or awful.

Now we could analyze the word understand. Does it mean an intellectual ability to explain a part of a picture—sometimes a gesture says more than that—but this would lead us too far off, take too much time.

I imagine you will accept this, but probably your neighbor says something in opposition. Please tell him that an unmusical person can never prove the non-existence of music or the musical.

I want to give an example from my lessons: you drink wine for the first time. Please don't judge, but drink many wines, study them and probably then if you are looking for words to describe a wine you will see that you can't find them.

But I have an explanation for this non-understanding and will give you an historical reason: the development of the last centuries, particularly the nineteenth, show a development of naturalism and realism (materialism). Art was overwhelmed by aims toward imitation.

Earlier times were different. A picture tried to be more art than imitation.

The nineteenth century shows the picture as a cut-out of nature. But if you study art history, the oldest art is the ornament, and powerful races kept this art.

In this country the Indians for thousands of years produced only abstract art. In all countries the folk art is more art than imitation, and the how is more important than the what.

After the last generations with their emphasized imitative aims, we now feel a strong reaction and want in art again more art than nature, stories or sentiments. We can show a development toward the pure arts.

What are pure art aims?

   That music is primarily a combination of tones
   Painting a combination of colors

   Dancing a combination of movements.
   Let us say this in artistic terms: we want more




   Dynamic and static

   Weight and qualities

   Rhythm and balance

   and so on.

That means that we want to rediscover the artistic tasks of the old masters.

Don't misunderstand me. I like portraits and landscape. I did them myself for many years. And I don't underestimate the study of nature as a foundation for art studies, the proof of this is in my art classes where we study the real objective representation.

But art is still more. As life is more than nature, so is art more than life. Because art is spirit—that means an essential seeing—instead of imitation we need translation.

Art is spirit and spirit is eternal.

Paper presented at the City Hall, Asheville, North Carolina.

August, 1935

On Education And Art Education

Let me begin with an experience which I had repeatedly after speeches I had given on teaching or teaching of art. After having spoken about my way of teaching, teachers came asking me if there were a book describing my method.

This summer I was asked to write a sample lesson for a prospective book containing lessons by so-called master teachers of art. As the publishers wrote, they wanted a typical lesson of mine. I have not written this sample lesson.

I can imagine that such a book could be very instructive because it could show many different and, what would be particularly stimulating, contradictory approaches.

I knew an assistant art teacher who had to teach a class parallel to the class of his superior. Thus in the afternoon, he gave his course just as his master conducted it in the morning. Although his master was very successful, the assistant was not. In spite of his applying the same procedure, in spite of his repeating the master word for word.

This is to explain that teaching is primarily not a question of method and technique. It may also explain that my not contributing to that book was not a withholding of private educational secrets. It is opposition to a dangerous belief that in teaching, imitation and repetition of others are sufficient; a belief which is just as disastrous in teaching art as in practicing art.

In order to clarify the situation I should like to make first some general remarks on teaching, then to explain why art education, and how I try to do it and why.

Teaching is definitely more than giving information. Teaching should be education which means developing of the will and of the ability more than the producing of knowledge.

To know more is less than the ability to do more. Simply knowing something or many things produces easily a kind of pride in which someone for instance enjoys heaping money for heaping's or money's sake. But pride of possession is poverty as pride based on power, is fear; both are unproductive.

Only dynamic possession is fertile, materially as well as spiritually. Let us therefore consider knowledge not as a static possession or as a goal in itself, but as a means.

In order to be less abstract: we—through teaching—may feed youth, and they may eat and enjoy our food, but its assimilation should receive our greater interest. If we understand teaching as a kind of nourishing, the associations with the term digestion will suggest various methods of teaching. For example: cooking, which is preparing our meals to be served, should be an art of selection and combination. Normally, a meal should be nourishing, the food should taste good. Different constitutions need different diets. Mealtime is more eating time than talking time. And, to overfeed disturbs, wastes, and spoils. Or, compare homemade food with manufactured foods. Canned food has less vitamins than fresh food; just as a mimeographed letter is less effective than a personal letter.

One can suffocate with knowledge, never with experience. We forget easily what we have heard or read, but we cannot forget what we have experienced. Wisdom is more a result of experience than of knowledge.

With hearing and reading must come seeing. Real educational growth begins with making discoveries. Facts should be used to build conclusions and viewpoints of our own, to create a feeling for atmosphere, mentality, and culture.

As I see it, there are two kinds of teachers and two kinds of students. There are teachers, who, so to speak, trade printed matter, then there are others who produce first-class letters. Students represent either the possessive type or the productive type. In each group I prefer the latter: the teacher who gives something of his own, and the student who is discriminating among quantity and quality, who places creativeness highest.

These are only a few considerations in promoting a modern school in which productive teachers cultivate productive students. Only inactive minds can be satisfied with so-called academic standards. It is worthwhile to magnify the term academic standard in order to see its emptiness. It is certainly no praise to call a person or music, or a book or painting, academic. Academic connotes something no longer alive. Why then does it exist in education? And what does standard mean? One can standardize bicycles, because the development of this vehicle reached an end. But standard in education?!

I have emphasized before: productive students and productive teachers. This is to say, the example of the strongest medium of education. The indirect influence of the teacher's being and doing is more effective and contagious than many like to believe. Therefore, we can develop others only if we develop ourselves, and we as teachers have no right to demand from our students what we are unable or unwilling to do ourselves.

Moreover, our teaching will be most infectious if it is based on our own thought, our own discoveries, our own experiences. Therefore, education demands first the self-education of the teacher. Da capo: first the self-education of the teacher.

If we develop active pupils and productive students who are human beings whose best fun in school is to feel their own growth, then we as teachers can feel justified and just as happy. Then we will gladly admit that we learn from our pupils too, and, that education is not a prerogative of parents and teachers, that education is also a mutual service.

It is not adequate to call teaching a "job", education is a kind of religion based on the belief that making ourselves and others grow—that is making stronger, wiser, better—is one of the highest human tasks.

I believe that somewhere and somehow everybody has ability, if not talent, which should be developed. I believe also that academic studies under academic teachers, and academic methods, and for academic measurements will produce school stars which will wane after school. Any work done for the sake of the teacher or the sake of the school is not enduring, because life is everything but academic.

Good schooling results in a continued studying throughout life.

The natural way to shift our school work from over-emphasized and unbalanced accumulation of facts—that is, from industriousness toward productiveness or creativeness—is in the cultural fields of teaching where hearing, reading, and memorizing cannot dominate, but where immediate action is the inherent procedure. I mean here studies in acting, in dancing, in writing, in music and in art.

Let me illustrate productiveness from another angle: to see for instance grass only as an eatable vegetable, that does every cow. But as soon as we see grass for instance as a carpet, or, as a fur, as an assemblage, or as a forest (suppose we have our eyes deeply enough in it), or when we see it as a color, or many and changing colors, or as a plastic, or tactile appearance—there enters the human being who naturally wants to be creative. There comes the flexible and productive mind that wants to do something with the world around it. Here comes the poet, the artist, and also the scientist or philosopher. I like to believe that every human being inclines to develop as one or the other kind of these species of homo sapiens.

To turn productive seeing into creative revelation is a most exciting educational task, "as creation is the most intensive excitement one can come to know."

But before speaking we need sounds and words. Before making music comes making tones and learning their relationship. Before building a house we must consider material and construction and also the purpose and function of the house. Before serious painting we have to distinguish colors and must understand their influence on each other and their effect on us. A sensible drawing presupposes familiarity with the graphic elements. In any art field, before doing any art work comes naturally at least some comprehension of the medium to be used.

In order to develop familiarity with material and implement it is psychologically right with children to make them start in a free, that is, an undirected use of a medium. But let us be aware of the fact that children have no primary need to "express" themselves in terms of color, line, or plastic volume. To work with such elements gives children more physical than mental enjoyment. To be doing something is naturally of greater interest to them than to produce something. For they have little concern for keeping the results.

It is not childlike to think about realization of idea and vision through form. Form is here used in its broadest meaning and includes shape, color, space, volume. Children are too realistic to think beyond illustration towards abstraction.

If we think this through, consequently then, children's work is essentially no art in spite of the fact that it often shows form qualities. Directness and spontaneity, its main characteristics and most engaging qualities, are not enough to produce works of art. The inspiring effect of children's work on adults is seldom recognized by the child himself. It sees in its work what it wants to see. Therefore, children's work is also no self-expression. It may tell us many things about the child, but seen from the child's own purposes, such revelations are involuntary as self confessions, and undesired as self disclosures. They are therefore accidental and not intentional.

Furthermore, a play-like use of material is not studying art, it is only an unrestricted start or an encouraging preparation for studies to come.

If we want to lead the child's active interest in art material towards spiritual demonstrations in such material—that is, expression—then we must, already before puberty, develop self confidence in his ability. Through tasks which the child is sure to solve definitely it will gain security and independence. Otherwise, after puberty, through comparing its own work with more advanced results of others, it will feel completely inferior. The result, which we see often in older children, will be the loss of any interest of studies of form.

So called self expression alone before puberty results in no expression at all after puberty.

This frequent experience gives the teacher a very important task, namely to transform the instinctive drive of the child for doing or using something into a desire for intuitive forming—that is for creating and expressing something. If I could say it in German words which are not translatable it means transformation of Beschaeftigungstrieb into Gestaltungstrieb.

Self expression in art is the result of mastery and worthwhile to aim at through a whole life. Rembrandt at the age of 30 is said to have felt the need of twenty years of study for a certain color-space problem. This may prove that in school we can only prepare for self expression, and, what is here more important, that a teaching method mainly concerned with self expression is wrong, psychologically and artistically. I call this method exclusively aiming at self expression "selfexpressionism".

