Leonardo’s Legacy

Open Inquiry Archive
Volume 1, Number 3 (2012)

Leonardo’s Legacy: A Defense of the Educational Value of Perceptual Drawing in an Increasingly Postmodern World 

by Brian Curtis, University of Miami

ABSTRACT

University and college art programs once nurtured visual sensitivity, talent, craftsmanship, and creativity. Recently, however, these goals have been displaced – and are increasingly being replaced – by the de-skilling and dematerializing promotion of a conceptually-oriented approach referred to as “contemporary cultural practice” or “postmodern art.” Advanced students of contemporary practice are adept at reciting a litany of postmodern theorists: Adorno, Derrida, Foucault, Baudrillard, Lacan, Lyotard, to name just a few. However, missing from our students’ repertoire are the great minds from the Western rational tradition like Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Rousseau, and Kant. Not only are our students not being exposed to the intellectual giants of the Western rational tradition, they are not even aware that there are those who question the legitimacy of postmodernism. The solution? Perceptual drawing is an essential building block for making the visual world special. Perceptual drawing has contributed to both the development and maintenance of the “post-medieval mindset,” a mindset that is fundamental to the modernist enterprise known as the Western rational tradition. E. H. Gombrich described this mindset as one of constant alertness, a sacred restlessness and readiness “to learn, to make, to match, remake, seize, and hold” that which is unique and important in human experience. He goes on to say that the symptom of this mindset is the “sketch.” Perceptual drawing is the mother of multidisciplinary experience, engaging the full spectrum of human intelligence. This is Leonardo’s legacy.

Full text article available here.


Text © Brian Curtis

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