A History and Practical Theology of Images

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Syllabus – A History and Practical Theology of Images

David Clayton

3 credits

 

Part 1 (to Mid-term Exam)

 

Required Reading: The Way of Beauty, by David Clayton, Angelico Press, 2015

(Note:  In some classes there will be specially written class notes  - typically short articles that also will be required reading.)

 

  • The Way of Beauty videos

13 videos discussing art thematically

  1. The State We Are In – What is wrong with today’s art.
  2. A Catholic Worldview – How art can present a Catholic worldview even if it isn’t religious or painted by Catholics.
  3. The Way of Beauty – Why beauty has the answers for today.
  4. Due Proportion – An introduction to the mathematical description of beauty. This will be explored in much greater depth in the Class – Sacred Number, Sacred Geometry, Harmony and Proportion.
  5. Grace, Beauty and Education – Why the beauty of the environment and recognition of the worship of God as our highest activity in this life helps us in education.
  6. Icons, the Art of the Heavenly Ideal – An introduction to the theology and form of icons.
  7. Painting Icons – An explanation of some of the basic methods of icon painting, which connects the creation of icons to their purpose
  8. Gothic Art – How the style of gothic art reflects a Catholic worldview.
  9. High Renaissance and Baroque Art – How a change in the perception of the ultimate ideal in art created the High Renaissance, which led, over time, to a new, authentic liturgical tradition, the baroque.
  10. Baroque Profane Art – How the art style that began as art for the liturgy influenced non-religious art forms such as portrait and landscape.
  11. Art that is Not Christian – How the form of some modern art reflects a non-Christian worldview.
  12. Art of Non-Christian Cultures – How the style of art of traditional non-Christian cultures - for example, Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist - reflects their worldview, and how Christians should approach such art.
  13. The Art of Vatican II: Where Do We Go From Here? – How we might draw on our understanding of the Christian sacred art traditions and their purpose in order to create art for today.

 

  • The Watchmen of the Night, the Monks of Saint Mary Magdalene Monastery in Le Barroux, Southern France – In this you will see the monks praying the Divine Office and the Mass and as they talk about it the importance of the cosmic symbolism in their worship becomes clear.

 

  • Art of the Western World – 18 half-hour videos in which Western art history is presented chronologically beginning with the ancient Greeks. This will enable you to place all other discussions into a historical context.

 

  • Why Beauty Matters – A personal view presented by the English philosopher, Roger Scruton. Scruton is a Christian (High Anglican), not a Catholic. He tends to argue as a philosopher rather than as a theologian, beginning with his observations of common human experience.

 

Mid-term Exam

 

Part 2 (Mid-term Exam to Final Exam)

 

  • What Do Catholics Believe About Icons? – A deeper investigation into the justification of the use of sacred art in the Church. It outlines rationale for the use of sacred images in the Church. It explains how Christology - the study of the person of Christ and how his humanity relates to his divinity - legitimizes the portrayal of Christ in images, as well as Our Lady, the Saints, and all other creatures, but leaves open, in some ways, the question as to how to portray God the Father and the Holy Spirit. We discuss also how all authentic liturgical traditions – the iconographic, the gothic and the baroque - fulfill the criteria outlined by the Seventh Ecumenical Council.

Required Reading: God’s Human Face by Christoph Cardinal Schoenborn, Ignatius Press,

The Spirit of the Liturgy by Pope Benedict XVI, Ignatius Press, Part III, Chapter 1, ‘A Question of Images,’ pp 115-135.

The Way of Beauty by David Clayton, Angelico Press, 2015, pp 173-210.

 

  • An Introduction to the Transcendentals – A first philosophy class explaining the objective nature of the transcendentals: One, True, Good, Beautiful (Res and Aliquid)

Suggested reading: The One and the Many, by Fr Norris Clarke, University of Notre Dame Press, 2001.

 

  • Christian Anthropology, the Theology of the Body and the Representation of the Human Figure - This is an introduction to Christian anthropology as it is relevant to art, and which incorporates the Theology of the Body (and some other writings of John Paul II). It relates our understanding of the human person to the style of artistic representation in painting.

Required Reading: Various short articles on Christian anthropology - body, soul, spirit, heart - plus the Catechism of the Catholic Church, §355-368.

