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architect who needs facts that he can utilize, analyze, and work from, and which will inspire him to accomplish greater work in this field of art, was uncovered a mine rich in resources.
Attached to the school was the lecture-hall. Here the young student heard for the first time the statement that art had always represented in line and form the bigger movements of life, which had survived through all the joys and sorrows of mankind. He was told that it had entered into the very heart of life from prehistoric ages to the present day, and that it had been applied by the savage to raise his people to higher and higher planes; also that governments and religions had used it as a medium for the expression of their ideals.
The student gradually became convinced that his special art could not possibly stand alone, but must have something bes des form. He soon realized that if his conception was to be of value to the world, he needed a thorough understanding of his material, a clear and clean conception of his ideal, and a distinct appreciation of the everyday life of his own epoch.
Some of the lectures were fully illustrated with stereopticon views to bring out special points of interest and importance. The weekly lectures on the his
tory of France gave the student a vivid impression of what is required to build up a country, especially one replete in historical events. Other lectures were presented on prehistoric art, ceramics, textiles, and sculpture, when it was first used, and its part in the recording of French history. There were lectures, too, on painters and paintings of France and their influence on the fine arts, also descriptive talks on architecture and its different styles, particularly the Gothic. We know that, excepting the Greek school, the Gothic has been the purest in its interpretation of an ideal in conception and form and, like the Greek school, has bequeathed to the world a wealth of material for study.
Of special interest were the dissertations on interior decoration, giving the students a clear picture of how the fine arts had been assembled by ancient schools to make the home beautiful, vivid pictures often being drawn by the speakers to emphasize the tremendous and direct influence that this branch of fine arts had and will always have on the home and social life.
The diversity of these lectures was wide. There was, for instance, bookcraft, comprising the art of binding books so beautifully that one would be tempted not only to handle them, but
also to open the covers and see what their contents revealed; besides such outdoor subjects in the field of art as city planning and landscape architecture, the latter convincing the student that the government, state, and city councils would not be complete without including a landscape architect.
In fact, a wealth of knowledge was gathered from these lectures, and the student was not slow in taking valuable reference-notes from them; for they were based on actual facts, pointing out constantly where more detailed information could be gathered from existing objects, thereby making it easier for them to understand the significance of the talks.
The student in sculpture profited. considerably by these lectures on topics allied to his own. It would remind him of the time when the young Florentine painters and sculptors of the fourteenth century wandered from place to place, seeking knowledge and coming in contact with other minds and other thinkers and other types and kinds of artists. In this way they became acquainted with their country, their religion, their government, became the real interpreters of their country, their religion, their government, and finally were the real interpreters of their country's
ideals. But in the case of the A. E. F. school the soldier-students had all this information actually brought to them.
The study trips made together by the architects and sculptors were vitally important. The students gained much from the study of sculpture as applied to architecture, whether it was ornamental, allegorical, or realistic; and from heroic groups, whether their existence was purely ornamental, or whether each group, figure, or ornament had some specific expression, making it of value in its place. Consideration was given to the right proportions of a composition, lines, and mass; to architectural features and setting, whether in relation to buildings, avenues, or parks. The differences of opinion that would arise from these discussions were an education in themselves. The architects and sculptors realized how necessary it was that their respective branches of the fine arts should be allied as closely in the studio and school as it was when finally assembled in buildings.
In the war zone it was interesting to the sculptor to see the effect of partly destroyed statues still remaining in place. It often occurred that half demolished figures on some buildings had thus become better adapted to the framework they embellished than oth
ers near by, which still stood whole and in place where the sculptor had left them centuries before.
The sculptor-students were inspired by visits to Paris studios, which enabled them to see the variety of work undertaken by living master-sculptors. This comprised such various types as a great monument destined to stand alone in a park; statues or ornamental features for edifices; exquisite statuettes finished in ivory, marble, or alabaster, to be finally decorated with delicately modeled ornaments in gold, silver, and studded with jewels. The master might also show the student a simple, but beautiful, door-knocker in process of making. In France, the country of fine arts, we are constantly impressed by the fact that the Government not only recognizes art for its beauty, but also for its cultural value.
It was in the class-room that the sculptor-students were to be found most of the time. They, like the painters, can express their ideals only by the continued study of natural objects. Knowledge of form is acquired by the understanding of the principles of sound construction as employed by nature in the human figure, in animals, and in plant life. Our sculptor-students were given every opportunity possible to increase this knowledge by the simple use of these principles.
Every morning the workers could be seen busily drawing from branches, leaves, and flowers in order to discover the similarity of construction which exists in all natural forms from their very foundation to their completed state. Every afternoon careful study of the nude figure was made in clay; the sculptor would then return to the proper handling of his particular material, and would try to put into his small clay figure sound construction, movement, proportion, and the character of the model's posing. Thus having studied elementary theory in the morning, the afternoon's work was intended to enable the student, through concrete application of the principles of form, freely to express his personality.
