Defining Classic Art and Exploring its Role in Therapy

The argument about Classic Art is a familiar one: is it making a come back or did it in fact never go away? While Modernism demanded its place centre stage, did Classic Art lurk in the background? Classicism has remained a much loved and respected form, from the beautifully fluid natural landscapes of Monet to Van Gogh’s striking street scenes and starry skies. Our interest has certainly never waned and now Classic Art inspires patients of Art Therapy to express their inner emotions onto canvas. So what are the rules that make art ‘Classic’ and how is it defined today?

Renoir print, Church in Cagnes CanvasThe Principles

The lineage of this art form goes back to the Greeks and Romans and takes into account their perceptions about the human body and the environment. Since this time, painters and sculptors have remained committed to the traditional principles laid down by their ancestors. Training today in the ‘realist’ style of painting is the most similar to classicism, baroque and romanticism of the past. The important point is that training is necessary.

Beauty and truth are the focus of Classic Art; these being linked to the human condition and how art appeals to the emotions and can touch the soul. This is said to make classicism more accessible to all, as opposed to modern art, which might appeal to a select audience. With Classic Art, you see the painting as beautiful or ugly and it will either touch you in an appealing way or not; there is no obscurity to its meaning. What you will notice, however, is that it is a craft.

Classic Art does not have to represent the era from which it came and it does not have to imitate the great artists such as Renoir and Monet. It is simply a realistic approach, using art as a craft to create a painting that has the traditional principles at its heart. This art form is being successfully created in Australia today.

Classic Art News

The Australian has published a series of photographs of the painter Monet, giving a fascinating insight into the inspirations for his work and showing the environment in which he created his masterpieces. The series of photographs include the artist’s house and gardens, which illustrate how his environment was so important to the art he created, adhering to the rules of Classic Art. Nature was at the heart of Monet’s work and these photographs bring his art to life with striking clarity.

Limelight magazine recently featured an article on the new National Cultural Policy initiatives, which will see funding in new artists as well as developing the film industry. Simon Crean, the Federal Arts Minister, sees ‘the artist as central to us as a nation and to securing its future’. $235 million will be injected into the Australian arts, with funding going to the National Institute of Dramatic Art as well as the formation of a Creative Young Stars Program.

Bill Gekas, the Australian digital photographer, has brought Classic Art to the forefront of creative news for his recreation of famous portraits, such as The Girl With the Pearl Earring, using a different medium and he has been awarded first place prize in the International Loupe Awards 2012 for his stunning work, which features his daughter as the subject.

Art Therapy

Art therapy is an effective form of psychotherapy, using visual arts as a tool for self- expression. It is used to improve physical and mental well being among people who are undergoing various personal issues and mental disorders such as depression. Art therapy is particularly popular for treating addiction, as it is a way for people to address their problems without having to use words; instead they express themselves through painting and begin to externalise the emotions they have difficulty showing. Because Classic Art has its origins in the human body and the environment in which it exists, it naturally lends itself to therapy. Within a safe, comfortable setting, the patient can begin to understand their addiction and express their feelings of anger, frustration or sadness through art. Withdrawal specialists are also recommended in the treatment of addiction, and there are centres worldwide to support sufferers, such as addiction withdrawal specialists in Louisiana. Patients receive long term care for their alcohol or drug addiction at these facilities, and often art therapy plays a significant role in successful withdrawal from addiction.

ANZATA (Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association) features news articles, directories and a gallery on this form of psychotherapy, with useful links for people interested in this topic. ANZATA feature workshops regularly, such as Vocal Improvisation and Expressive Therapy Clinics, which looks at positive psychology and how to manage emotions.

Classic Art is ideal for art therapy because of the concentration required and the focus on the human form and its environment. By reaching into the soul to produce art, the artist is in touch with their emotions and the healing process can naturally begin.

Article by Evelyn Mills