I have tried already to explain why selfexpressionism is insufficient in teaching children. The same negative effect we can experience with adolescents. The preponderously sensuous contact of the child with the world turns later into a more intellectual contact. The more cerebral approach of the older pupil, and also its need for response and recognition, will not be satisfied when continuously employed by selfexpressionism alone. Because the adolescent and the adult need to see or to know by anticipation how to do it, and maybe why, and certainly for what.

It is significant that selfexpressionism dominates mainly courses in painting and writing. (At Black Mountain College this attempt of writing has been designated "Belly-writing".) As soon as we apply this method of employment in other fields it becomes obvious that it offers no serious studies. Imagine starting studies in music, or acting, or architecture, in self expression, without any task, without any understanding of the What and the How! Serious work is based on at least some understanding. And, a clear head never interferes with genuine feeling.

The real value of any studies in school will appear after school, in later life. (Thus, let us be careful with student exhibitions, with student performances). When, for instance, the influence of the teacher X results mainly in disciples which are only other X's, multiplying the teacher's creations or aping his technique, it proves either oppression of individual creativeness by the teacher, or—sometimes and, —impotent technicism on the student's part. Both result out of a business approach which has nothing to do with art.

To carry out any artistic conception needs a bearing the full time and results in labor pains in its original meaning. Serious art teaching has to avoid both, undisciplined laissez-faire (selfexpressionism) as well as imitative parroting (discipleship). Shooting without aim is as senseless as shooting at objects already shot. Therefore I believe in developing of ability, that is, a systematical studying of the basic problems of art through practical and theoretical learning of the crafts of art.

Besides training our eyes—in order to make them more sensitive—and our hands—in order to bring them into our command—we must find out the possibilities of our media, and also must know about, or feel, the psychic effect of our form elements: shape, color, space, and volume. That will give us a solid basis for the realization of our visions.

Of course, art is not primarily a result of knowledge and technique or, of an "interesting" experience from outside of us, but of an inner urgency to impart and communicate our emotions. But to formulate any expression we have to possess the understanding and the handling of an adequate language in the chosen medium.

Before writing, there is speaking (but speaking is different from writing!). Before speaking there should be thinking (why not thinking before writing? also about how to write!).

When an emotion or artistic vision demands formulation then the execution demands choice of an adequate medium and its proper application in order to regenerate that individual emotion of the artist in others. Here the circle closes: in between original emotion and regenerative emotion is mastery of the medium.

Now I should tell you how we handle art classes at Black Mountain College. Our art studies are understood as a part of general education. They are not exclusively for prospective artists, but for everybody who is interested in learning to see and to train eye and hand, and to cultivate taste and skill. For special art students there are additional tutorial correction and criticism. The main interest is not the single momentary result but the process of growth. All art studies are studies in the crafts of art because as already explained, free personal expression comes after schooling. We emphasize class work because we believe that the influence from student to student, evoked by common class tasks and mutual criticism, is often just as important as the influence from the teacher. Our studies are consciously, but indirectly, studies about ourselves in order to recognize our inclinations, tendencies, abilities, and non-abilities. We prefer practical exercises to mere theoretical information and isolated historical appreciation.

The general art courses given are Drawing I and II, Color I and II, Design in Material. Occasional guidance is offered in photography, printing, bookbinding, woodwork.

In all classes we begin with the beginning: elementary exercises and studies of fundamental problems.

Drawing is understood as a graphical handicraft and aims as far as possible towards objective representation. The beginner class starts mostly with technical exercises, that is, practice in measurement, direction, and disposing, applied mainly in constructed lettering. In order to balance physical and psychic seeing our basic studies in overlapping and foreshortening are based on mathematical explanation and understanding. We continually use the motor sense as corrective for visual perception. The advanced class exercises are free drawing from nature, preferably of plants, still life, figure, and portrait. Emphasized is three-dimensionality; approaches and techniques are changing as often as possible.

The painting classes we call color classes. The elementary course, Color I, for beginners consists of basic studies in the different qualities of color. Thus, we study color related to color, light, space, form and quantity; also important color systems and to some degree the psychic effect of color. All color laws or rules are learned through systematical exercises, executed mainly in colored papers. All rules and laws do not aim at a mechanical application but try to sensitize our seeing for color and to clarify our reaction to color. The advanced color class is concerned with the practical use of color in painting which is combination, construction, and composition in both two- and three-dimensionality.

Werklehre is practical designing with unlimited choice of materials. Its purpose is to develop an understanding of material and space. It gives the opportunity to study art problems usually not considered in drawing and painting. It includes practice in combination of material—related to its appearance (for instance, textures, factures)—and practice in construction in material—related to its capacity (for instance, firmness, flexibility; compression, extension). As a study of the relationship between matter and form, it is elementary preparation for handicraft or industrial design, with the aim to preserve a creative approach, opposing a mechanical application of traditionally fixed methods. It is too inflexible or uncreative if for instance a carpenter has, so to speak, only a wooden brain, or if a plumber can think only of pipes.

It seems not necessary to explain here that we try to connect our art classes with classes in other fields, particularly with music and dramatics, or why we have changing exhibitions in the main hall, and that we give general lectures on art for the whole community, that we hang original art work in private studies. It may interest you that we introduced a new kind of art lecture called "Silent Picture Concerts". "Concerts" because they happen usually before music concerts, "Silent" because there is very little talk. We project on a screen smaller art studies or reproductions for the purpose of "seeing art through the eye". These projections are only occasionally accompanied by remarks to draw the attention of the audience in a particular direction.

I should mention however that we don't have regular studies in modeling. But some students do modeling in clay as private art studies. If we could arrange it, I should prefer a course in plastic studies to a class for modeling. Yet our course in Werklehre gives opportunity enough to study plastic as relationship between active and negative volume and space. I cannot believe that clay is a material in which plastic problems can be studied comprehensively. Clay only seems to be a material easy to handle. It is really the most difficult material to be formed according to its typical qualities. Because clay is ready to do everything. I believe that modeling in clay as preparatory studies for plastic in other materials as stone, wood, metal, is misleading and is the reason for the degeneration of sculpture work during the last generations. Genuine work of art preserves reverence for the characteristic properties of the medium chosen.

There I come back to my previous explanations which promote the teaching of elementary studies in form. I purposely formulate "studies of form" because it emphasizes our concern with the process, whereas "studies in art" are concerned with the result which presupposes already one or another understanding of form.

Now after having criticized so much other methods, let me criticize the proposed elementary method of teaching too. This method of elementary teaching seems to be—and sometimes easily is—an over intellectualization of studies in form or art. Technical exercises incline naturally to mechanization, experimental studies to classification, representational studies to literalness. Studies, for instance of color systems, may lead to inartistic application of analytical criticism. Therefore, all rules, schemes and systems which we are going to deduct have to be clearly recognized as necessary correctives for misinterpretation of our intellectual and emotional reactions.

As in exercises in any language course any rule, after being assimilated will become inactive, and the exceptions of the rule will keep our speaking alive.

It has been said often that intellectual understanding disturbs intuitive feeling. It is certainly true, that art can not be definitely analyzed. But in practical studies of form we are on another level, because we are concerned with personal training on the way to art. Concerning feeling, I like to repeat: a clear head cannot disturb a genuine feeling.

Here the old question arises whether art can be learned and taught. If we follow the development of the great masters then we will see at least they developed, that they became great, that they learned through working and studying. That shows that the old belief, art is not to be learned, is wrong, at least to a certain degree. And what can be learned, should be teachable, and if only to a certain degree, and even if it may cost years. If there is a way of learning, there must be a way of showing how to learn.

Of course genius and talent are given. Here, genius has not to trouble us because genius does not "go to school". But talent has to be discovered and developed.

But how in school can talent find a place to start and opportunity to prove itself in different directions, when in schools the accumulation of knowledge dominates, and when teaching is bound to a certain technique or mannerism, to a definite fashion or style?

Even style, the most respectable member of this group, being a result and end, will stop development. Style is uneducational.

Instead of defining more single terms, let us see how the old masters began, as apprentices for instance in painting. Before doing any painting of their own, they had to grind colors, many colors, and again and again. After cleaning brushes came making brushes, then preparing walls, panels or canvas. For quite a while there was only watching the master, later helping the master.

This procedure shows a realistic and healthy approach, it is elementary teaching.

If we as teachers try to understand our teaching fundamentally, then we must abstract the details from our aims. Then the basic task will appear, simply: to open eyes.

This is a simple task but great, and, as everything simple, difficult, but exciting.

Let me end with a fundamental comparison for all teaching: the broader the base, the higher the top; the higher the top, the broader the view.

Ruskin says

"I am impressed by the fact

   that the greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something and tell what it saw in a plain way.

Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think,

but thousands can think for one who can see."

Speech presented at a teachers' meeting, Winnetka, Illinois.

November 28, 1939

The Meaning of Art

During Christmas vacation I saw in New York a movie which tried to encourage art studies by saying that everybody is an artist. That was provided in that film simply by the assertion that plowing and planting, or sewing and mending, are—art.

The same film made me aware of the fact that the term art as we understand it today was not existing in English until the second half of the last century. Before that time it meant, as it partly does today, mainly skill, technical ability. That is the reason why we call for instance, acrobats of the circus—artists, and we speak even of the art of war.

Today there is a tendency to confine the term art only to the so-called fine arts i.e. painting and sculpture. In this understanding the applied arts are of second rate, handicraft is still less, and industry, so to speak is on the other side of the tracks.

