SAC 500 A History and Practical Theology of Images - The Way of Beauty (3 credits; 12.8 CEUs)
Welcome to this course, SAC 500 A History and Practical Theology of Images - The Way of Beauty. I hope this will be a stimulating and enjoyable course for you and will help you, in turn, to be a better teacher!
This course is available for credit towards a degree, for Continuing Education Units, and for audit. If you are interested in auditing this course, please email Elizabeth Froula at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I anticipate people will get different things from the course. Some of you, I anticipate, will see this as an art theory course, albeit an unusual one, that explains how a traditional understanding of beauty, informed deeply by the Faith of the Catholic Church, has formed some of the greatest works of art ever produced. It explains also, how the wider culture changed when very different ideas of beauty began to take hold with the onset of the ideas of the Enlightenment from the 18th century onwards. To know such information is a great reason to take the course and if that is your reason then that is terrific!
However, the objects of our study - the art, the music and the architecture that are consistent with a Catholic worldview - were not created by those who made them simply to be seen as objects of academic study. Rather, they were intended as signposts that directed towards a particular end. The very name of the course, A History and Practical Theology of Images - The Way of Beauty, evokes this idea. It has been created not just as subject to be taught and studied, but also for those who are moved by it, to show us a path a 'way' that we can travel on. This path is the Way of Beauty referred to by Pope Benedict (in Latin) as via pulchritudinis and it has God as its final goal. In 2005 Pope Benedict wrote of not one, but two ways of beauty: the beauty of creation; the beauty of the arts and the culture of man; each is a sign that draw us in and then beyond itself onto the source of all beauty, the Beauty of God manifested in Christ. He wrote: 'Beginning with the simple experience of the marvel-arousing meeting with beauty, the via pulchritudinis can open the pathway for the search for God, and disposes heart and spirit to meet Christ, who is the Beauty of Holiness Incarnate, offered by God to men for their salvation. It invites contemporary Augustines, unquenchable seekers of love, truth and beauty to see through the perceptible beauty to eternal Beauty, and with fervour discover Holy God, the author of all beauty.'
As you will learn in this course, all Christian education -regardless of the subject actually taught - is ordered to this end and we cannot truly hope to pass that on unless we too are travelling on that path. Consequently, I hope that you 'contemporary Augustines' will be inspired go beyond just learning about the subjects discussed and want also to follow where they lead; and by treading that joyful and life-changing path of beauty, truth and goodness may be examples who in turn attract those you teach to follow that path too.
May God bless you,
1 Benedict XVI, Concluding Document of the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Council of Culture, April 2005; II, 1
This course is offered asynchronously on our LMS, NEO. To access the course and complete it successfully, you will need an internet capable device with sound and a current internet browser: either the current or the previous release of Chrome, Firefox and Safari, or Internet Explorer 11+ (for Windows 8 and previous versions), and Microsoft Edge (for Windows 10+) to run the LMS. In addition, courses require the use of, a PDF viewer, word-processing software compatible with Microsoft Office suite and a current email address. For help with the NEO platform see the Help Center in the LMS, found by clicking on the “?” in the upper right hand corner after you have logged in. For log in questions, registration questions, or problems with missing content or content malfunctions, contact the teaching assistant, Elizabeth Froula at email@example.com.
A History and Practical Theology of Images - The Way of Beauty
Instructor: David Clayton
Phone: 302 572 9044
Office Hours: 9-5pm PST
This is an art history and art theory course which is a study of Catholic culture - art, music, architecture - with a particular focus on painting and sculpture. It is also a study of the factors that influence the pattern of culture and the artistic styles that comprise a Catholic culture, especially education and faith.
By the end of this course, students will be able to:
- Discuss the traditional understanding of beauty and why it is worth striving for.
- Discuss what culture is and the main factors that influence it.
- Discuss the basis of a traditional art education and how it relates to a general Catholic education.
- Express more deeply and explain the necessity for the use of images in our worship.
- Express the justification for figurative and abstract art in the wider culture.
