Best Art Schools: America & Europe
Best Art Schools in America and Europe
LEADING ART SCHOOLS:
Washington University in St. Louis
Like most tertiary colleges, art schools come in all shapes and sizes. So the question "which art school is best?" is almost impossible to answer. Best for whom? We may all agree, for instance, that Yale University School of Art, the Royal College of Art in London, and the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts in Paris are three of the best art colleges in the world, but they are useless to any art student who wants to be taught in (say) Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, or Chinese. The best art school is the educational institution which is best for you the student, not best according to some list of objective criteria.
Okay, so choosing the art college which is best for you, is the all-important issue. But even though it is a personal choice, it should take into account a number of factors, as follows:
HOW TO EVALUATE
MEANING OF ART
FORMS OF ART
Ice Sculpture - find out more about melting art!
Qualifications You Are Looking For
Entry Qualifications Required By Your
Back in the 16th century, students working in Europe's earliest Art Academies were only taught drawing (disegno) until they graduated, after which they could receive instruction in painting (colorito).
By contrast, today's art students are faced with a huge range of subject-options, which typically include: fine art (painting, sculpture), history of art, design, illustration, cartoons, photography, film, animation and video art, various types of graphic art and printmaking, as well as computer art, conservation, and museum studies. Several of these subjects cover a large number of sub-topics. Sculpture, for instance, is a multi-media subject area. Photography can be a lens-based form of fine art, or a strictly commercial activity, including specialist forms like photojournalism. Design, too, is a general category which embraces a diverse number of complex disciplines, including: 3-D, graphic, interior and fashion design, as well as digital and web design. Printmaking embraces traditional woodcuts, various types of etching and engraving, as well as more modern lithography and screenprinting.
There are four basic types of third-level art course, whose details vary according to country.
(1) Foundation Course. This diploma-level course typically offers a broad introduction to an arts or design subject. In Year 1, many Bachelor degree programs (eg. fine arts) offer foundation courses in several related disciplines, giving undergraduates an all-round understanding of their field, prior to specialization. An Associate Degree Program is another type of foundation course, which typically teaches the student the design basics, and explains the most commonly used hardware and software utilities, as well as other relevant tools and equipment.
(2) Bachelor Degree Program. This is the basic degree course for all university subjects, including arts. So when the term 'degree' is used, it usually means Bachelor Degree. Usually lasting a minimum of three years, a bachelor degree in art design gives you the necessary credentials to pursue your creative career at the highest level, or can be a stepping stone to postgraduate arts courses at Masters or Doctorate level. A bachelor degree goes far beyond the basic curriculum covered by diplomas, foundation courses and associate degrees. As stated, a Bachelor Degree initially may involve a series of foundation courses to help the student decide which area to major in.
(3) Master Degree Program. This is the highest standard educational course on offer at most universities, and entry is restricted to graduates in possession of a Bachelor's Degree. Lasting for 1-2 years, a Master's allows the student to specialize in a relatively narrow area, thus acquiring advanced educational skills of greater commercial value. It may also be a stepping stone to a Doctorate or an academic teaching post as a lecturer or Professor.
(4) Doctorate (PhD). This is a 3-year postgraduate dissertation, whose parameters are typically agreed upon between the student and his/her university tutor, which requires original research by the student. A doctorate represents the summit of educational achievement, and comparatively few PhDs in art and design are awarded.
The most popular career pathways for arts graduates include:
Careers For Fine Arts Graduates
(1) Professional artist - painter, sculptor
Careers For Design Graduates
The most popular career opportunities for design graduates include:
(1) Graphic Designer.
All five pathways for designers are in high-growth areas and offer financially rewarding long-term careers. With the exception of animation, which is common to both art and design graduates, careers for design graduates tend to be safer and better-paid than those for fine art graduates.
Human art burst into life during the tiny period 30,000-15,000 BCE, when a host of cave painters began decorating cave walls in Southern France and Spain, and rock carvers across Europe began to produce small female sculptures known as Venus figurines. Who were these incredible prehistoric artists? Who taught them how to paint? Who kept alive the painterly traditions of mixing ochre pigments or fashioning brushes from selected types of animal hair? No one knows. (For more, see: Cave Painting.)
As art took root in early civilizations such as those of Sumer, Egypt, Ancient Persia, Crete, Mycenae, Etruria and Ancient Greece, the demand for painters, sculptors and similar craftsmen increased. Schools would have been established to train these 'decorators' - for none were yet regarded as 'artists' - a handful of whom would no doubt have achieved great fame, but neither they nor their schools are known. Not until the Classical era of Greek sculpture (c.500-300 BCE) did the names of artists (like Phidias, Myron, Polykleitos, Praxiteles and others) become known. But anonymity reimposed itself during the Roman Empire, the Eastern Byzantine Empire and much of the Middle Ages.
Early Christian Art
The era of Christian art - which began in Ireland with illuminated manuscripts like the Book of Kells, and spread across Europe to the great continental monasteries in Aachen, Trier, Regensburg and Cologne, run by the Carolingian and Ottonian royal courts - came and went without revealing the names of its artistic craftsmen, as did the era of early Romanesque stained glass and religious murals. In fact, it wasn't until the late Romanesque period of the 12th century that we hear of individual sculptors like the Frenchman Gislebertus (active 1st half 12th century), the Spaniard Master Mateo (active 2nd half 12th century) and the Italian Benedetto Antelami (active 1178-1196). Painters, incidentally, were more rarely heard of, not least because paintings were less durable than stone sculptures, and because most painters were artist-monks who, one suspects, embraced anonymity before God.
