The Essential Place of Art History in Visual Art Education

Year: 1992

Author: McKeon, Penny

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper argues that art history holds an essential position in art education whether the institutional model be discipline based or comprehensive. Art historical experiences are relevant to the acquisition of general rather than particular know how. Educational experiences in historical precepts accomplishes at least two things. A strengthening of the interpretive base of the knower, together with the associative advantages that acquisition of a sense of place confers. The educative benefits of historical experiences in art education, I believe, are not addressed by substitutions such as the personal exploration of student experiences and environment mandated by the present NSW Visual Arts Syllabuses or alternatives such as appreciation, criticism or appraisal of "past and present contexts" proposed by initiatives such as the National Curriculum. The draft syllabus revision for New South Wales years 7 - 10 in Art and Design offers some return to the historical paradigm but does so in a conservative and insufficiently defined manner, collapsing historical and critical actions into the same generalized descriptors. This will further frustrate and alienate classroom practitioners while failing to reflect the real and interesting advances in historical practices which are occurring in the artworld. Stephan Bann, for instance, offers a focused and precise alternative to the various syllabus prescriptions with his observation that the art historian "follow(s) the fortunes of an object in time", while the art critic "provide(s) an extra- temporal evaluation of that object."