- Apply these principles to any form of art and especially to the recognized liturgical traditions of the Church – the iconographic, the gothic and the baroque.
- Discuss how Christology – our understanding of the humanity and divinity of Christ is connected to sacred art.
- Discuss how anthropology – our understanding of the human person is connected to art, with particular reference to John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.
- Explain why the High Renaissance and some forms of art from the last 200 years in the Western tradition are not appropriate for the liturgy.
- Explain basic principles of prayer with holy images – both liturgical and personal prayer, including contemplative prayer; and how these are combined harmoniously within a structured pattern of prayer, such as that described by Benedict XVI in his paper on the New Evangelization.
- Discuss more deeply how artists choose their materials and the styles that they use in order to conform to a purpose
Same as general entry requirements for the program - a recognized Bachelor’s degree in any discipline, or a life/work experience in the arts judged to be equivalent
- The Way of Beauty, by David Clayton, Angelico Press, 2015
- God’s Human Face by Christoph Cardinal Schoenborn, Ignatius Press, 1994
- The Spirit of the Liturgy by Pope Benedict XVI, Ignatius Press, Part III, Chapter 1, ‘A Question of Images,’ pp 115-135.
- Various short articles on Christian anthropology given out to the students - 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, 2011. Supplied as a Word file.
- “The New Evangelization,” seven page paper by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), 2001.
- The Little Oratory, by David Clayton and Leila Lawler, Sophia Institute Press, 2014.
- The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, by Fabrice Jadjadj, Magnificat, 2015.
- The One and the Many, by Fr Norris Clarke, University of Notre Dame Press, 2001.
Course/Student Learning Outcomes:
This course is the foundation for the whole Master of Sacred Arts program. By the end of the course students will be able to
- Describe and name the style of painting from paintings throughout history, with a particular focus on Western and Catholic sacred art
- Make a broad assessment of the artist's understanding of man and his worldview based upon the style of art that he creates.
- Judge and assess on the appropriateness of art for the liturgy and prayer in church and home.
- Propose the creation of an education that forms the ‘creative conscience’ at any level, as part of a general Catholic education.
Course Topic Outline: Video presentations:
- The Way of Beauty TV series videos:
13 videos discussing art thematically
- The State We Are In – What is wrong with today’s art.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss the problematic aspects of contemporary art.
- A Catholic Worldview – How art can present a Catholic worldview even if it isn’t religious or painted by Catholics.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to define the term "Catholic World View."
- The Way of Beauty – Why beauty has the answers for today.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss the Christian concept of Beauty.
- 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.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to recognize the importance of proportion in relation to Beauty.
- 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.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss the concept of Beauty in education.
- Icons, the Art of the Heavenly Ideal – An introduction to the theology and form of icons.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss the theology and form of icons.
- Painting Icons – An explanation of some of the basic methods of icon painting, which connects the creation of icons to their purpose.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to describe the basic methods of icon painting.
- Gothic Art – How the style of gothic art reflects a Catholic worldview.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss the characteristics of Gothic Art.
- 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.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss the changes in the perception of art that led to the Baroque style..
- Baroque Profane Art – How the art style that began as art for the liturgy influenced non-religious art forms such as portrait and landscape.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss the transition of Baroque Art from its religious form to a secular form.
- Art that is Not Christian – How the form of some modern art reflects a non-Christian worldview.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss art that does not reflect a Christian worldview.
- 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.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss the worldview of non-Christian cultures.
- 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.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss the effects of the Enlightenment on the perception of the purpose of art.
Lesson 15: The Privileged Planet
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss the view that the cosmos is made for man.
Lesson 16: 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.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss the relationship between worship and the cosmos.
Lesson 17: 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.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss how the view of the purpose of art has changed from antiquity to the present day.
Lesson 18: 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.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to the utility of Beauty
Lesson 20/1: 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.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss the justification of the use of sacred art in the Church.
Lesson 21/2: An Introduction to the Transcendentals – A first philosophy class explaining the objective nature of the transcendentals: One, True, Good, Beautiful (Res and Aliquid)
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to define the concept of transcendentals.
