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Drawing What They See at the Guggenheim

Yesterday morning in a special event at the iconic Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (which they had all to themselves) our seventh graders presented "Learning to See through Art," the culmination of their winter term study of the foundations of observational drawing.

During the unit, which was conducted over several sessions at the Guggenheim, the boys had carefully studied various works of  Picasso, Seurat, Gaugin, Cezanne, and others in the Thannhauser Collection, before selecting the one they would draw as their final project.

The event began with the boys in teams, leading their parents, faculty and staff on gallery tours of the modern masterpieces they had selected to draw. At each work of art, our boys acted as docents, explaining the artist and artwork, and why they were attracted to it.

Some mentioned being intrigued by the curves in a painting, others by the brushwork or shading. They also divulged how they addressed the challenges they encountered when trying to draw what they saw.

After the tour, the boys invited their parents to join them in the rotunda where they shared the drawing techniques they had learned. Armed with pencils and drawing pads, parents were now the eager students of their boys.

The session closed with a Foundations Exhibit, a curated collection of the boys' artwork on display in the Guggenheim's art studios.

Through this experience, the boys learned that observational drawing requires focus, concentration, effort and practice, and using their minds in ways far different than usual: to see the negative spaces in compositions, to uncover the underlying shapes on a canvas. 

This class debunks the myth that observational drawing requires possession of a mysterious, innate talent. Rather, the boys come to see that it entails mastery of skills and techniques, such as contour and angles and proportions, that can be taught and learned. Their final drawings, displayed proudly on the art studio walls, are visible evidence of this--a record of a process.

What a remarkable opportunity and experience this partnership with the Guggenheim, under the guidance of our art teachers Jenna Boccella and Mark Sunderwirth, affords our boys. 

To hear the boys speak so analytically, to see the result of this study, inspires one and all to pick up a pencil, pull out a sheet of paper, be still, quiet, look, and draw.


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