Rembrandt and Collections of His Art in America:
A Framework

When we perceive the arts as “humanities” it is crucial that we interpret them as a demand that we pause, and in their light, reexamine our own realities, values, and dedications, for the arts not only present life concretely, stimulate the imagination, and integrate the different cultural elements of a society or of an epoch, they also present models for our imitation or rejection, visions and aspirations which mutely solicit our critical response.— Albert William Levi

Michelangelo and Raphael, Rubens and Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Cézanne are not only objects of art-historical study or investments or status symbols for collectors. They are centers of attraction and repulsion to be loved, admired, criticized or rejected, living forces with which we get involved. ... [T]hey must be approached with respect and humility for they can light up for us whole areas of the mind which would have been dark without them.— E.H. Gombrich

What matters is not only what is taught but also how it is taught and by what kinds of teachers. The humanizing effect is not too much to hope for if one brings to life the tragic poets, Rembrandt, and Mozart, confronting students with their humanity and their often extraordinary sensitivity to the feelings of others.— Walter Kaufmann

It appears to be a defining characteristic of Rembrandt’s works—as important as the brushstrokes, the underdrawing, the types of ground and the paints used—that they move people exceedingly. ... [T]hey help us feel something of what the artist may have felt about youth, old age, friendship, isolation, and love.— Anthony Bailey

[For] Rembrandt, imperfections are the norm of humanity, which is why he will always speak across centuries to those for whom art might be something other than the quest for ideal form.—Simon Schama

[What] I claim is that “an education for all human beings” needs to explore in some depth a set of key human achievements captured in the venerable phrase “the true, the beautiful, and the good.”— Howard Gardner

My first version of a framework for the Rembrandt project briefly summarized the narrative Professor Piro provided in his proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities.1 The narrative articulated a model of close study and analysis that necessitated introducing a range of knowledge about Rembrandt and his time. Derived principally from the humanities, which among other areas of study include art history, the visual arts, and social studies, such knowledge was to be energized by online state-of-the-art technology. Professor Piro’s narrative also indicated the intention to develop standards-based instructional strategies that could enhance proficiency and achievement in understanding the social studies and visual arts. Making the art of Rembrandt central to the project also constituted a tribute to artistic genius and the ways in which works of art can express significant ideas and feelings.

In his review of the national standards for the social studies, Professor Piro drew attention to some of their themes, for example, Culture and Civilization, People, Places, and Environment, and Time, Continuity, and Change. In such themes he sensed a template, or framework, for engaging the works of Rembrandt and the culture of seventeenth-century Holland. Further parallels were noted between some of the visual art standards of the National Art Education Association and those of the National Council for the Social Studies.

As project scholar my responsibility was to comment on the progress of the web site being developed and suggest ideas that might be of some use, for example, percipience discussed in my remarks about a humanities curriculum for arts education that in turn suggested cultural percipience as a general goal of the project.2 My work with the Getty Center for Art Education, which had consisted of integrating art making, art history, art criticism, and aesthetics during the shaping of a well-developed sense of art, also proved helpful inasmuch as a degree of multi-disciplinary finesse is a major aim of the Rembrandt project.3

Toward Cultural Percipience:
A Humanities Interpretation of the Rembrandt Project

To begin, imagine four overlapping circles each with a distinctive content that elicits a number of questions. In the first circle we find the humanities. But what is meant by the humanities? What are the special functions they perform? What do they contribute to our understanding that other forms of knowing do not? Moreover, are the humanities to be understood substantively, as discrete curricular subjects, procedurally as a set of civilizing skills, or as an attitude that can be taken toward practically anything? Or all of these? Throughout history different answers have been given to these questions to which I return later.

Framework Diagram

In the second circle we find art, which for the purposes of the project, is centered on Rembrandt’s works of visual art. But what do we understand by art and work of art? Do these notions imply finished products or the process that went into creating them? Or both? What is it that works of art excel in that distinguishes them from other ways of interpreting human experience?

In the third circle we find social studies. Once more, questions arise about distinctive purposes and objectives. What differentiates social studies from other studies? What do such studies encompass? And for purposes of the Rembrandt project what are their relationships to the arts and humanities? Some answers to these questions are provided in the discussion of standards published by the National Council for the Social Studies, a document that integrates a broad range of disciplines, including the humanities.4 In his narrative Professor Piro had noted some similarities between the standards of the National Council for Social Studies and the standards of the National Art Education Association.5 It may seem inordinate to ask teachers charged with teaching the young to acquaint themselves with such a wide spectrum of knowledge, but lack of a least a general familiarity with them has doomed many an interdisciplinary venture.