As I see it, art today means more than technical ability or workmanship. Art has become a word for something more spiritual. So I understand under art, besides the so-called fine arts, also music, acting, dancing, writing; also photography and dressmaking, landscaping. I believe that handicraft, as well as industry, can produce art.

As a process, art includes all activities and efforts which express human mentality, either of the individual or of a group, through form—therefore perceivable through our senses. Art as a result, as a work of art, embraces man-made forms which incarnate and reveal—consciously or unconsciously—human emotions, for the purpose of reproducing the same or similar emotions in the spectator or listener.

Coming back to the before-mentioned movie, I do not believe that everybody is an artist, and I cannot believe that for instance, mending usually is done for the purpose of expressing or arousing of feelings. But I do believe that everyone has artistic tendencies, if not abilities, and everyone—at least to a certain extent—everyone appreciates form qualities, such as: color, shape, space, movement, rhythm, proportion.

You see, I had to tell you already in the beginning my personal opinions, because there is no objective interpretation of what is art. There are no definite rules or systems by which to evaluate art, or, to distinguish between art and non-art. And that, in spite of many aesthetical theories, in spite of many definitions on art.

That there is no comprehensive explanation of art everybody could agree with, is caused by the real nature of art. Because art is concerned with something that cannot be explained by words or literal description (figures, statistics). The very fact that there is something in life independent of, and unattainable by, thinking and speaking and therefore inexpressible in words, is the reason why we whistle and sing and gesticulate and dance; why we smile or make a jump for instance when we are happy.

The simple fact that we live more on feelings than on logical reasons makes art such an important factor in life, because art is a demonstration of human life. And just as the question “What is Life?” is as interesting as troublesome, the same with the question "What is Art?". In order to say it very simply, our feelings and emotions are the reason why we have music and painting, dancing and architecture, and all the others arts, why we have changing styles and fashions.

When I say red we can be sure that, if here are hundreds of people, we have hundreds of different reds in our minds. Even if I try to describe a certain red, let's say a red we all see everywhere and every day many times, let's say the red of the Coca Cola signs. I still believe we see different reds. Only the presentation of that particular red can unify our seeing. (But our emotional reactions will remain different.) I gave you this example, in order to demonstrate only one experience unattainable by verbal explanation.

When I say ten cents, then I expect that we all see in our imagination that round metal piece, showing on one side a profile of an energetic lady called Liberty; on the other side some war tools or war symbols circumscribed by “The United States of America”. Our thoughts may go on and state: from silver, a coin, a dime, or good for two Coca Colas. This kind of reaction we call, psychologically speaking, association.

When I say, “Berea College,” nothing more, only Berea College, and then pause, my words have stopped but our minds don't stop. They go on and you may think, “That's here, that's our college, in Kentucky, has 2000 students,” and so on. There we have again reactions which are associations.

But there is also another kind of reaction coming more from our heart or soul, than from our brain. Imagine your vacations are soon over; you are soon going back to school. Many of you will say, “Fine, (at least I hope so) glad to see my friends again or maybe even the teachers.” You feel happy, proud, or, also possible, you are afraid. Such reactions are emotions.

One more example: When I say Black Mountain College, of which you know probably less than of Berea College, that is where our knowledge is limited, our reactions are inclined more to the emotional side. You may think: ? or: Such a small one! Only seventy students! Progressive! Two question marks.

These few examples in order to clarify my statement, that art is concerned with emotions; and to indicate that art does not exist for knowledge or information, but for demonstration and experience of emotional approaches, emotional relationship.

When I said before that the insufficiency of words is one reason for the existence of art, then I should not forget a special type of words, which doesn't have any descriptive content, which doesn't remind us of anything in the world of nature or idea. But produce, instead of an image, just as music does, which produces only emotional reactions, —feelings.

For instance: Trallala Trallala

   Hey nonny Hey nonny

Some German refrains:

   Heididel Heididel Heidideldidum

   Or Juchheissa Juchheissa Juchherassassa

Contemporary American: Hotchacha or Boob boop a doop

You see—hear—your reactions are obvious.

Now we should remember that also nature causes emotions in us. Looking at a sunset or the starry sky makes us breathe differently. We feel it pleasant to see a good face, a well-proportioned figure, and are enthusiastic about flowers and butterflies, about great plastic clouds or sun reflections on water and snow. A colorful autumn landscape makes us gay; a gray day sentimental. Our reactions in such situations are emotional participations in demonstrations of life by nature.

Here the question arises: What is the difference between emotions caused by nature and emotions caused by art? A bird's song is a combination of tones just as music is, but we don't consider birds' songs as music. Therefore not as art. Both kinds of tone combinations are demonstrations of life, but music expresses human life and there is the difference. Art comes from the human soul and speaks to human souls. Art fulfills spiritual demands through spiritual messages.

I believe we will agree that the East pinnacle looked in the fall of 1840 just the same or almost the same as it will look in the fall of 1940. But a landscape of the East pinnacle painted in 1940 will definitely differ from a landscape of the same view painted a hundred years ago. That tells us again that an artist's report (in this case a landscape) has a message, and this message is related to the artist's mentality and the mentality of his time.

From these two comparisons (a) between bird's song and music and (b) between two landscapes of the same view but of different periods, let us conclude that not nature is the first concern of art, but the human spirit. To art, Nature is only a point of departure.

That means, in other words, art is revelation instead of information. Expression instead of description. Creation instead of imitation or repetition. Good acting as an art goes behind the play and is more than interpretation and mimicry.

If there is a parallel between art and nature, namely in the fact that both nature and art demonstrate life, then the artist is not a competitor of nature but of the creator—as the creator's image; therefore his task is not to imitate the results of nature but the process of nature. That is to create life, namely, in form organisms. Form means here again, color, shape, space, etc.

That indicates that not every painter, sculptor or actor is an artist, because many of them are only imitators of the results of nature, believing for instance that the more “natural” their work looks, the more artistic it is. Their mistake is in believing that in art the factual record comes before the human confession.

I have seen, and I hope you too have seen, good dresses and good chairs which tell us more about the human soul than many paintings do. There are also interiors, even though done by housewives, that are better arranged and have more meaning than others done by interior decorators. In my opinion, a good dressmaker, or milliner, is a better artist than a mediocre sculptor. And I believe there are more laymen with an artistic feeling than there are artistic artists.

In order to explain what artistic feeling or artistic seeing is, let me start with a negative statement. To see grass only as an edible vegetable, that does every cow. (Repeat). But as soon as we see grass for instance as a carpet or as a fur, as an assemblage or as a forest (suppose we have our eyes deep enough in it); or when we see grass as a color or as many or changing colors with a certain psychic effect; or as a plastic or tactile appearance, or as a multiplicated movement:

There enters the human being who naturally wants to be creative—there comes the flexible and productive mind that wants to do something with the world around it. Here comes the poet, the artist, the scientist or philosopher. I like to believe that every human being is inclined to develop as one or the other kind of these species of homo sapiens.

I hope that makes more clear that not external recognition is the purpose of art, but to enjoy and to respect form qualities which reveal our emotional participation in life. As long as we hear single tones or only many tones, we don't hear music at all. Music is in between the tones; we hear music if we feel the relationship of the tones. Or—as long as we hear only words in a poem, so long we don't get its poetry. The art of a poem is between, behind or above or, despite of, words. How the words or tones are chosen and how they are put together; how a color is used and related to others; how the figures are placed in a composition (no matter if it be on the stage or in a painting) is decisive in art.

Art is concerned with the HOW, not with the WHAT; not with literal content, but its performance of the content. The performance—how it is done—that is the content of Art. Art is concerned with quality and not quantity.

Here I should take the opportunity to clear up a prejudice most disturbing today in any approach to or any appreciation of art. A misleading belief promoted mainly by some art dealers and also art concessionists, that a portrait has more value than a landscape, a madonna more than a still life, an oil painting more than a woodcut, a picture with a famous name superior to one by an unknown artist, that old paintings are of higher value than contemporary ones.

No and again NO. A folksong can be much greater art than an opera and very often is. A small drawing can be more valuable than a monumental mural, or an imitation of a Gothic Cathedral. It is an error to believe that necessarily a hand woven material has more artistic value than a machine woven one.

Does it increase your appreciation of a rose if you know its name, origin, price or rareness? Marble is not always more beautiful than bricks; that depends upon application and treatment, and never upon historical dates or anecdotes. The visionary strength, the genuineness of expression, the intensity of emotional effect, are what count.

In other words, what counts is: How much the artist was engaged in his conception; how he treated his medium for his expression and how intensively he speaks to us. Again, in Art, the HOW is decisive, not the WHAT. With this statement we arrive at another differentiation, namely between art and science. But since our time is limited, and I should save some time for showing a few reproductions of works of art, I have to be very brief even though this theme could give material enough for a whole philosophy.

Both science and art are spiritual approaches to life, but their tendencies are different and often opposite. As to the phenomena of life Art is primarily concerned with the existence of those phenomena, science with the reasons for their existence. Therefore art is apt to express, science to discover.

The method of science is mainly deduction, of art mainly induction. Art is subjective and likes to demonstrate; science is more objective and likes to explain. Art intends to believe and prefers synthesis; science wants to know and must analyze. These of course are very rough statements, and both art and science overlap each other. If I should express the difference only with punctuation signs, then I believe, that after the word LIFE art would put an exclamation mark and science a question mark.

Art has no purpose at all to do what I am trying to do here now, namely to develop a theory, but I think I need this theorizing as a preparation for experiencing or enjoying art. I say purposely experiencing and enjoying instead of understanding of art, because art does not ask for an understanding in the usual intellectual sense.