“John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and the Representation of Man in Art,” published in The Beauty of God’s House, Festschrift for Stratford Caldecott, ed. Francesca Murphy, 2001. Supplied as a Word file.

 

  • Materials, Frames, Glazes, etc. – Consideration, through the study of particular examples, of how the artist’s craft takes into account more than just drawing and painting – the choice of materials and setting can influence the quality of the art and its conformity to its purpose.

 

  • Prayer with Sacred Images – An explanation of how, traditionally, prayer and worship have engaged visual imagery, and of how artists created art that engages the viewer in such a way that it nourishes both.

Required Reading: “The New Evangelization,” seven page paper by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), 2001.

Little Oratory, by David Clayton and Leila Lawler, Sophia Institute Press, 2014.

 

  • How Chinese and Western Art Combine – A case study which shows how a Christian art form can draw on other cultural forms by consideration of both stylistic elements and the worldview that formed them. In this case we look at the baroque and Chinese landscape.

 

  • Case Study: Mark Rothko and Abstract Expressionism – A case study which shows an example of form that is reflective of anti-Christian values, and a discussion as to whether this rules out its use altogether. We also use this example to look at how professional art critics and art historians describe his work, in order to critique the critiques!

 

  • Case Study: Modern Art and Prayer, Marc Chagall - In which we look at how some modern art forms can, in a limited way, have value in personal prayer. We look at an address by Benedict XVI made in 2011 on the work of Marc Chagall.

 

  • Case Study: The Ghent Altarpiece – We look in depth at this gothic masterpiece, considering it now in the light of all that we have learned in the class and comparing how we would critique it now with that of a professional art historian.

Required Reading: The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, by Fabrice Jadjadj, Magnificat, 2015.

 

Final Exam

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Lessons

Here is the class outline:

Introduction
An intro to this course.
Episode 1:
What is wrong with today’s art.
Episode 2:
How art can present a Catholic worldview even if it isn’t religious, or even painted by Catholics.
Episode 3:
Why beauty has the answers for today.
Episode 4:
An introduction to the mathematical description of beauty. This will be explored in much greater depth in the Class – Sacred Number, Sacred Geometry, Harmony and Proportion.
Episode 5:
Wow the beauty of the environment and recognition of the worship of God as our highest activity in this life helps us in education.
Episode 6:
An introduction to the theology of form of icons.
Episode 7:
An explanation of some of the basic methods of icon painting, which connects the creation of icons to their purpose.
Episode 8:
How the style of gothic art reflects a Catholic worldview.
Episode 9:
How a change in the perception the ultimate ideal in art created the High Renaissance, which led, in time, to a new authentic liturgical tradition, the baroque.
Episode 10:
How the art style that began as art for the liturgy influenced non religious art forms, such as portrait and landscape.
Episode 11:
How the form of some modern art reflects an non-Christian worldview.
Episode 12:
How the style of art of traditional non-Christian cultures, for example, Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist, reflects their worldview too, and how Christians should approach such art.
Episode 13:
How we might draw on our understanding of the Christian sacred art traditions and their purpose to create art for today.
Watch: The Privileged Planet
Privileged Planet
Watch: Watchmen of the Night
In this you will see the monks praying the Divine Office and the Mass and as they talk about it the importance of the cosmic symbolism in their worship becomes clear.
Watch: Art of the Western World
18 half hour videos in which Western art history is presented chronologically beginning with the ancient Greeks. This will enable you to place all other discussions into a historical context.
Watch: Why Beauty Matters
A personal view presented by the English philosopher, Roger Scruton. Scruton in a Christian, but not Catholic (High Anglican). He tends to argue as a philosopher rather than a theologian, beginning with his observations of common human experience.
Midterm Exam
Midterm Exam for this course.
Lesson 1
What Do Catholics Believe About the Use of Images?
Lesson 2
Introduction to the Transcendentals.
Lesson 3
Christian Anthropology, the Theology of the Body and Art.
Lesson 4
Choice of Materials, Colors, Frames, Glazes and Reproductions for Sacred Art.
Lesson 5
The New Evangelization and Prayer with Sacred Images.
Lesson 6
The Traditional Symbolism in Christian Art.
Lesson 7
Case study. Baroque mundane art. Court dwarf by Velazquez.
Lesson 8
Modern art by Mark Rothko Case study.
Lesson 9
How Chinese Art and Western Art Combine.
Lesson 10
Lesson 11
Final Exam