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A Review of the Marchutz School

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I wrote this short review for Google in an attempt to sum up as concisely as possible what Marchutz School is, what impact it had on my life and why the education it offers is so unique and so deeply rewarding. Of course, there is so much more I could write on this subject – on why this form of art education is so significant and so needed in our day and age. But this is still, I think, best I’ve been able to articulate all the facets of the Marchutz experience, which is fine with me for now. 

The Marchutz School, Avenue du Général Preaud, 13100 Aix-en-Provence. 

Rating:  5/5 stars.

Before explaining what the Marchutz School is, it is necessary to address what it isn’t. The two-semester core art program is not merely a study abroad experience or one that banks on the the novelty of painting outside in the south of France. Although Cezanne’s vision played a definitive role in Leo Marchutz’s coming to France, the school does not profess to teach students to paint like Cezanne, or to paint like a classicist or like an abstract expressionist. Though its curriculum is grounded in the study of nature and the art of the past – two practices that tend to be considered passé today – the school does not in any way dismiss art that is “new.” In reality, they recognize that it is by these dual pursuits that one may truly come to recognize how art embodies the temperament of our or any era. By these dual pursuits, we learn why and how art embodies meaning. By these dual pursuits, we learn the nature of timeless artistic principles that transcend historical limitations and speak to humanity across time. By these dual pursuits, we learn how to paint not like Cezanne or Michealangelo or Van Gogh but like ourselves.

The school – by which I mean the professors John Gasparach and Alan Roberts and the lineage of artists and scholars that participated in its birth and sustain its life – offers the deepest education in fine art that I know of, and, in any case, one that is rare today. If your sole goal as an art student is to acquire a fine technique and develop a marketable style then you’d be fine to stay at your home university, but if you are interested in pursuing truth in your creation and perception of art (just as the liberal arts and sciences pursue truth in their ways) then you should come here. Concurrent with our inquiry into the nature of art through readings, writing, discussions and the collective observation of masterworks, our actual practice of painting and drawing (and some sculpture) is treated as a form of inquiry into the self and into reality. Treated as such, it is beneficial to students of all backgrounds and all levels, working artists and beginners alike. Though ultimately I can only speak for myself, every student I talked to at the end of my first semester here a few years ago considered it to be a time of profound growth in ways beyond what I or anyone could condense into one or 100 Google reviews. Across the board, I think a central reason for that growth could be attributed to dialog we develop between our perception of art and our own practices of it (or what the school likes to call “sight and insight”). As we learn to see what makes a painting or drawing good or bad, whole rather than fragmented, meaningful rather than meaningless, alive rather than lifeless we are faced with our own capacities for perceiving life, meaning, unity, color and movement – and the barriers to vision posed by our own preconceptions.

The result is creative, personal and intellectual development bound up in a very concrete way. From my short semester at Marchutz I took home some of the best work of my college career, but more importantly a revitalized artistic practice that enabled me to pursue my work in greater breadth and depth, far beyond the scope of my senior show and long after graduation. Specifically, I developed the capacity to pursue my personal style and vision with an eye for the unity of form and content and artistic unity in my work, such that concerns of detail and finish became secondary rather than primary concerns. Being a double major, I also found what I learned at Marchutz to benefit me in my studies in literature, creative writing and philosophy (especially in epistemology and aesthetics).

In conclusion, I can’t say enough good things about this place, this community and this school. The artistic education it offers is second to none, and it can even change lives if students let it.

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