Do we understand a rose, when we admire it, or gold, or a precious stone? What about understanding of charm? We can only admire charm. If somebody is a connoisseur of wine, that means he has taste, that is, a feeling for wine; that is the point. Contact with art is something like love. There may be sometimes reason for love but real love doesn't need reasons.

The practical question now is how to develop a taste or feeling for art. If somebody says: I don't hear any music, that is no proof that there is no music. It may prove that he has no ear for music. The same with art. The consequence: He does not have to be pro or con.

Drinking wine for the first time is no reason to say: That is good wine, no matter if you like it or not. To have a so-called understanding of wine needs tasting many wines instead of only drinking many wines. The same with art, because evaluation arises from comparison.

In order to understand art we have to see it, and to see it again, have to compare similar and different works of art and find the necessity for their existence in their form problems.

Therefore the best way to study art is to practice art. That gives us at least respect for real art (pictures!).

In order to make a resumé, the meaning of art is: Learn to see and to feel life; that is, cultivate imagination; because there are still marvels in the world; because life is a mystery and always will be. But be aware of it. Therefore art means: You have to believe to have faith, that is cultivate vision.

Through works of art we are permanently reminded to be balanced; within ourselves and with others to have respect for proportion, that is to keep relationship. It teaches us to be disciplined and selective between quantity and quality. Art teaches the educational world.

It is to be too poor, to collect only knowledge, and too, that economy is not a matter of statistics, but a sufficient proportion between effort and effect.

To say it on a higher level: Art is a credo in the last verse of the first chapter of Genesis where it says, "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good."

Paper presented at Berea College, Berea, Kentucky, and Black Mountain College

March 12, 1940

Address for the Black Mountain College Meeting, June 12, 1940

It may seem frivolous now, when all ears and eyes, when all minds, are occupied with the frightening events abroad, to speak in such a situation about education. It may seem vain to draw your attention to a new and small college down in North Carolina in a moment when the face and the fate of the whole world may be turned upside down by unexpectedly strong forces with which we do not agree.

For years we have hesitated in this part of the world to realize the power and aims of those destructive forces, unfortunately have reacted to them mainly with laughter and ridicule. But the last weeks have awakened us and shown that those events abroad may have a destructive influence upon the Americas too, particularly upon the United States of America, which means upon the existence of each one of us.

If this does not happen through direct attack (invasion), it can happen through a grave change in our relationship to other parts of the world. And this in spite of surrounding oceans, in spite of abundance of space and raw material and gold, in spite of the highest living standard, all of which we like to think of as lasting guarantees of our security.

History may teach us that security is not an inherent quality of material possessions; only spiritual possessions are lasting and worth saving. The greatest and most important spiritual achievement of this country is its guarantee of freedom—no country in the world can compete with the U.S.A. in this respect. We have every reason to be proud of this freedom.

But to be only proud of freedom would be no proof of true understanding of freedom. Freedom, if understood as being free from something, has no positive sense at all. Only being free for something has active and productive meaning, is worthy of consideration. It is urgent now that we understand freedom, and work for its protector: democracy.

Freedom is never a present granted to us. Freedom is a personal quality. Everyone has to conquer it for himself and to reconquer it again and again. It presupposes conviction and integrity as well as respect for the beliefs and abilities of others. It demands protection, and fighting, and sacrifice for it if endangered, either by blind following of partisans, or through suppression and persecution of non-partisans, which is the fate of millions of people now all over the world.

Here we arrive at the most frightening point of the history of today, where self-made human gods impose their own demands upon misled and flattered people—at the expense of humanity. That is the deepest worry of all seeing people today: the abolition of humanity.

Thus to save humanity is the duty of everyone still enjoying the privileges of democracy. More than ever before we must be aware that democratic freedom depends upon recognizing obligations towards it, instead of having claims upon it.

If we compare the influence which the Romans, on the one side, and the Greeks, on the other, have still today, or the Spartans in contrast to the Athenians, then it will become obvious that only cultural achievements, spiritual contributions to mankind, can distinguish which principle of thought and government is the better one: regimented organization or competitive evolution, autocracy or democracy.

As I have stated already at the Black Mountain meeting in December at the Museum of Modern Art: it is certainly no accident that the two most contradictory ideologies, communism and Nazism, the strongest enemies of democracy, have condemned modern art as well as modern education. This should explain clearly enough that those ideologies leave no aspect of cultural evolution, which by necessity is based on unhampered spiritual development. Condemned for the simple reason that a free individual growth must oppose mental leveling through ideological drill, through elimination of writing, reading and listening, through censorship of information and publication. Condemned, because a creative and critical mind cannot belong to the masses, the indispensable pedestal of any kind of dictator; for masses assemble because of uncreativeness.

It should be a matter of course today that each of us has the obligation, not only to protect and defend our democratic freedom against aggression from inside and attack from outside, but to give our people an understanding of what democratic living means and is worth to them, and to build up a conviction that spiritual development under a democratic constitution is on a higher human level, and therefore higher cultural level, than those opposing ideologies, that we must remain on the higher level if human progress is to continue.

But how to achieve this understanding and conviction? Through a democratic education in which qualities of character are considered just as much as intellectual abilities, in which the development of critical thought, of creative ability and social adjustment, are more respected than mere acquisition of knowledge and skill; where being cultured is more highly esteemed than being learned. That is, where the aim is humanity instead of efficiency.

If we understand humanity as a balance between dependence and independence—the two divergent directions in which education is engaged—that is, to create reciprocal relationship between the individual and the group (family, community, state), then it is easy to understand that dictatorship is naturally inimical to personal independence, whereas democracy favors individual freedom and growth.

If I may state in this respect two typical American qualities, I must confess that in this country I have been impressed again and again with a very pronounced need for personal independence, very obvious already in small children; but just as much with an amazing readiness for help and cooperation, aptly stated in the expression "Give him a chance".

I often wondered why these two very valuable human qualities of independence and cooperation are not applied more in American education. I believe the dominating educational methods in this country are not at all typically American with their stereotyped requirements, standardized curricula and mechanized evaluation of achievements. Why do we still have that belief in academic standards while our living reveals variety, youth and freshness, and our planning flexibility and greatness? Why must exploration and inventiveness, two American virtues, too, play such a minor part in our schools? And why is creative development still a pedagogical stepchild?

If our teachers would think less by precedent and more about how to proceed from the human material entrusted to them, our education would soon become more American and more human. If education would aim more at being something instead of at getting something, then our schools would be, maybe, less intellectualistic, but less unjust to the unintellectual types; I mean, for instance, the visual type, the manual type, which are just as important as intellectuals. Our schools will then be more democratic because of giving a chance to many more people.

Then education will value character above skill, ability besides or despite knowledge. If we emphasize the imaginative mind to the administrative one, the productive to the possessive one, the creative one to the imitative one, if we believe more in responsibility than in success and profit, then we can prepare more for citizenship than for jobs, then we will develop personalities able to lead themselves instead of developing leaders longing for followers and masses.

Never before in our life, as today, have we been shown so clearly that education must emphasize human relationship just as much as, if not more, than intellectual training. If we want to change from over-intellectualization to the exercising of the will, then we can learn (not in idea, but in method) from the enemies of democracy, that small educational groups have stronger influence on the individual than have large institutions. Then we have to improve form giving information to giving experience, from judging papers and examinations to judging persons, from impersonal lecturing to the living and working together of students and teachers. Because real education depends on personal contact and is a mutual give and take of experience and insight. Therefore educational factories are necessarily less influential than educational communities.

The larger the group, the more mechanical the measure and organization. The larger the registration and administration, the more complexity. Mechanical measure may be successful in mass production and in war technique, but won’t work with human souls. Because mechanization lasts only as long as its machines last.

Just as medical direction and treatment in health and in illness is applied individually, so education is personal treatment, since it means direction and control of personal action and reaction. This again detracts from the reputation of mass teaching and points to educational communities. Unfortunately only a few of them practice democratic education. One of them is Black Mountain College.

Here I should explain some significant features of Black Mountain College and why it offers democratic education. I believe that my earlier and general remarks on education have indicated already the main tendencies of Black Mountain College. The aforementioned close living and working together of students and faculty are provided for by a large building for the whole community, except families with children. We assemble with the families at meals where we serve each other without any given order. Who is ready first, helps first. Everyone takes care of his own room. No one disappears over week-ends. It is not necessary to disappear; it is interesting enough at the College because of concerts and dancing and singing, or plays and lectures, and parties of students and faculty.

We live in the midst of beautiful mountain woods, in a very healthful climate, and have enough opportunity for outdoor activities. In the earlier afternoon, which is reserved for outdoor work, we do wood-chopping or take care of our roads. At Lake Eden, the new College property, we repair and paint houses; we work on apple trees and on the lake, or do landscaping with farming and gardening.

In our studies, in which we offer courses in most of the liberal arts, we emphasize the cultural fields and consider art, music, dramatics, literature as a central part of our curriculum. Since the participation in any course is voluntary, it seems significant that during the past years, for instance, fifty percent of our students and fifty per cent of the faculty, also of faculty wives, have participated in art courses at least for one semester. It is a good Black Mountain College custom that faculty members visit classes of their colleagues and become students again. The faculty wives share in all important activities, they help with teaching and guiding students as well as in administration work. We evaluate the social adjustment of the community members as much as their work. Doing and being something counts more than knowing and having something.

As to democratic living, I may add that Black Mountain College is co-educational. We select our students from as many different backgrounds as possible. The student fees are on a sliding scale, related to the financial situation of the parents, from the full fee of $1,200 down to $300. The enrollment started with 15 students in 1933 and is at present 70. And we never want to have more than 150. No one works his way through college; everyone is expected to do his share. Only a committee of three knows about the tuition a student pays.

