The Why and How of Art and Music

Dear Reader,

My son recently asked why we have to study art. I have  a friend who has asked me this as well. I wish I had better answers ready. This post will be an attempt to come up with better answers for my own sake. But if anyone wants to jump in and give their answers, I would be happy for more input.

I blogged recently on the whys and hows of good books, as delineated by Charlotte Mason in her fifth volume, Formation of Character. In the section of books, she says of culture in general that the object is “the cultivation of the power to appreciate, to enjoy, whatever is just, true, and beautiful in thought and expression” (p.139).  She also acknowledges that such pursuits probably do seem vain if our goal is only material success or advancement.

In the section of aesthetic culture, Charlotte begins by discussing what makes good art. Her first assertion is that there is not one clear standard but that each must form their own standards for what makes good art:

“I feel that to formulate canons of taste is the same sort of thing as to draw up rules of conscience; that is, to attempt to do for other people what everyone must do for himself.” (p.151)

Which is not to say that there are no standards; Charlotte clearly believed there were. But there may be individual differences in taste, and it is not something that one can impose upon another.

In the study of art, as in other areas, it is the ideas which are important. Because of this, Charlotte recommends studying one artist or composer for a length of time rather than skipping quickly from one to another:

“It is a pity that, in picture and music, we are inclined to form ‘collections,’ just as in poetry. Let us eschew collections. Every painter, every composer, worth the name, has a few master ideas, which he works out, not in a single piece, but here a little and there a little, in a series of studies. If we accept the work of the artist as a mere external decoration, why, a little of one and a little of another does very well; but if we accept the man as a teacher, who is to have a refining, elevating effect upon our coarser nature, we must study his lessons in sequence, so far as we have opportunity.” (p.152)

From these passage, I draw the following conclusions:

– We do art and music for the enjoyment of them.

– When we indulge in the arts, we improve our aesthetic sense and develop our own tastes.

– We study art and music to imbibe the ideas of their creators.

This is what I have gleaned. Can you think of any additions to the list?


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Naptime Seamstress on April 1, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    We study art because God created us to need art/beauty. I also think that studying art (meaning music, “art”, etc.) helps us hone our worship of God.


    • That’s an excellent point. I completely agree. We were made to appreciate the beauty God has created which is also reflected in some small way in human art.


  2. […] recently did a post entitled The Why and How of Art and Music in which I tried to give some reasons why we study the arts. Then I ran across this blog post from […]


  3. […] one is: what is the value of these subjects and of the arts in particular? I have addressed this in a previous post to some degree. But I would like to add some more to the […]


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