In the fourth circle we find technology that is construed as a set of engines that help to keep things moving in preferred directions. More questions. What are the advantages and limitations of digital technology? Has it been demonstrated that interactive technology helps teachers and students acquire the knowledge and skills envisioned by the project? Or will the fascination with technology distract students from attaining a serious mastery of content? Will it overwhelm them with a plethora of data and images that hamper discovery and inquiry? And are digital images rich and detailed enough to convey something of Rembrandt’s artistry? Not only that. How many schools have the necessary resources or teachers who are adept at using modern technology? Judging from Professor’s Piro’s experience and that of other members of the project team, it would appear that conveying a sense of Rembrandt’s accomplishments via digital means is feasible. In this connection readers may want to consult an article by Louisa Wood-Ruby in the special issue of the Journal of Aesthetic Education devoted to the project that can be found in project's Foundation Education section. With such questions in mind I suggested the following ways to help understand the humanities.

The Humanities

Albert William Levi, an early member of the National Council for the Humanities and during the latter part of his career David May Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Washington University, was once asked to state briefly the essence of the humanities. After thinking a while he stated that the goal of the humanities is to enable one “to think critically, to communicate successfully, and to walk proudly with thy tradition.”6 I considered this response a useful brief response definition for the Rembrandt project, especially given the way Levi’s expands on his remarks, plus some emendations I have felt emboldened to make.

The first thing to notice in Levi’s terse statement is his featuring the procedural aspects of the humanities: it is to think critically, to communicate effectively, and to walk proudly with one’s tradition. This accords well with the habit of the Middle Ages to construe the humanities as essentially skills or ways of organizing and understanding human experience. Yet in acknowledging the efforts of Renaissance scholars who devoted themselves to recovering and transmitting the literary texts of antiquity, Levi also paid tribute to the conception of the humanities as subject matter. A strong believer in historical continuity, he synthesized the Medieval and Renaissance traditions by understanding the humanities procedurally as the liberal arts (or skills) of communication, continuity and criticism that are grounded (as subjects) in languages and literatures, history, and philosophy (essentially critical reflection).

If we subsume the creative arts under the rubric of languages—a move that appears reasonable since we commonly speak of artistic expression as aesthetic communication—then we will have added another “c” to Levi’s troika, namely the skills of artistic creation. This addition enables us to claim that the humanities are indispensable to human experience because they are the arts of creation, communication, continuity, and criticism. Works of art can then be construed as artistic statements created in the stream of time whose significance is disclosed through aesthetic response and cultural criticism. Requisite for understanding works of art in this manner is the development of what I earlier termed cultural percipience, a kind of awareness that encompasses both perception and contextual information.7

I compared Levi’s interpretation of the humanities with that of another philosopher, Walter Kaufmann, whose ideas blend readily with the project’s pedagogical concerns. I refer to his four reasons for studying the humanities: the conservation and appreciation of the greatest works of humanity; the teaching of vision; reflection of alternatives; and the fostering of a critical spirit. Moreover, his ideas about teaching classic works of literature also suggest ways to engage major works of visual art.8

For example, Kaufmann asks respondents to imagine a set of circles, this time three concentric circles instead of the four overlapping ones discussed earlier. In the first circle we place one of Rembrandt’s acclaimed masterpieces, say The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp or The Night Watch, although other works would do as well. Next we invite students to state their personal responses to the work, which may be quite idiosyncratic, and then discuss the various kinds of impact the work had on them.9 After that, students’ attention can be directed to the work’s internal properties, for example its design components and expressive qualities. This phase may be termed scrutiny that is followed by recollection of various kinds of information about Rembrandt and his work.10 At this point there are questions that can be asked of any work of art. When was the work made? Where was it made? How was it made? Why was it made? For whom was it made? What is its style? What seems to be its message, meaning, or significance? What is the peculiar effect or quality of experience it induces? What problems does it present to understanding and appreciation? To answer some of these questions, however, we have to expand the zone of percipience. In doing so caution has to be exercised to ensure that responses do not stray too far from the work’s internal evidence. Relevant questions at this stage can be about Rembrandt’s cast of mind, his sensibility, his vision, and his evolution as an artist. How do the content and style of a given work differ from those of several of his other works? What were some major influences on his art? And so forth.