Black Mountain College is governed entirely from within. So, without trustees, we are also without endowment, but also without directions from outside. Each teacher decides for himself what and how to teach. There is no president, but a rector, elected every year from the faculty, by the faculty, as representative of the community and conductor of the meetings. In the weekly faculty meetings, attended by the four student officers, we decide on the policy of the College and other educational matters. The Board of Fellows, also elected by the faculty, from the faculty, includes the chief student officer, and decides on appointments and financial matters. For questions of general interest or importance, the rector calls the whole community for a general meeting. In the committees with special tasks, the students are also represented. Questions concerning discipline are handled mainly by the student officers or in student meetings. You see, the students have comprehensive opportunity to participate in the governing of the College and to exercise responsibility, and thus they conceive of the whole College as their own. We understand it as a sign of cooperation that we refrain from voting.

After this administrative report, it may be more interesting to hear some financial figures, which I’ve gotten from our financial minister, Mr. Dreier. This year we received about $45,000 in student fees; that is, with seventy students, an average fee of some $600, which is half of the full fee. The actual cost of each student is about $1,000. We ran the College this year for about $60,000. It would have cost us more if we had paid the faculty more than 60% salary. And I might add that faculty salaries are based on minimum needs. We granted fee reductions of $41,000. Thus, the faculty salaries were only $15,000—in addition to room and board. You see, the Black Mountain faculty has done its part for a democratic ideal.

Despite the fact that the financial situation of the College has been difficult, particularly last year, we consider this year to have been the best of all the past seven years. The number of student applicants has increased more than ever before, and we have more promising students. From some 80 applicants, we chose some 20. More cooperation and more intensive studies, better guidance and teaching have resulted in better social adjustment and better class work and examinations. On the whole there was a sympathetic and inspiring spirit. Criticisms by and of teachers and students were meant and understood as help. The public interest in and the recognition of our aims and results have grown constantly.

We believe Black Mountain College is growing – not financially, but spiritually. It has grown from a so-called progressive, experimental college to a modern educational institution. It is considered by competent judges to be an example of the democratic education to come. We believe Black Mountain College can prove the validity of its aims and results.

All of this gives us the conviction that we have to do everything to secure the further development of our College. It also gives us the hope that our friends will contribute to support our work. So far we have often presented to our friends and to the public the ideas and status of Black Mountain College, and have left it to the listeners to think it over. Now we feel it our duty to ask directly for help—help, first of all, for student aid. This will improve, indirectly, faculty salaries and enable us to add needed faculty members. We ask for help, secondly, for making our property, Lake Eden, the permanent home of the College, since we can stay in our present location for only one more year. This means that we need substantial help for improving the present buildings there and for the erection of additional, needed buildings, or for the realization of the plans designed by our friends, Gropius and Breuer.

It is very unfortunate, as it is ironic, that the important foundations mainly support institutions which are already financially established. That makes it still more necessary for us to ask for help from individuals. What we are asking for will not be merely for the support of a single college; it should be understood as a support of the general ideas of democratic education in which, I believe, every one of us should share.

It has been said that nations desiring peace have to be stronger than those desiring war. It is true that our desire is peace; but I am not sure that we are the stronger side yet, and we will never, I am sure, be stronger through rearmament alone. We have to think in longer-range terms. More than power is strength. More lasting than organization and mechanization is spirit, is conviction. Be aware and make others aware that democratic education is the most important means of saving democratic freedom, of saving spiritual or cultural development.

You have seen the nation-wide proclamation of yesterday: "Let Us Stop Hitler Now!" Yes, let us really help to stop him! But not only by momentary measures, but with lasting preparations, namely, by the readiness of the minds for the future.

America is the hope of the whole world believing in freedom. We must justify this hope in us of the world believing in freedom.

New York. Albers noted on the typescript "three days before the evacuation of Paris"

June 12, 1940.

On Education

I should like to begin with a statement I made before at a well known place in Cambridge, Mass.

To distribute material goods is to divide them. To distribute spiritual goods is to multiply them.

That is the statement, and I should like to raise the question, which of the two functions, namely to divide and to multiply, is the more profitable one?

The 19th century has tried to convince us that matter governs and conditions spirit, if there is any. And there are still agitators and promoters who want us to continue with this belief.

But our own century, with its leading tendencies (in philosophy, art and religion) and also with its latest and most frightening scientific achievement, is at least inviting us to consider again spirit, spirit above matter.

Life is growth and development, and development means change.

Our heritage of the 19th century namely to see only economic causes for changes in human society or history, is getting antiquated. It proves unsatisfactory if not boring.

We have discovered again that emotions, for instance, love and hate, are more decisive for human action than material gains and losses.

So we must face a change from a period of economic reasoning to a time of psychological reasoning.

And that certainly will have a bearing on education.

Now, after a second world war, we must hope for another change. A change from a belief in external power to a belief in inner strength, or from material power to spiritual strength. That means in practice that leading ourselves stands before and above leading others.

One common way to leadership, or the usual way of gaining influence is organization of others in a movement. But we are wondering now whether this is the best way.

Every movement calls for a counter movement. The result is group stands against group, mass against mass, more and more against more and more. A new imperialism against an old one. So we wonder how far we are from the next war, probably the last of all wars, ending with the final destruction of civilization and culture if not of the human race.

So after the liquidation of one kind of dictatorship let us watch out for another one. After the liquidation of one totalitarianism let us not fall for another one. And we won’t as long as we believe that the development of mankind depends on the development of the individual. (Here I am not speaking for individualization but individualism, which is personal freedom. And by freedom I mean not being free from something but for something).

Those who need an organization of followers for power’s sake are not leaders. Their influence runs as long only as their organization runs. But those who are able to lead themselves to the highest individual development, see the great teachers from Socrates to Einstein, they have lasting influence, independent of organization.

I think it was the Maya Indians who understood that he was the leader who did not want to lead. And I think it is Chinese as well as Plato’s philosophy to consider him the leader who has the highest culture.

If we realize further that external power, in a vicious circle, depends on and aims at possession (in the worst case possession of human beings). If we realize also that inner strength depends only on our own ability and aims at creation and production, then we will understand why the example given in important work is the strongest means of influence, and therefore of education; let us think again of Socrates and other great teachers. Then we will understand why the example, which is only indirect personal influence, is stronger and more lasting than both organization and command. And let us not forget the anonymous great—the good mother, the good craftsman.

If organized power is related to possessiveness, and personal strength demonstrated by creativeness, then it seems worthwhile to distinguish possessive teaching and learning from creative, productive education.

Possessive students I call those who are satisfied with filling the memory with information. The worse are those feeding their pride with grades. Whitehead says: "A merely well informed man is the most useless bore on God’s earth."

The possessive teacher considers his knowledge as his material. He is inclined to have his students study the same things and in the same way as he had to do when he was a student.

To creative, productive education, the individual is the educational material. Here the aim is alike for both student and teacher, namely to discover and to develop ability as well as to discover and develop human relationship.

To educate is to adjust the individual as a whole to community and society as a whole.

If this definition is comprehensive then sound education is neither measured nor accomplished by academic standards.

I do not expect, nor do I consider it necessary, that everybody agrees with my generalizations. I am aware that I haven’t said so far anything specific about our institution here.

As I believe that only continuous revision of our ideas will keep us alive, I have tried only to think over a few basic questions which I consider decisive for our task here.

If we can avoid confusion between means and ends then it doesn’t matter whether others consider us radical or modern or even reactionary. Then we can bear it that first our friends and now our enemies call us progressive. Nor is it of first importance how we ourselves call B M C, an educational community or a liberal arts college.

So I repeat the definition I gave before: to educate is to adjust the individual as a whole to community and society as a whole. And I believe this can be accepted by the radical as well as by the conservative.

If we can realize or embody such understanding of education then we may arrive at a democratic education where different opinions and different developments are accepted and expected.

Where common responsibility will result in productive living and working together; where everybody leads himself before he leads others; where we aim at behavior and culture as well as at knowledge.

Sam Brown, our latest graduate said once something like this: Not everybody is a genius. But at B M C everybody can be important. I should like to extend this remark as an invitation to everybody here. If everybody here does his best then we can expect that our whole College will be important.

Paper presented at Black Mountain College.

October 6, 1945

On Teaching Art to Youngsters

I found the following sentence in an article on finger painting in an art magazine, addressed mainly to art teachers: "When the background has been made, any free, sweeping motion of the hand will create a design.” In a caption under one of the illustrations I found, “Daintiness is a minor factor; freedom of expression is all important."

Reading this and similar well-intended advice, I was reminded of a formulation by Michelangelo saying, “One paints with one’s head and not with one’s hands.” With these quotations we are right in a continual controversy about whether in studying and making art, “feeling” is all important or “understanding” is all important; whether instinct or intellect should lead; whether just so-called self-expression or a controlled study that is of means and meanings is the most promising way of art studies.

More impressed I was with a headline in another periodical for art teachers which said, “Child’s growth is the chief concern.” If we can agree on this formulation, and I think we all can and should, I should like to analyze some art education tendencies of today which in my opinion need revision; and I should like to indicate other methods which seem to me possible and more profitable. Before going into details, first on art education and then on general education and why and how they both should be one thing, let me make a few general statements.

For most of the years I have been with art and art education, I have believed that art can be taught; but the more I paint and the longer I teach, the more I believe that art cannot be taught—at least not directly. I do not conclude that art cannot be learned, or that there should be no teaching which aims at art. On the contrary, experienced guidance is justly wanted and needed in art.

