The unfolding of artistic activity: Its basis, processes, and implications

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Reviews the book, The unfolding of artistic activity: Its basis, processes, and implications by Henry Schaeffer-Simmern (1948), with an Introduction by John Dewey. The chief merit of this book lies in its thought-provoking theory of art and in the concrete illustrations of its theory. The author's generalizations are supported by didactically-selected art samples from the same individuals at successive stages of development. The book's immediate value is probably for the educator who is alive to basic issues in his field. It is not, however, the art teacher in a technical sense who is addressed: it is the pedagogue in the generic sense of the word, the man concerned with the development and education of the total human individual. What places this work above a guide for art teaching is its underlying philosophy: the conception of man as a being who is creative by nature and of art education as a means to promote the growth process of the person-as-a-whole. The strength of this study lies in the consistent with which it carries theory, into practice and practice into theory. Empirically it has accomplished at least two cogent demonstrations—first, that spontaneous visual art creation is possible for even initially diffident laymen and that it follows a lawful order of progress if the person is left free for discoveries through his own resources; second, that art education need not proceed via imitation nor be focussed on the teaching of skills. On the other hand it is hard to deny that the psychologist with a background of experimental and statistical rigor can voice certain critical doubts. Further, clinicians might be troubled by the conspicuous absence of any attempt to interpret the products of his subjects from the point of view of projection. Notwithstanding, this reviewer felt keenly the tantalizing possibilities which Schaeffer-Simmern's undertaking opens up. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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