Cathedral Art & Architecture During The Gothic Period
Because we know so little about the lives and careers of these early artists, we know almost nothing about art education prior to Gothic times. So while we know a reasonable amount about the people who commissioned great works like the Lorsch Gospels, the Bamberg Apocalypse, the Bayeux Tapestry, or the cathedral of Chartres, we know little about the apprenticeships, workshops, studios and other types of art school that existed until then. Even the Gothic era is a relatively closed book. Most Gothic art concerned cathedral architecture, along with architectural sculpture (column statues, portal reliefs), wooden altarpieces (diptychs, triptychs etc.) stained glass, the occasional mosaic or tapestry. Typically, hundreds of local labourers were recruited to complete the building and its treasures, under the supervision of master-stone masons and other master artisans, most of whose names are lost to us. Only exceptional individuals - usually associated with a particularly famous pulpit, or series of column statues - would have their names recorded for posterity. However, it would have been precisely these men - such as the Italian sculptors Nicola Pisano, Arnolfo di Cambio, Lorenzo Maitani, Andrea Pisano, and the International Gothic, Sienese and Florentine painters Cimabue, Duccio di Buoninsegna, Giotto, Simone Martini, Jean Pucelle, Masolino, the Limbourg Brothers and Jean Fouquet - whose workshops provided the basic training for the generations of goldsmiths, painters, sculptors and other artisans, whose works formed the backbone of Renaissance art in the quattrocento.
The Renaissance and after
Due to the astonishing talents displayed by the painters and sculptors of the early Renaissance (1400-90) - such as Filippo Brunelleschi, Donatello, Andrea Mantegna, Botticelli and others - together with the fame that these virtuosi achieved, the image of the 'artist' began to change from that of a highly skilled decorator, to that of a revered member of the intelligentsia: a process expedited during the High Renaissance (1490-1530) by the creative accomplishments of Leonardo DaVinci (1452-1519) (The Last Supper, and Mona Lisa), and Michelangelo (sculptures, David and Pieta; Sistine Chapel frescos). This upgrade in the status of artists, meant that art became recognized as an intellectual discipline (like engineering and architecture), rather than merely a manual skill (like metalwork). It could therefore be taught in schools. Which is why, from the sixteenth century onwards, a number of official art schools sprang up across Europe, starting in Italy. These schools were known as academies of arts. In addition, certain Old Masters founded schools of their own: in Bologna, for example, Ludovico Carracci (1555-1619), his cousin Annibale Carracci (1560-1609) and his brother Agostino Carracci (1557-1602) established the "Academy degli Desiderosi", later called the "Academia degli Incamminati" (Academy of the Progressives). This academy formed the nucleus of the Bolognese School of painting which flourished between 1590 and 1630.
The two earliest academies were: The Academy of Art in Florence founded in 1562 by Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), under Grand Duke Cosimo 1 de Medici, and the Academy of Art in Rome founded in Rome about 1583 by the Pope. Other academies included Haarlem (1583); Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Paris (1648); Nuremberg (1674), Poland (1694), Berlin (1697), Vienna (1705), St Petersberg (1724), Stockholm (1735), Copenhagen (1738), Madrid (1752), and London (1768). The first official American Academy of the Fine Arts was founded in Philadelphia, in 1805.
Academic Art Teaching Methods
Initially, most academies educated young artists according to the classical theories of art established during the Italian Renaissance. The rules and conventions taught by these academies, came to be known as Academic Art, which was marked by extreme rigidity. For example, entry to the Parisian Ecole des Beaux-Arts was only allowed for candidates who passed an exam and obtained a letter of reference from a noted Professor of art. If accepted, the candidate began the fine arts course, advancing in stages only after completing a portfolio of drawings for approval. Only after completing several years of draftsmanship, including figure sketching, anatomy and geometry, were students permitted to paint. Furthermore, a rigid set of aesthetics were observed. Things like subject matter, types of pose, use of colour in painting and so on, were strictly regulated, and interpreted so conservatively by Academy Professors that the teaching system proved unable to adapt to changing tastes and techniques. As a result, by the 19th century it was increasingly ignored and sidelined.
As the Academy declined, new schools sprang up, including studio schools for selected pupils in imitation of the system used at the Ecoles des Beaux-Arts. Among the best were the academy of Eugene Carriere (1849-1906), and Gustave Moreau (1826-1898), the Art Students League of New York, founded in 1875 when the school of the National Academy closed down because of financial problems, the German Bauhaus design school (1919-32), and the Subjects of the Artists School, founded in New York (1948) by Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell and others.
However, academies did not give up their influence over art education without a fight. Despite their old-fashioned approach to the teaching of art, they retained considerable commercial power. For example, each academy of art staged a number of showcase exhibitions (salons) during the year, which typically attracted enormous interest from art collectors. Participation was a guaranteed seal of approval for an aspiring artist. Moreover, artists whose works were 'approved of' and who showed regularly at the Academy's salon, would be granted Associate and in due course Full Membership of the Academy - the ultimate accolade for any ambitious painter or sculptor.
Academic Art in the 20th Century
Curiously, although the overall approach of Academy-style teaching is still seen as outmoded, art collectors still attach enormous value to painting and sculpture that reflects the rigour and thoroughness of the academic method. Indeed there remains something of a gap between curators and other arts professionals - who tend to prefer contemporary art forms like installation, video and sound art: doubters please consult the list of recent Turner Prize Winners - and art buyers at auction, who continue to demonstrate a higher degree of conservatism.
Here is a short selection of the best art colleges, design institutes and accredited arts courses in the United States and Canada, together with their tuition fees.
A short selection of the top art colleges/universities and design courses in the UK and Ireland.
Best Art Schools in Ireland
For more information about the best arts courses, see: Homepage.
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ART