As I see it, art is visual formulation of our relationship and of our reactions to the world, to the universe, and to life. If such definition is acceptable, then all art studies are concerned on the one hand with the development of seeing the world, but not only the visible world around us. In this direction we aim at the ability to visualize and to read the meaning of forms and of shapes. In other words we are first concerned with seeing. On the other hand, there is the constant struggle with the means which convey our feeling, our vision; that is, there is the struggle of getting acquainted with appropriate materials, elements and tools, as well as with their proper selection and application. This all means a concern with formulation. Thus, the two basic aspects we have to deal with and in which we can offer help are seeing and formulating, or vision and articulation.

Since vision and articulation are the parents of art, self-expression in art which is to reveal purposely something through visual formulation is possible only at an advanced level, that is, after vision is developed, and after articulation is acquired, at least to some extent. Consequently, self-expression is not the beginning of art studies. I am aware that many art teachers are not sympathetic to such conclusions. I come to my conclusions through the following premises.

There is no verbal communication before we can produce sounds and words. And there is not writing before we have letters and types. For the same reason, there is no visual formulation as long as there is no visual articulation. Nobody considers inarticulate sounds of a child a language, and nobody accepts his scribblings as writing. But curiously enough, many are inclined to accept such scribblings as self-expression, and so, as art. I am sure we have good reasons to be excited about children’s drawing and paintings, about the directness and spontaneity, their simplicity and forcefulness, in short, the vitality of their trials. But all this and what else we may read into, or out of, children’s work, the child himself does not see nor does he read his work the way we read it.

Of course, children’s work can tell us many things about the child; but seen from the child’s purpose, its revelations are unintentional as self-confessions and are certainly undesired as self-disclosures. If the child would know about our conclusions we can draw from his work, he would be frightened and perhaps would stop altogether producing more. Slowly and finally, teachers are discovering that self-expression is something very different from self-disclosure.

Here we may clarify the vital forces which get the child to work. For this purpose we must distinguish between the urge to be occupied and the urge to be creative. Before I apply this distinction to our teaching of art, let me point to a sad experience which probably you all have had. Namely, many children whose paintings and drawings were most exciting and promising at the beginning are not at all so a few years later. This change occurs with the approach of puberty when the child starts to compare his achievements with the achievements of grown-ups. Then, too often, his work loses directness and spontaneity, and so, vitality, and he, consequently, loses enthusiasm and interest, and it seems, even his talents.

Why? This is my most important question today in analyzing the so-called self-expression attitudes (I refuse to call it teaching). Why do many children lose their interest in a field in which they enjoy so much to work, in which they showed promising gifts? Because, I think, we do not realize enough and do not support enough the natural evolution from the urge to be occupied to the urge to be creative.

To be creative is to compete with the Creator. It proves not only a misconception, but worse, a disrespect, to call doing anything creative. In its real meaning, being creative is to make discoveries and inventions, to have ideas and to be aware of them. If this is overlooked, we will fail to develop self-confidence in our pupils before such comparing of their work with that of grown-ups arrives.

I believe that only the child with self-confidence is able to overcome the danger of such comparing and is able to continue his interest and work. Self-confidence comes from a belief in one’s ability and from the thrill of its recognition. Without this positive belief, that is, without self-confidence, those comparisons will lead to discouragement, ending too often with a complete resignation from any art work.

We need not fear this resignation when we see to it that the child not only feels or guesses that he is learning and improving, but that he knows and, therefore, is sure about that he improves and why. The recognition of growth is not only the greatest excitement, but also the strongest incentive in all learning with young and old alike.

But don’t we force resignation, as I mentioned before, when we continue to insist that children’s art work should be left alone and remain unhampered by any direction and any guidance? When the aims or claims of art teaching for children are (as printed recently in another art teachers’ publication):

"An art expression that emerges from a stimulating intellectual environment"—"An art expression that has aesthetic values"—"An art expression that values subjective truth"—"An art expression that creates new forms"—"An art expression that enables one to meet new situations" and one more significant sentence: "Art that is derived from emotional living will have aesthetic value, and has no national boundaries. It communicates to sensitive people everywhere." In order not to be misunderstood, I must say with emphasis that I am all for a playful, unrestricted exploration at the beginning; but when this beginning is artificially prolonged to the dead end, then I feel obliged to point at the corpses proving such sad end.

Compare our art teaching with teaching in other fields; imagine the four "R’s" taught without direction, without systematic training, or in language, or history, or a study of music consisting only of self-expression without systematic and continuous exercises.

It is a psychological error to believe that art stems from feeling only. Art comes from the conscious, as well as from the subconscious – from both the heart and mind. If art is order, it is intellectual order as well as intuitive or instinctive order. Unfortunately there are people, teachers and students, afraid of the training of the conscious in art, afraid of the understandable in art. For those, I should like to say that clear thinking will not and can not interfere with genuine feeling; but it does interfere with prejudices, so often misinterpreted as feelings—and that’s all to the good. As in any other field of human endeavor, so is it worthwhile also in art to see and to think clearly. There are more reasons, psychological, sociological, and ethical, which keep me critical of an art expression derived from emotional living; but I prefer to turn now to some practical proposals.

I believe that in most art classes for children, there is much too much painting, or worse, too much picture making. There is too little drawing which develops the motor sense which is a very important sense for visualization. We should construct as much if not more than just modeling in clay which, in my opinion, is the poorest medium for the development of space conception. With this I come to direct forming in material, a forming which considers both sides of material, its capacity in construction studies and its appearance in formulation studies.

I know that teaching youngsters if very different from teaching college and university students, graduates and undergraduates.

I taught children exclusively, and I believe comprehensively, for eight years. Though this was not recently, I still have a picture of children, about what they can do, and what they want to achieve. Preparing this talk, I asked myself what I would do were I to teach again first-graders? I would look at them and with what they are most concerned in their exciting or strange new surroundings, namely, the school. So I chose their occupation with letters and words as a point of departure for my following project:

After the class of these first-graders has decided on what letter to work, we will draw that letter independent of its usual or habitual size—large, and extra-large. For instance, reaching precisely from the top edge of the paper to the bottom edge, then smaller and smaller, to very tiny. And making a contrast greater than advertising dares to do. With pencil and brush, crayon and ink, all the same letter, many, many times, all over the paper. After finding them naturally (first) in the middle of the paper, we find other placements; we separate them into groups, maybe with an empty middle of the paper – in groups moving beyond the paper, coming from the outside into the paper. Also, moving along the edges only, looking over the edges. Making them dancing, marching, and what not—all in one direction and in changing directions—left to right, and right to left—upward, as well as downward—quick and slow. Done in dots, interrupted lines, in looped and scalloped lines. Standing, lying, falling—standing on top of each other, leaning against each other, falling over each other, lying on their face or back or side. Or making them looking at each other, talking with each other, fighting with each other also.

In rows, with increasing and decreasing size, again in many directions, all in the same thickness of line, alternating in thin lines and thick lines, or increasing the thickness of line. With very courageous pupils, I would even try to write in the letters backwards, and in reversed direction. We emphasize precise shapes—we distort them after having the normal appearance, that the letters may indicate different moods, so that we can see them as human beings with different faces, different expressions, different behaviors. We might build with letters, fences and houses, group them into gardens or cities, in short use them with lots of imagination—with all tools available, in all the colors, and then with restricted colors—maybe pencil and only one color.

But, most important, every 10 minutes all work is put together in the middle of the floor as an exhibition, and we all sit around and relax, and compare, and criticize, to see where something exciting happened, where there are new ideas for trying something else. No matter whether the studies are finished or not, let’s see how different their approaches are, how different their successes are, their failings are. At another class, we choose another letter or two, and again make them behave in as many ways as we can think of, and we do them not only with pencil or with brush, but also in material, in string, in wire, in masking tape, in sand, and we will learn that the different materials dictate different kinds of form and shape—but we learn something of which we are aware.

Or at another time, we take a word—love, for instance—and we draw that word many times again, up and down, forward and backward, in all shapes and characters we can think of; or we all write the word love once on the paper as large as possible and decorate it as fancy as possible. Then we repeat the exhibition for comparison, and we find out which presentation (not representation) is the most "lovely" one, which reveals most care, which one evokes most attention.

After working with the letter and printed word, we may take up the symbol—the heart shape—which is a beautiful shape and not hard for the children to do. We do the same again as we did before, varying sizes, placement, different colors, in material, etc., etc.—all in hearts. The child, after some time of training, knows he can create and doesn’t need any papa or teacher to tell him “that’s well done”. If we don’t achieve that in a child, that is, he is sure about something that he can do, we will lose them all at thirteen or fourteen years.

I think it’s not hard to imagine that the aims and results of such directed fun and work are led by comparison and consequently by evaluation right from the beginning. By making writing and printing characters free from being looked at factually, namely as slaves doing nothing more than carrying words, we present a challenge to produce our own stories instead of following other stories by imitating or illustrating them. The children will early become aware of competition which will confront them all their lives, and that they have to justify their doings by finding out about more or less success and failure. The child will learn to compare not only work but people, and himself with others, and will discover what is easy or hard for him to do, what are his strong sides, his preferences and inclinations, and also his weak sides, and will come to some conclusions. We teachers will learn this way too, about children and about ourselves.

