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Lesson Plans

Re: Feldman's Art Criticism

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Robert Alexander Fromme (rfromme)
Sun, 4 May 1997 16:05:04 -0500 (CDT)

>At 09:24 AM 5/4/97 +0800, ltmg wrote:

>Hellow! I am a secondary art teacher in Hong Kong. Now I am study art
>education in an evening course. Recently, I want to write some art lesson
>plan base on The theory of Feldman's art critism. can you give me some help
>or some relate lesson plan sample.

Here are some resources:

Feldman, E. (1970), Becoming human through art, Englewood Cliffs, New
Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Feldman, E. (1985), Varieties of visual experience. Englewood Cliffs, New
Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Feldman, E. (1968), Some adventures in art criticism, Art Education :
Journal of the National Art Education Association, 22(3), 28-33

Here is some background:

The theories of Stephen Pepper summarized centuries of work in aesthetics.
Edmund Feldman's adaptation of some of Pepper's theories provided us with a
model of art criticism that could be used in a subject (discipline) based
art curriculum. The 60's saw the 'child centered' movement in art
education face transition and change. Research and application turned to the
task of establishing a teaching approach which was more 'subject oriented'
in its focus. In the summer of 1966, Edmund Feldman, Eugene Kaelin and David
Ecker presented a seminar on art criticism at Ohio State University which
was to help change art education in this new direction where the "subject"
is central to learning,
According to Feldman, one of the conclusions of the Ohio State Seminar was
that "what an art teacher does - whether in art appreciation or studio
instruction - is essentially art criticism. That is, art teachers
describe, analyze, interpret, and evaluate works of art during the process
of instruction." (Feldman, 1968, p.24)

Another of the conclusions of the Ohio State Seminar was that education in
aesthetics should involve the learner rather then force the traditional
student - teacher (audience - expert) relationship in the learning
environment. In Feldman's view, appreciation should have the learners
involved in using criticism to inquire into the nature of art ( its craft,
its form, its content and the cultural heritage that is contributed by the
work). In other words, Feldman had the position that teaching about making
art and teaching about the appreciation of art require an active
participation of students and the teachers talking together in the process
of art criticism Feldman saw learning about creating art and learning about
art appreciation as experiences of active criticism moving from
description and analysis (interpretation) to hypothesis grounded in the

Feldman saw three ways to enter the experience of art criticism. He listed
these approaches as, Formalism, Expressivism and Instrumentalism.

His "Formalism" was a theory of communication in art where quality is
founded in the formal concerns of the work (the relationship or composition
of the physical elements). Formalism requires an acceptance of ideal and
universal art values. We can think of this theory objective.

When I think of Feldman's Formalism, I think of the order of Greek classical
architecture, Kondo (Golden Hall), (Horyu-ji, Asuka period, Japan), or the
traditional interior of a Japanese house, Sung and Koryo ceramics, the
architecture of Leon Battista Alberti, the paintings of Cezanne or the
structure of some of the Cubist paintings in the early part of this century. .

Speaking of 'Expressivism', Feldman said "expressivist criticism sees
excellence as the ability of art to communicate ideas and feelings intensely
and vividly." (Feldman, 1985) Quality in expressivist criticism involves an
acceptance of subjective concerns as legitimate values in the work.

When we think of Feldman's Expressivism we might look at Hellenistic Greek
sculpture, the paintings Correggio, Pontormo, Matthias Grunewald, Vincent
van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, James Ensor, Edvard Munch, Gustav Klimt, Salvador
Dali and Frida Kahlo, as well as the architecture of Antonio Gaudi.

Excellence, in Feldman's 'Instrumentalist' criticism, is based upon some
quality of psychological, political, social, moral or religious consequences
that results from the work.

When thinking of Feldman's Instrumentalists, I think of Egyptian tombs and
temples, Byzantine temples, Islamic masques, Gothic cathedrals,
Illuminations from the Book of Lindisfarne, the many images of Buddha, Tea
ceremony ware of ancient Japan, Navajo sand paintings, The Sistine Chapel of
Michelangelo, the Arnolfini marriage portrait by Jan van Eyck, murals of
David Alfaro Siqueros, Jose Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera.

To apply Feldman's theories, you can involve your students in the process of
talking and thinking critically about art as they are learning to make it
and as they are learning to appreciate the works of others. This experience
should involve Feldman's model of description, analysis, interpretation and
judgment. Keep in mind that theories such as Feldman's are human
constructions. They are schematized devices for art criticism which may
well include the same work of art as formal, expressive and instrumental. As
art educators, we must value students' talking, thinking and the learning
that results from the use of Feldman's tools rather then to require a
perfect fit of value and criticism into Feldman's order.

Description: Students take inventory of what is visible. They can look for
expressive lines, colors, shapes, textures, spaces and volumes as well as

Analysis: Students notice how these visual things relate to one another.
They can compare the design relationships of these elements and the
principles which help to organize the work.

Interpretation: Students are encouraged to identify themes and ideas in the
work to find meanings and emotion. Think of it as description and analysis
coming together to create the interpretation (explanation) of the work.
Feldman once said, "It is difficult to be right the first try. In fact,
being wrong -- missing the target -- is very helpful in arriving finally at
a convincing explanation" ( Feldman, 1970, p. 363). At this stage of the
criticism, students can try to examine the work as if it were a product of
Formalism, Expressivism and Instrumentalism.

Judgment: Students are encouraged to make decisions on the success, the
value or worth of the art object. In this stage, the students can rank the
work in relation to other works from the same time period or from other
periods in art history.

Again, please notice that these four parts of Feldman's model can be applied
to a student learning to make art as well as students talking about the work
of other artists.

Hope this helps!

Bob Fromme