Thursday, October 20, 2011

ITTEN: Working From Nature

"What subjects are you teaching?" Klee said he was lecturing on problems of form, and I explained about my introductory course. Kandinsky rejoined dryly. "Good, then I'll teach nature study!" We nodded and nothing more was said about the curriculum. For a number of years after this, Kandinsky gave instruction in analytical studies from nature.

It is symptomatic of a lack of orientation in art schools today that the necessity of nature study can be debated.

Nature study in art should not be an imitative reproduction of fortuitous impressions of nature, but rather an analytical, exploratory development and production of the forms and colors needed for true characterization. Such studies do not imitate, but interpret. In order for this interpretation to be pertinent, close observation and clear thinking must precede it. The senses are sharpened, and the artistic intellect is trained in rational analysis of the observed subject matter.

The Chinese painter studies natural forms until he masters them like written characters.

— Johannes Itten, The Elements of Color (1961)
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