You see also that I prefer class projects to individual criticism, because it forces comparison which is the means for evaluation. With emphasis on placement we correspond to a constitutional and therefore important inclination of children, namely for order and orderliness. Any child confronted with a disorderly pile of things that his hands can easily move, will start right away to produce some order, and significantly, not on the flat dimensional plane on which he finds that pile, but perpendicular to it – in three dimensions – in space. Without being asked, he feels the urge to construct. Watch children doing something – even with the little dominoes which are supposed to lie on the table top. They don’t place them next to each other on a flat plane—instead they put them on top of each other. This proves the discovery of Gestalt psychology that the perception of volume is earlier and easier than the perception of planes, of shapes, of two-dimensional forms. But still, in most school programs, two-dimensional studies are placed before three-dimensional studies. Think it over.

My main advice is: instead of using paint exclusively and all the time, let us make things more than just perceiving them. All children will enjoy making dolls, for instance—making them from material of all kinds: from potatoes to buttons, from straw and paper to apples, etc., much more than only representing them.

Let the children make animals and flowers in three-dimensions before projecting them on a flat plane. Then cut them; then tear them; then paste them in paper, cardboard, corrugated paper, foil, etc., etc.

Have them build houses or gardens, circuses and fairs, or parts of them, etc., etc. And for a change make linear drawings from them, afterwards.

For arrangement studies (composition) give them again buttons, nails, toothpicks, or hairpins, etc. to be pasted on paper or board.

And play with finger paints, colorful fall leaves for decorative purposes, or strings and wire as linear means.

This is all to make the child aware, right from the beginning, that art is not merely flat projection or representation, but order of innumerable kinds. And most important, that fantasy and imagination, choice and selection, are the magic forces underlying all art.

Education, I believe, is the adjustment of the individual as a whole to the community and society as a whole. If this definition is comprehensive, then sound education is neither measured nor accomplished by academic standards. The prevailing system of education is antiquated. It carries still the pattern of the first organized education of the middle ages which was designed for small groups of highly selected intellectuals. Remaining in this pattern, it is unrelated to the mental and physical constitutions of the masses of students we are dealing with today.

If we want democratic education that is fair opportunity for all, then we must consider the manual type of student and the visual and the auditory type as much as the minority of intellectuals. To say it in a simpler way, we need to consider also the hand and eye and ear people and must provide development of their abilities. Concerning brain people, it seems significant that too often, those with the best memories hold the priority of success—that is, success in schools. And we are inclined to overlook that such success just as often ends with the end of school. Mere accumulation of facts, mostly so-called facts, I call possessive and uncreative teaching and learning.

On the opposite side, in creative, productive education the individual, the student, is the education material, its primary concern. Here the aim is alike for both students and teachers—namely, to discover and develop ability as well as to discover and develop human relations. In order to develop productive students, we need productive teachers. This is, to say it again and again, that the example of the teacher is the strongest medium of education. The indirect and therefore less obvious influence that is, the unintentional personal influence of the teacher’s being and doing is more effective and more contagious than many like to believe. Therefore, we may develop others best by developing ourselves. And, we as teachers have no right to demand from our students what we are not able or not willing to do ourselves. He who is and remains a student himself is justified to teach students.

How can we develop others when our own growth is arrested? If growth is the aim and the measure of development on the teachers’ as well as on the students’ side, it is also its excitement without which teaching is only a hard job and a sour bread.

All knowledge, theoretical and practical, is dead wood when it does not result in a positive attitude proved only in action. That is to say that the development of the will distinguishes education from information. Whitehead says that, "a merely well-informed person is the greatest bore on God’s earth".

The necessary counterbalance against one-sided over-intellectualization, over-memorizing and unrealistic retrospection is practical work. As long as education is not to be divorced from life participation in laboratory studies in experimentation and production, provided in schools so far mainly and unfortunately only in craft and art should be obligatory in all education, particularly in the so-called higher levels.

Practical work connects very directly with reality; it fulfills actual needs and provides easily the educationally so-important satisfaction of achievement. It responds to curiosity for experience as well as for information. It connects intellectual and manual work and workers. It develops judgment of usefulness, of quality, besides respect for material and labor, and so improves cultural and social conditions. It provides besides physical exercises, coordination within ourselves and with others better than any sport can do. It teaches by experience that insight and skill depend on observation as well as on thought. Through practical work and through art, we realize again that there is besides thinking in logical conclusions, a thinking in form and action which is just as important as thinking in figures and verbal terms. It may take time to convince a majority of pedagogues that practical work and practicing art represent essential parts of general and democratic education. More and more schools realize what the war and particularly its consequences have taught us, that the teaching of manual work and art answers a need signified by psychological and social, and therefore, basic conditions.

Historically seen, the task of education has remained the same – namely, human development. But it has changed in emphasis and methods. In its contents from a belief, to knowledge. In its aim from a spiritual, to an intellectual attitude. After having forgotten, so to speak, for too long, to care also about senses and hands, we recognize that we cannot neglect them much longer.

A tremendously growing interest in art everywhere reminds us that art remains the means and the measure of culture. The means for developing, and the measure for judging, culture. So, any education without art is no general education; and any art education not aiming at general education is no education. I conclude that the integration of both general education and the productive art education is a whole, namely education.

Paper presented at the Conference for Elementary and Secondary Teachers and Supervisors of Art, University of Illinois, Urbana.

March 15, 1952

Dimensions of Design

I am not a craftsman but feel close family ties with one of the crafts and particularly with some philosophy on that craft. Some of you have heard of it. Some might have read about it. Although I am a painter and teacher I have accepted the invitation to talk here to you because I feel attracted by the topic of your conference by a great challenging topic.

It says not "Dimension of Craft" which might point first at sessions on trade or organization issues marked by separating, limiting professional boundaries. Instead it says "Dimension of Design", meaning probably something not exclusively professional. And I like to read this topic as something broad, as something connected with culture, and particularly with art.

Since I have tried—for some time to make and teach art I feel encouraged to participate in a conference connected with art,—with art as visual formulation.

First I should like to clarify the term "Design" both, as I saw it, and as I see it. In my mother tongue there is no word of an equal meaning. So it took me a long time to grasp the connotations of "Design." You will remember that for many years—every year again—abstract art was declared dead. But it even entered children’s art classes. And when they made those non-representational color scribblings I asked a little boy what it meant. "Oh" he says, "that’s just design, just design."

It was just as puzzling for me to hear the word "design" used by people I met at my painting exhibitions. After the first favorable comments—namely on my beautiful frames—another comment, also favorable, came: "But I like your design." Listen to the singing of these two words design, just design, but your design.

All this did not lead me to an easy or pleasant acceptance of that word "design." To this end—it seems—I had to become first a Chairman of a "Department of Design". So I finally "rose"—just before retiring from that position—just now, I "rose" to the following verbal formulation of my own. I quote:

"To design is to plan and organize to order, to relate and to control. In short, it embraces all means opposing disorder and accident. Therefore it signifies a human need and qualifies man’s thinking and doing."

With this formulation I point at design as an outspoken human affair and its concern with quality and selection and consequently at its ethical implications.

Therefore I do not accept the much posted slogan: "Design is everywhere," published by a great institution!

Of course nature presents order, and surely relationship but only nature’s order, although an admirable order.

I believe that it is human control or, if you prefer, human interference with nature, that converts earth and water and what grows from both into design. It is human imagination, creativeness that transfers nature’s products into containers and tools answering human needs. Containers and tools just to name two large categories.

This brings us to factors upon which design depends—two conditions of design.

It is not first Tradition as the retrospective 19th Century has tried to make us believe; nor economic conditions—also invented by the 19th Century—and which, for too long, were to explain almost all human development, incidents and accidents, from war to peace, and even art.

And it is easy to prove for instance that Marx’s assertion that art depends on wealth is nonsense.

Slowly we have learned that human development, with human mentality, depends first on psychological conditions not on economic, social conditions. They have learned that human action depends on love and hate much more than on possession—no matter whether possessions are equal or unequal.

And now we know—finally at the middle of the 20th Century—that tradition in art is to create not to revive. I repeat—‘tradition in art is to create not to revive.’ In other words, tradition is to look forward, not backward, but inward, instead of outward.

With thinking about the development of psychological conditions we come to education, a most decisive factor in any field of human endeavor. And this leads to teaching of design which is to prepare: actively, planning and producing, passively: consuming and appreciating of designed goods.

Though I need to go into methodical details I dare to show now how we teach design at Yale.

By design, here, I do not mean industrial or product design, but a general training in and for design in general.

And as in all general education, we start with elementary studies, and as we learn in school among the 3 (or 4) "R"s—I prefer four because then art is included—we learn first, arithmetic (for instance as an elementary discipline) no matter whether we are later housewives or bankers.

So we expose our students mainly and thoroughly to a basic learning, Whether their aim is painting or sculpture, printmaking, photography or graphic design—whether they plan to go into architecture, city, or stage design, all learn first basic design; learn basic drawing; learn basic color.

And just the same studies are offered to our "customers" from the campus, undergraduates of varying interests, and graduates of many fields. As those coming to us from Yale College and the University, and as those outnumber our professionals, it may be of interest, why they come to us. They come rarely on advice of their academic professors, but mostly because of their discovery that the eyes, our most important contact with the world (psychologists have proved that 80 – 90% of our perception is visual)—they have seen that our eyes are neglected—especially in "higher" learning. Or they have heard that our training of eye and hand includes mind and heart and also connects and broadens studies in other fields.

In order to make clear what "basic" means I must emphasize first that we do not believe in so-called self-expression. Neither as a way of study nor as its aim. Instead, we believe in a step by step learning of observation and articulation that is of clear seeing first, and of appropriate precise formulation second, both the natural conditions for producing meaningful form.

I am not competent to give you—representatives of many crafts—specified advice.

But I think it will stimulate, despite my being indirect, to tell some typical features of our basic teaching.

