Inspired by over two millennia of classical education in Art, our programme provides appreciation and perspective for all students irrespective of their artistic abilities. An outline of the content covered in the junior cycle Art curriculum is given below.
Culture and Art are aspects of our society that have relevance and importance that may often get overlooked. The goal of the art programme at Mater Dei Academy is to introduce the students to not only the history and ideas behind great art but more importantly the practical knowledge and craft of how art is produced and understood. For centuries our faith was taught by using examples of art by producing pictures which illustrated salvation history and eternal truths. As time went on the craft became perfected and was utilized very effectively by the Church for teaching purposes. It also stood as a reminder to us of all the beauty that surrounds us and of the Creator whose work all art echoes . Hence art needs to be cultivated and appreciated. This will be the ultimate purpose of this program, to give the students the tools to confidently create art, and to develop their appreciation, knowledge, enjoyment and sense of taste in the arts.
The knowledge and appreciation of colour and form assist us in appreciating the wonder of God’s creation. The study of the Renaissance, that great era of discovery and human development, builds our appreciation of the dignity and capacities of man; God’s greatest creation. Students learn about the potential of art to evoke the wonder of creation and the mysteries of the spiritual world. Learning about great works of this period - Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, and the work of great masters such as Carravagio, Velazquez, Franz Hals, Rembrant and Vermeer will help us appreciate the critical contribution of the visual arts in the development of human civilisation and culture. This year’s work opens the student to wonder before the beauty and perfection of God’s creation and our part in continuing and echoing His work of Creation. In the words of St John Paul the Great, ‘Through his “artistic creativity” man appears more than ever “in the image of God”.’
This year’s course builds on the solid foundations of observation, drawing and the elements of art studied in year 1. Through this year’s exploration of colour, we are building towards next year’s focus on oil painting and completing their own paintings. Exercises based on study of Celtic and Christian art - illuminated manuscripts, high crosses, knotwork, mosaics and icons - will assist the students in contemplating the changes that took place when the Ancient world gave way to the Christian world, and artists began seeking to evoke spiritual realities.
This course will help the students to gain an understanding of the importance of art and imagination in the Christian tradition. As John Henry Newman tells us, man is more than just a ‘reasoning animal’. The expression of beauty, goodness and truth in art helps to build our faith. Christianity, Newman says, addresses people ‘both through the intellect and through the imagination’ and in this way we come to faith through arguments that are ‘too deep for words’.
The Modern era is one of great change in the world of art and culture. Through the birth of Cubism and photography, art was changed forever. Through learning about the game-changing artistic discoveries of Turner and Manet, and the explosion of diverse forms of artistic expression such as performance art, installation, sound based art and conceptual art, students will gain an understanding of the culture they have inherited, and how to engage with it.
As Christians and especially as Catholics, it is critically important to understand this era in which secular culture really began, and in which ideologies such as atheism, fascism and communism impacted world history in such far-reaching and often devastating ways. Students have the opportunity to consider and to understand the art and society of the contemporary world, and this will equip them to engage with and transform the culture, and to become, as John Paul said, the ‘saints of the new millennium.’