To apply the knowledge which they had thus acquired by the careful study of the human figure and plant life was
A large-scale model, eight feet long, was made of the building and grounds, which was clear enough to give a good idea of the architectural line of the façade, and the lawns and driveways as they existed. With this model in the class-room, the students had an opportunity to work out their problems methodically and comprehensively.
After a month's study, six figures in sculpture were selected from those made by the students: two standing figures representing France and America as the support of the educational scheme; two reclining figures, one representing the fine arts of France and the other the classic arts; and, lastly, two figures seated, representing soldiers who had thrown down their implements of war, one having taken up the study of sculpture and architecture and the other the study of painting. Their accoutrements had been dropped on the posts placed on each side of the steps leading to the entrance of the building.
At this period of development of their sculptural groups the students were continually "trying out" their composition on the class-room model they had made of the building and grounds. This gave them a chance to see the whole building and their groups at a glance; the ensemble could thus be studied effectively. To visualize the whole setting became an easy matter. This brought up many points for the young men to work out; for instance, that a statue must be of a certain size to be in harmony with the whole; it should be placed so as not to destroy the value of another figure; and each statue should reinforce the value of the whole group and enhance the beauty of the grounds and building.
Again, it was shown hereby that sculpture, no matter how beautifuly modeled, should not stand alone. It must be properly presented on its pedestal.
The light and its surroundings must be in harmony with the subject, just as a book should be appropriately bound, or a picture richly framed, in order to increase the value of the subject.
Thus each student gave a great deal of time to the proper presentation of his statue, every part of the work being done with as much care and excellence in workmanship as was possible in the short time allowed. In this problem the student understood that no matter how fine his ideal might be, he must always consider the probable location of his statue, whether it was to be in the country, in a park, or in the street of a city, or the embellishment of a building. He was shown that if he did not give special attention to this, his work would be only a spot without color, without life, and the idea embodied in his statue would be lost. Finally, what he thought was sculpture might be nothing but a chaotic mass of thoughtless lines.
It should be remarked that the combination of military discipline with school curriculum, thus giving to the students control and guidance, a feature absent from art schools at home, gave the earnest worker encouragement and showed most wholesome results in the work and character-training of the men. Far from finding the discipline irksome, they soon realized that it was the best aid in the serious pursuit of their studies. Verb. sap.
Unfortunately, all this ideal school work was brought to an abrupt close. By the receipt of a military order telling him to leave his study of art, the student suddenly awakened to the fact that he was still a soldier. He was instructed, to pick up his implements of war and go home, there to be free again, but to use for the betterment of his country all the experience and knowledge which his Government had made it possible for him to acquire.
My love was a house, a little, low thing, straggling over a bushy dune, but all my own, dreamed, drawn, created out of my veriest soul and self.
LIGHT bag in my hand, I walked very fast up the narrow boardwalk of the old fishing-village, my linen skirt flapping in the sea-breeze. It was the end of a fair day in June, and the low sun was coloring the harbor. I hurried along, a delicious consciousness making my heart warm within me. I was hurrying because I was going to my love. The boardwalk seemed to fly beneath me, and yet it interminably crawled. The old street, under its great willows, straggled relentlessly on, the sunlight warming the green-shuttered white houses and the long line of picket-fences, on which purple shadows were splashed. At last I passed a clear space between houses where fish-nets were drying; the boardwalk took a sudden lift up a little hill, and in the distance dunes appeared.
"Nearly sunset," I thought, hastening over the brow of the rise. "The carpenters will have gone long ago."
My love was a house, a little, low thing, straggling over a bushy dune, but all my own, dreamed, drawn, created out of my veriest soul and self, and nearing completion now at the hands of lackadaisical local workmen. I resented these workmen. I loved every nail they drove, every beautiful fresh board they handled; but I wanted to handle them.
myself. It was tragic to be forced to turn over the realization of one's dream to a bunch of sea-bred insouciants. The little house, though yellow and raw now, would go gray after a winter's weathering, and cuddle that dune as if it grew there. Wild creepers would soon appropriate it and welcome; and bullbriers, convolvulus, wild things of all sorts, could have it if they would leave me just enough space to peep out at storms and sunsets and tides. That was all there was to be seen from my house, all I wanted to see. For months I had been living in a rush and clutter of people and work and plans, and was thirsting to be for once alone, to be cool, silent, creatively apart. Soltitudethere could be no more beautiful word. I had never known much of it, but the idea of it had always fascinated me; to be as that delightful medieval person, whether a lone lost knight or a melancholy and forsaken lady I have quite forgotten, who, on the edge of something also delightfully forsaken and forlorn, a marsh or a mere, was found
alone, and palely loitering,
had grown to be one of my half-conscious dreams. And just now I felt that no extent of solitude could be too great; a year would not be too much.