As our methods of teaching—learning—differ from those of other schools, I hope they offer new comparisons, viewpoints, and challenge thus a re-evaluation of our own work and also self-criticism.

So I speak first about drawing. I think this illustrates most clearly what I mean by step-by-step teaching and learning. Our drawing class, with a normal enrollment of twenty-four is attended by 110 to 120; despite the fact that the class demands hard and concentrated work, despite the fact that we don’t use charcoal and still more, despite the fact that we have no naked girls around. Why—without such a big attraction? I had to teach, during my years of study for years, naked ones, but I know that I hadn’t learned a thing. I got some skill but I didn’t have any understanding really of what I did. I tried to save my students from this negative experience and achieved that by saving Yale every year several thousand dollars for models. Instead, we offer our students exercises as a teacher in music might—maybe as a piano teacher has to do—if the aim is learning to play the piano. In this way we learn to repeat form. We repeat form by performing a whole page full of triangles, one after the other, all of the same direction on top of each other—and if the page is full of black pencil strokes then we take ink or red pencils. We do reversed shapes.

We don’t see only with our eyes. We see also with our motor sense that the arm is sometimes surer than when it concerns direction—than the eye is. Why? My explanation is that the eye is too close by our memory. There are two kinds of shooting—this one and "bang". Visual shooting and motor-sense shooting. We do repeat forms, we reverse forms, we extend forms and always with the aim to produce similarity.

We learn that a circle remains a circle only in a frontal position. If you can imagine a wall—a big wall—only on eye level the circle remains visual. In that corner the ellipse has this tendency—in this corner the ellipse has that tendency—in between—this way—this way—this way. You won’t find the explanation in books and I won’t give it to you, because I would like you to find it yourself. We learn to see. We learn to dispose and for this reason we have a saying: "To speak without thinking—produces nonsense if not an insult." To draw without seeing what we are doing, is just the same. So we draw a lot (in the air)—the so-called meander. We draw above the paper—we draw with closed eyes and then we see what we might get. Then we go down and put it down. You see, I’m against self-expression. We draw lots of things; pots, glasses, flowers, twigs, tools, umbrellas—a very good model—bicycles—the most hated model—because it is very difficult often to see, particularly when it is lying on the ground, whether the wheel has this leaning or that leaning. We are always misled. If we don’t know the optical rule, we will be misled. We do a lot of figure drawing. A lot! When we do them the models are always our friends or class members. We know them. We draw the people of whom we also know how their legs are underneath the dining table—or what is characteristic. We do not express ourself, as I said. We do not represent but we present. We present that we understand what we are doing.

The next field that I have here is basic design. In the school’s catalogues it is called 2 and 3 Dimensional Design. I would like to reverse this order because 3 Dimensional is easier to conceive than 2 Dimensional. We should know that. We do not start with design principles like movement, balance, proportion. We start with material and with elements and try to find out how far they lead us to improve our flexibility which is discovery and invention.

The Mexican people, I think, are the richest people in sculpture in all history. When you study their little clay figures, they are always all done with great respect for the material. The material stands on its own and never on armatures. Clay on armatures is a swindle. Let’s have clay representing itself. (Then make a ball this way—make a sausage this way!) The study of Mexican sculpture and the elements from which they have produced their great culture is most enlightening. These so-called primitive people. We can learn from them a lot.

Try to avoid and even to condemn so-called design terms which too easily lead to mechanical application.

One term is texture. I think I am entitled to consider myself instrumental in re-introducing texture 30 years ago. But what happened to texture since then is frightening. Originally it was meant just to present honesty, insuring the material’s honest face. But today we mix it with form and with shape and even with color. To hide either—to improve—form and color—or to hide failures in form and color. And then it is called "personal handwriting." I do not permit in the basic design class to use the word "variety." Why not? Because, again it’s a device to hide lack of imagination. We need an excuse. Please be honest to yourself and find out where you have excused something without meaning as "variety" and are fooling yourself and others. So I say, what was practically said here before—this is not a place only to please and to praise, but also to challenge opposition.

In basic design, we emphasize very much economy of effort and in art I must say, we achieve more than in physics; in mathematics more than the bankers can do. Only in design one and one is three—please. One and one is three—can you see the three? One and one is four—can you see the four? Only in art, and only artists are entitled to have this profit. Now to make it short, I rush on and say a little bit about color.

Color—we have developed a new way of study and particularly in order to oppose mechanical applications of rules. And to name right away very bad ones—complementaries—I say complementaries in scientific terms, which might exist in a physics laboratory but does not exist in paint which is our medium. When you start with a certain red and go to the Munsell System you find the opposite so-called complementary color here. But take the same color and go to any systems there are and you will find different ones. Complementaries is a most vague relationship and if it is so vague, let’s protect ourselves and our students from this very poor advice. We are tired of reds and greens all the time. Let’s find a little bit broader range—so we are speaking in our course—mainly—that we never see a color what it really is—please be aware of that. We are always deceived by colors. We never see a color as that what is physically in our mind. This should be known and this should be applied if we want to be fooled again by stupid rules. We do not start with color systems—we start with color effects and we make out from three colors that they look like two. We are able to make three colors look like four and we are almost able now to make black and white look alike! And we do all this nonsense only in paper—not in pigments—this is particularly healthy because paper doesn’t permit mixture. Therefore, we do mixture a lot and that’s the main study of our papers, color studies that we learn mixture. With closed eyes we try to find out which might be the mixture of two color parents. We know and learn that any mixture is not lighter—is not brighter than the lightest and the brightest of the color mixture parents, or lower or deeper than the color parents.

Now I would like to compare these three fields which I have presented. Drawing means discipline—means position. Basic design very briefly means lubrication of imagination, and color—just plain magic. These details show that our aim is seeing and formulating, or as I said before observation and articulation. We oppose the academic concept of theory and practice, in which theory is placed artificially first, because naturally practice proceeds theory. We believe in learning by experience as more lasting than memorizing rules and theories. We demonstrate that there is besides thinking and logical conclusions—also thinking in situations and that is in my opinion, what the creative process means. When I brought this word up first I got some laughter from professors that were older than I, and also from anthropologists and psychologists. Now the term is already published by economists even. We are convinced that ultimately only the development of real readiness for action serves human co-existence and that is why education has been invented originally and again and again through the ages.

As human life and society demand fulfilled obligations, we as people depending on eye and hand must be aware and make aware that the visual type of student and the manual and auditory type deserve as much educational attention as a minority of intellectuals if we aim at democratic learning which is learning for all. students in democratic learning.

One dimension of our work is measured by vision. Because it is vision—I believe—that directs us to art. Therefore if our work is—or approaches—art (though the final decision on it is not ours), then sensitive eyes will discover an inner seeing, inner reading, revealed on the producers side, and equally evoked on the spectators side.

With such concepts, we again move away from the 19th century which considered nature as the main source of creative, productive, inspiration. But we have found that nature too easily is read as something outside of us—around us.

But if man is our first concern—then I recommend life—human life as a closer and deeper inspirational source. All evaluation stems from comparison and analogies or parallels of our work with situations or conditions of human life—I believe—convince easier and lead further than similarities with forms in nature.

After the present fashion of self-expressionism, and over-individualization, manual work and craft will be needed and will be asked for to give weight to the development of ability and will. The first and last justification of education. The times are with us—the lead of materialism and retrospection is waning. Self-expression is eliminating itself in self-disclosure of little and less significance as it rejects planning and control.

After yesterday’s emphasis on economic-social issues, ability and personality will be sought again and spiritual needs will be recognized again. Our time is encouraging! The public is interested in art; art books and poetry are again best sellers; after too much of renaissance and 19th Century revival, we now learn art from so-called primitive peoples. Their visual revelations move now from natural history collections into art museums. When we learn from folk art that respect for material brings design further than "personal handwriting" then it should be clear again that true design is good instead of interesting. It is serving instead of (now listen—I think the word comes from the greatest vice of today—serving instead of entertaining.)

Beyond all those Wagnerian posters, screaming that enriched bread builds strong "somethings", last month in eight ways—last week already in twelve ways. I don’t know if the middle-west is also bombarded with such posters as we have in the east. Enriched bread helps build strong bodies again. When we see such nonsense, then it should become clear again. Good design is not first interest and it is not first entertaining.

Beyond three-colored cars and tailfins, beyond multi-colored iceboxes competing with rejuvenated hotels, and beyond all this great color consciousness of the times, let us not overlook that one dimension of design—namely its great mission.

Its emissaries will demonstrate that behavior produces form—behavior of material—plus behavior of ourself. They also know that, in return, form results in behavior. I repeat: behavior produces form and form results in behavior. The emissaries will develop receptiveness, receptiveness for meaningful form advocating a meaningful life instead of "gracious living".

Concluding: I dare to forecast. It will be seen again that beauty is more than outside surface make-up—that beauty is virtue.

So I am looking forward to a new philosophy telling us that esthetics are ethics. I invite you to deal with this new concept that ethics are the source and measure of esthetics.

Keynote address presented at the Second Annual Conference of the American Craftsmen’s Council, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

June 23, 1958

The Logic and Magic of Color January 19, 1966, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida
General Education and Art Education: Possessive or Productive April 6, 1965. First of three lectures given at Trinity College, Hartford,Connecticut. Published by Trinity College Press as Search Versus Research, in 1969.

1935 Abstract Art

1939 On Education and Art Education

1940 The Meaning of Art

1940 Address to a Black Mountain College meeting

1945 On Education

1952 On Teaching Art to Youngsters

1958 Dimensions of Design

1965 The Logic and Magic of Color

1966 General Education and Art Education: Possessive or Productive