In the 15th century, the Florentines initiated what art historians later defined as the Italian Renaissance with a competition to design and cast in bronze the doors of their Baptistery. Throughout this period, Italian artists and scholars celebrated various forms of paragone--the competitive rivalry between drawing and color, between painting and sculpture, between contemporary Italian art and the art of Greco-Roman antiquity, and between art and nature itself. In the competition between rival cities in Italy at the time, the Florentines perhaps justifiably asserted the primacy of sculpture through the legacy of Michelangelo, but who could doubt the superiority of painting when viewing the sublime work of Titian in the city of Venice? Despite their competitive nature, however, citizens of both Florence and Venice generally agreed that relief sculpture reconciled the best features of sculpture and painting. Indeed, offering both pictorial design and three-dimensional form and space, sculptural panels in either high- or low-relief are among the most effective means of teaching eternal principles and methods of drawing, painting, and sculpture. For this reason, the faculty and students of the Visual Arts Department at Culver Academies ask for your help purchasing eight plaster casts of ancient relief panels from the Parthenon.
The competitive spirit of the Florentines and the Venetians rightfully endures, perhaps, but the true challenge is not to privilege one aesthetic while rejecting all others; rather, the objective is to assimilate the best practices of exemplary artists and to recognize the fundamental relationships that are common to all great works of art in Western civilization. The competition, then, is not between one approach or style and another but rather between one’s current artistic self and the artist one may become through practice, reflection, and above all courage. Any contribution to support this purchase will echo long after we are gone because this collection of plaster casts will remain a constant feature of visual arts education at Culver Academies for many, many decades. Students will study the masterworks of the past as they draw, paint, and sculpt, thereby absorbing the pinnacle of Western artistic achievement through their own exploration of traditional methods and materials. In the same way that a stone dropped in a pool of water creates ripple after ripple, so your contribution now will help generation after generation of Culver students reach the shores of their individual destinies.
Please feel free to support the purchase of these eight casts.