Saturday, December 12, 2009

Viktor Lowenfeld

Viktor Lowenfeld, (1903-1960) was a pioneer in the field of arts education, and described the visual-haptic continuum. Some students, he noted, were primarily visually inclined, while some are more engaged through their sense of touch. In art class the line might fall somewhere between painting and pottery and fortunately some artists have managed to bridge the divide. Jackson Pollack, and Pablo Picasso are examples. Haptic refers to the sense of touch (from Greek ἅπτω = "I fasten onto, I touch"). So you can see that it refers to the sensory engagement in the creative process.

Friend and noted University of Arkansas Art Historian and novelist, Donald Harington, (1935-2009) told me that in all his years of teaching art history, he never had a potter get better than a "B" in his course, and Viktor Lowenfeld had noted that art teachers are generally selected from those who have the best foundation in drawing, a primarily visual, rather than haptic expression. The consequence, sadly, is that many students never gain an understanding of their own artistic capabilities. What we hear too often is the artistic lament, "I can't draw."

And so it is time to engage all students in the full range of the arts.


  1. I can't draw a straight line with a ruler. Allow me to add, I can't shape anything into a known object with my hands, either. Thanks to you, I now know I have two artistic failings, not just one. Okay, make that three, I can't whittle either, which may be a conbination of the two. Pencil sharpeners rebeled against my use of them as well. This is getting ugly. I will quit now.

  2. Wyman, come take my October, 2010 class on knife making and whittling, and I'll get you started amending number 3. It will be fun, I guarantee. The dates are October 8-10, and you can sign up at ESSA, the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

    That may be a long time to wait, but we will make two kinds of knives and then spend a day carving stuff. So, don't quit yet!