Teach a person to see any one thing, just as it is, in form and color, and as it stands related to other objects around, and you accomplish much.
– Lewis P. Clover (1861)
As Marianne North painted habitat studies, plant portraits and botanical still life paintings while traveling the world, she had an educational objective in mind. Because she was alarmed at how little people knew about plants, North drew and painted plants so that others could learn about them.
Learning about nature and the world through the drawing process is the subject of a presentation Lewis P. Clover made to the State Teachers’ Institute in Quincy, Illinois in 1860. His presentation was reprinted in The Crayon in 1861 and it is this reprint we’ll take a look at today.
An advocate for “educating the eye” (Clover, 1861), Clover makes a case for drawing to become a core requirement in all schools. He makes his case in Drawing, as Connected with the Common and Higher Pursuits of Life.
Clover (1861) argues that there is not a pursuit in life that does not benefit from the act of drawing. He explains how botanists, geologists, machinists, physicians, carpenters, builders, architects, mechanics and even lawyers can benefit from knowing how to present information visually. He also argues that anyone can learn the principles of drawing, learn how to measure distances between objects, and learn to see (and appreciate) nature in a new way.
In his paper, Clover agrees with philosopher John Locke and states that drawing instruction in the school system should not be about creating master artists. It should instead be about equipping students with the skills to “represent tolerably on paper anything (one) sees.” (Locke, as quoted in Clover, 1861).
Clover argues that students need to be taught to see and to learn through drawing so they can have “awakened thoughts” (Clover, 1861) about the world and other things that would otherwise go unnoticed. Clover’s plea to teachers is best summarized in this statement:
Make drawing a branch of study in the schools, and you adopt the most successful mode of teaching pupils to discriminate.
– Lewis P. Clover (1861)
To get a copy of Clover (1861), search the stacks at your local college library.
Clover, Lewis P. 1861. Drawing, as connected with the common and higher pursuits of life. The Crayon. 8(4): 73-77
More About Marianne North
This month we will learn more about Marianne North from featured scholar,
Katie Zimmerman. We’ll learn about North’s work and her contributions to botany. I hope you take advantage of the opportunity to learn from Katie directly and to ask her questions.
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