Saturday, August 19, 2006


I had once mentioned -- in one of the memes I had done -- that while in New York, I joined the Art Students League of New York and took many of its classes just for the heck of it. Most of my friends then were more into art history books while I preferred to know about art by actually delving into some of its creative process.

The school was only a couple of blocks from where I lived and there was nothing more exhilirating to do on a Saturday morning than attend one of its art workshops — be it basic drawing, painting, printmaking, or sculpting. I didn’t turn out a fine artist as our friend Rey Villegas, but those classes expanded my appreciation for anything art. Also, I met a lot of other interesting people who wanted to fulfill a longing to immerse in it despite their lack of talent for it. It was the actual participation in art that we sought and for which we were rewarded with expanded horizons.

The school, by the way, has a very interesting history.

During the 1870s, New York was becoming the artistic capital of America with National Academy of Design as its major art institution. The Academy was founded in 1825 and one of the oldest organizations of its kind in the country. For an artist to have his works selected as part of its annual exhibitions was a significant accomplishment in itself. Thus, gaining full membership at the Academy had become a major goal for many.

However, by the mid-1870s, the Academy was finding itself unable to meet the needs of the growing number of artists joining this profession. There were also many young artists fresh from their studies abroad who were dismayed to find the established members of the Academy too conservative and unable to understand their relatively radical ideas and more sophisticated attitudes toward art. This led to the subsequent creation of the Society of American Artists.

In great part, this development reflected the conflict between the "old guard" at the National Academy and the young rebels: conservative versus progressive, insular as opposed to cosmopolitan. Notwithstanding, with a rapidly growing number of artists flocking to the city, the annual exhibitions of the Society of American Artists helped to alleviate the problem of not enough exhibition space at the National Academy. However, it was the Society itself which provided the more progressive artists with their own forum.

As if in lock step, a similar development took place in the spring of 1875, when the National Academy began experiencing financial difficulties and planned to cancel all classes its until December. Students were alarmed because the Academy now required them to devote the first ten weeks of each school session to drawing; whereas, painting from life, their main interest, wouldn’t be until February of the following year. Even more distressing was the possibility that there may not be enough funds to hire any instructor to direct them when classes did resume.

Lacking any viable alternative by which art students could engage in any formal course of study from live models, the students met with teacher Lemuel Wilmarth to discuss the matter. The result of their meeting was the formation of the Art Students League. The students of the League soon aligned themselves with, those artists who would soon form the Society of American Artists (and who would later become the chief instructors at the League). Like the National Academy, the Art Students League was established as a membership, but offered membership to any candidate with acceptable moral character and the means to pay his dues. The informal nature of the League's organization was also very different from that of the Academy.

The major reason for the Art Students League's continuous success is mainly attributed to its long line of dedicated teachers and loyal and appreciative students, many of whom subsequently returned to the League to teach. To date, the Art Students of New York remains a cooperative society based on mutual help among all its members. There have never been any degrees or diplomas, no set curriculum; one must be there solely for the love and pursuit of art, the yearning for the exchange of artistic ideas and techniques. It is an institution founded by students for students, and these are the major reasons the school has continued to flourish.

Read the complete history.

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posted by Señor Enrique at 6:39 PM


Blogger ipanema said...

One of my frustrations. Can't even draw a straight line with a ruler. Yes, that's how pathetic I am when it comes to this art form. I am the exact opposite of my youngest who excels in painting.

August 19, 2006 7:05 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I am seriously in awe, Ipanema, of people like our friend Rey Villegas who with pencil or brush can put down on paper or canvas what he sees or has seen. Amazing!

ooops ... Internet cafe manager just advised me that my time is up -- too many people waiting for their turn. Darn virus! Lol!

August 19, 2006 7:21 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! I can't imagine a more New York thing to do than to join the Art Students League. That must have been such a wonderful experience... meeting all those interesting people, sharing your works, learning from each other.... Are you goin to share your works? :)

August 19, 2006 8:11 PM  

Blogger ipanema said...

Yes, Eric, Rey V. is really talented. I admire what I see on his blog.

Take it is easy. What did you do to get infected? hmmmm. :)

August 19, 2006 8:47 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

You see, Toe, New York City may be a city that doesn't sleep and offers myriad of things to do, but friends have other things to attend to as well and may not be there always; hence it can become a lonesome town, too :(

So, one must learn to enjoy one's own company also and find interesting things to do. This way, when getting together with friends again, you'll have plenty to share with them:)

Most of my sketches are back in NYC and not much to brag about ... hehehe

August 20, 2006 3:42 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Didn't do anything out of the ordinary, Ipanema. Just received this message that a virus has managed to get in and that Norton is unable to resolve it. Then suddenly, the dreaded blue screen of death.

Yes, I enjoy seeing his works!

August 20, 2006 3:45 PM  

Blogger Rey said...

thnak you for the flaterry. Being an artist doesn't really need to be able to copy tangible things from life. Many known artist thrive in paiting becasue of just painting about their feelings, and this is done by just putting paint on canvas or paer withour worrying the result. you may not be able to copy a face as we see it but you can make landscapes with myriad symbolisms only your deep thoughts, secrets and feelings can express. And I knew being in that school you have done this and for that I am, gimmics or return-flaterry aside-- considers you an artist.

Having said that, you have to post some of those works now. :)

August 21, 2006 12:49 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Ah, Rey ... not only are you a talented artist but you're so kind with words as well.

I, for one, attended art school also to find out if even basic drawing of realistic images could be learned -- I learned not.

But yes, I agree with you that artistic expressions with say, a brush and paint, could be accomplished just flowing along with your inner spirit.

In all honesty, I really have nothing worth posting Rey ... hahaha.

But I am first to admit that although I cannot articulate the experience, I can, however, just sit in front of a great painting and get lost in it.

August 21, 2006 2:31 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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