Why we should teach the History of Ukrainian art to students of Art Schools
Reflections on "Reflections on art teaching in art schools. A lecture delivered on January 4, 1966" by E.Kh. Hombrich
Keywords:українське мистецтво, історія мистецтва, курс, лекція, контекст, мистецькі процеси, світове мистецтво.
This essay is a response to the «Reflections on the teaching of the arts in art schools. A lecture delivered on January 4, 1966» by E.H. Gombrich. It reviews his own methods of teaching art history, as well as encouraging the student to learn. I have been teaching the history of Ukrainian art at the Lviv Academy of Arts for more than 10 years, primarily for art critics (“mysteztvoznavtzi”). This year I taught it to students from creative industries (artists) for the first time and it made me rethink the way I have been doing it and adjust it. In order to motivate artists to study art history, I believe it should be taught as a process happened in very particular historical circumstances. The influence of East and West should be also taken into account as Ukrainian art did not develop in a vacuum.
Ukrainian art has always been at the crossroads between East and West. Despite common misconceptions, it has not been just in the margins of Western European tradition. We still have artworks and monuments analysed through the lens of this hierarchy though. When teaching the history of Ukrainian art, I aimed at changing the way students perceive it, comparing it with Eastern and Western traditions, and analysing its strong and weak points without any reservations. And of course, I recreated the historical background behind the artworks as it is crucial to me. The context is a kind of wire that brings all artistic phenomena together. For example, when lecturing about the art of the Kyivan Rus, I tried to avoid clichés and present pre-Christian and Christian art as equally important traditions that shaped medieval Rusian art. Or, when exploring Renaissance in Ukraine, I examine how Ukrainian, Italian, Polish and German traditions were interwoven at courts, universities, cities and so forth. Another important point in teaching and researching the history of Ukrainian art is presenting it without excessive rhetoric and Soviet clichés.
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