Lesson 22/3: 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.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss the Christian anthropology as it is relevant to art.
Lesson 23/4: 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.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss the importance of material and setting to the quality and purpose of art.
Lesson 24/5: 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.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss art as an aid to prayer.
Lesson 25/6: Christian Symbols in Art
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss the use of symbols in Christian art.
Lesson 26/7: Baroque Case Study
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to recognize how the Baroque style, a style religious in its origins, is used in secular art.
Lesson 27/8: 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!
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss the value of anti-Christian forms of art.
Lesson 28/9: 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.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss the synthesis of Chinese and Western art.
Lesson 29/10: 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.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to discuss the value of modern art in the christian worldview
Lesson30/11: 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.
By the end of this lesson the student will be able to analyze a work of art from a Christian worldview.
Grading Policy/Scale: A, B, C, F grades
- Passing grades: A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-
Final is 70% of grade, Mid-term is 30% of grade
All other quizzes, discussion questions are teaching aids that don’t contribute to the final grade.
Multiple choice quizzes after most presentations (not graded)
Discussion questions in which students submit short written answers to the teacher for comment (not graded
Grade is based upon essay questions that are set in a Midterm and Final Exam, with 70% of the grade in the Final
The course is pre-recorded and so students enrol and study according to their own schedule and pace. Students will have to complete one lesson/topic before being allowed to move on to another. Students are free to contact the teacher on the email above with comments and questions at any time.
Proprietary Interest Policy:
Faculty are permitted to refer to notable past work and achievements (including publications and educational activities not offered by Pontifex University, and even those offered for personal profit) in their published biography on the Pontifex website and course promotions. In the context of educational activities undertaken for Pontifex University, including videos, live or recorded, teachers, can recommend or bring to the attention such work for students (even if for personal profit, for example, books or podcasts) but only with approval by Pontifex University and when it is related to the teaching purpose of the class. An instructor’s related work will be noted in the syllabus as appropriate. Instructors may use their own materials as required in their courses and learning events as long as the materials are appropriate for the particular learning event.
Failure to comply with this policy will result in a warning or administration modification of course materials. Violations of this policy should be reported to the Provost.
Here is the class outline:
An intro to this course.
2. Episode 1:
What is wrong with today’s art.
3. Episode 2:
How art can present a Catholic worldview even if it isn’t religious, or even painted by Catholics.
4. Episode 3:
Why beauty has the answers for today.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Episode 6:
An introduction to the theology of form of icons.
8. Episode 7:
An explanation of some of the basic methods of icon painting, which connects the creation of icons to their purpose.
9. Episode 8:
How the style of gothic art reflects a Catholic worldview.
10. 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.
11. Episode 10:
How the art style that began as art for the liturgy influenced non religious art forms, such as portrait and landscape.
12. Episode 11:
How the form of some modern art reflects an non-Christian worldview.
13. 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.
14. Episode 13:
How we might draw on our understanding of the Christian sacred art traditions and their purpose to create art for today.
15. Watch: The Privileged Planet
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. 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.
19. Midterm Exam
Midterm Exam for this course.
20. Lesson 1
What Do Catholics Believe About the Use of Images?
21. Lesson 2
Introduction to the Transcendentals.
22. Lesson 3
Christian Anthropology, the Theology of the Body and Art.
23. Lesson 4
Choice of Materials, Colors, Frames, Glazes and Reproductions for Sacred Art.
24. Lesson 5
The New Evangelization and Prayer with Sacred Images.
25. Lesson 6
The Traditional Symbolism in Christian Art.
26. Lesson 7
Case study. Baroque mundane art. Court dwarf by Velazquez.
27. Lesson 8
Modern art by Mark Rothko Case study.
28. Lesson 9
Case Study - How Chinese Art and Western Art Combine.
29. Lesson 10
Case Study - Modern Art and Prayer, Marc Chagall
30. Lesson 11
Case Study - Ghent Altar Piece
31. Final Exam