Back To College: Artworks About The Classroom

by Cass Art

Get those pencils sharpened, those alarm clocks at the ready - it’s that time of year again…Back to College! With those lazy, hazy days of summer drawing to a close, we’re preparing to get back into the classroom by taking a look at two artworks that focus on our perceptions of education and learning. 

John Baldessari, I will not make any more boring art

I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art - John Baldessari

In 1971, American conceptual artist John Baldessari directed students at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design to write ‘I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art’ on the walls of the gallery as if they were lines given out in detention, and then had the students make this print based on the installation. The artist was unable to travel to Nova Scotia to supervise in person, raising questions about authorship and whether it is the initial idea that implies ownership or our development of that idea.

This work also brings the role of artist as teacher to the fore and questions the extent to which learning should be prescribed. Baldessari is interested in the agreed but yet arbitrary rules of language that we follow and how our artistic notions - although not so rigidly prescribed - may be as ingrained, and as unquestioned as our grammar. As the artist explains “…a lot of my work was about questioning this received wisdom.”

The Severe Teacher, Jan Steen 

The Severe Teacher - Jan Steen

Dutch baroque artist Jan Steen is best known for his humorous genre scenes; warm hearted and animated works in which he treats life as a vast comedy of manners. In The Severe Teacher the artist transports us back to the awkward growing pains of our school days. Moments of indelible shame are often softened by the rose-tinted glasses of time and distance into comic, character-building scenes.

In this oil painting from circa 1668, Steen captures a telling moment between teacher and student; the stern and superior disposition of the proselytising teacher seemingly taking some perverse pleasure in pointing out his students' ignorance, juxtaposed against the young frustrated student, reprimanded for his perceived ignorance, and embarrassed in front of his peers. Perhaps this can serve as a bright side for our returning students; you may not feel it now, but rest assured you’ll look back on these days and smile. 

Feeling inspired?

You can stock up on all your college essentials and art supplies - whether's you're heading back to school or art college,  we've got it covered in our Back To College range.  

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