Art Smarts

"Agony in the Garden" by Frans Schwartz

“Agony in the Garden” by Frans Schwartz

This week I ventured south to visit the campus of the University-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

I bleed Aggie blue, but I couldn’t resist going over to the dark side for a day to see an A-MA-ZING exhibit at the BYU Museum of Art.

Since the works of painters Carl Bloch, Heinrich Hofmann and Frans Schwartz were seared into my collegiate brain in Dr. Warma’s art history courses, it seemed a greater sin not to seize the opportunity to see those masterpieces in person. Though I may be accused of being a disloyal Aggie for patronizing an exhibit in Cougar territory, it’s unlikely I would ever see a classical, representational art display at USU, if the array of art acquisitions featured across campus is indication of artistic preference.

Some of the paintings featured in the “Sacred Gifts” exhibition have never been anywhere besides the European locations they’ve occupied for over a century and the tour guide said they won’t be again, so this was a rare opportunity.

I stood in absolute awe of these artists’ work.

In between gawking at the artwork, I poured over the informational signs. I came across a quote under a Carl Bloch painting that bothered me. It was from a critic who bashed the painting as being consistent with Bloch’s style of excessive and overindulgent realism. A caption explained that such critiques of classical artists were common during the late 19th century when the abstract art movement was initiating. I could hardly believe such a masterpiece was devalued merely because it contrasted an exploratory new art form.

Don’t misunderstand, I appreciate abstract art forms. In fact, I use them all the time. My degree is in both English and Graphic Design and I’ve worked for years designing graphics for clients applying abstract forms. But as I learned in my art studies, you have to know the rules before you can break them.

In college I registered for a basic drawing class because, while I’d always been artistic, I knew my talent lacked refinement and I needed more foundation skills to pursue a design degree. Of the many class sections offered, I’d chosen one based on a recommendation about the listed instructor. He was a seasoned professor and I was told he emphasized classic, basic drawing skills as a foundation for all art forms. Just what I needed.

I was disappointment the first day of class when a transfer graduate student introduced himself as our replacement instructor due to a scheduling error. With little wiggle room in my own schedule, I decided to stay put and hope this teacher would teach foundational art principles.

Long story short, the bulk of grading was based on “scribble studies.” Yep, literal scribbling, like when you’re handed a crayon as a toddler. The teacher told us by scribbling we would unleash our creative energy.

I’d already done that, as a toddler.

So, if I walk past “SNAFU” near the USU campus library and don’t stop to applaud, you know why. I stood in front of a collection of Frans Schwartz original oil paintings from an alter piece that brought tears to my eyes they was so brilliant.

The good news is I changed my major to English with a design minor, which is how I ended up scribbling in the Sunday paper every week!

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