The third circle continues to expand the zone of percipience by asking questions about what observers, commentators, interpreters, and critics have said about Rembrandt’s work. What was his effect not only on his contemporaries but also on subsequent artists, including modern and contemporary artists? As Rembrandt’s 400th birthday approached in 2006, one problem that was being contemplated was how his art can be experienced in the culture of today. At this stage of inquiry issues concerning the authorship of several works attributed to Rembrandt became relevant. For example, does it make a major difference in one’s experience and judgment of a work once one has learned that it was not by Rembrandt’s hand? A fruitful topic in this regard would be the controversy that swirls around The Polish Rider.11 Is it by Rembrandt? But if that puzzle is too controversial, there are other instances in Rembrandt’s oeuvre that could suggest a number of what may be called case-driven studies (to be discussed in the Appendix), especially since so much is still unknown about Rembrandt’s life and artistic intentions.12 Discovery and study of such puzzles can further contribute to the kind of cultural percipience the project seeks to foster. Having immersed themselves in the art and times of Rembrandt, students can then renew their experience of Rembrandt’s works and his times.

The following addresses the question about the quality of experience that a serious work of art can induce. In the case of Rembrandt it might be asked whether there might be a characteristic Rembrandt Effect. 13

Art and Aesthetics

Twentieth-century western aesthetics has generally been understood as a branch of philosophy the major purpose of which has been to analyze the nature, meaning, and value of art and a cluster of related concepts and issues. The introduction to the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, however, recognizing that disciplines other than philosophy examine the arts, defined aesthetics simply as critical reflection on art, culture, and nature.14 This definition broadens the contexts in which aesthetic analysis and criticism can take place, notwithstanding the fact that a philosophical accent remains strong in American and British journals of aesthetics and aesthetic education. My discussion of aesthetics takes its cues primarily from western aesthetic theory.

One way to open the discussion is to suggest that serious works of art are worth engaging for the sake of their inherent values or benefits. Ronald Moore recalls a string of outcomes that writers from antiquity to the present have attributed to the experience of art.15 In late antiquity, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the modern period, it has been variously argued that the study of the arts has the capacity to refine the senses, contribute to a rich and satisfying life, instill citizenship and social values and, in John Dewey’s philosophy, to further the natural processes of human development. Moore also mentioned contemporary cognitive studies that explain ways in which the study of the arts can animate and augment powers of the mind. To this list I’ve added some values proposed by several contemporary theorists, for example, the acquisition of a rich imagic store that fuels acts of enlightened cherishing, the cultivation of reflective percipience, insight into the nature of subjective reality, the maintenance of aesthetic well-being and welfare, and concern for the beautification of the environment. A differently oriented literature alleges the development of academic skills, the abatement of school violence, the promotion of racial integration, and the amelioration of other social problems as being among the effects of art study. Such a proliferation of values and benefits has understandably led to calls for a moratorium on value inflation.

The reason for passing in review a list of art’s values and benefits is to point out that they are not all of a kind. Some pertain to the more immediate values derived from creating and appreciating works of art, while others are more delayed, indirect, or incidental effects. The question thus became which of these sorts of value or benefits are a direct result of the study of the arts, which are incidental effects, and which are of a kind that might be more efficiently produced through other means. Further, what is the character of the experiences that produce aesthetic values or benefits? And might the inherent values of the arts vary depending on the art form in question? Are the inherent values of listening to music the same as those obtained in contemplating a painting or reading a poem? In short, we need a better understanding of what is meant by the inherent values of art. More will be said about the meaning of this concept in the next section.16

The Inherent Values of Art

My approach assumes that persons typically encounter works of art less as creators of art and more as respondents. Persons read books and poetry, visit museums and galleries, attend musical, theater, and dance performances, go to the movies and watch television, and access the Internet. Characteristically they talk about what they experienced and much of what they say has an evaluative slant. The pedagogical task should be clear enough: it is to develop in student’s capacities for reflective response, which is among the important objectives of the Rembrandt project. But what is meant by an informed and sensitive response?

Aesthetic Experience

It has been pointed out that aesthetic responses are not the only appropriate responses to works of art. But if one of the major goals of the Rembrandt project is to teach students how to perceive works of art, then aesthetic response is a useful means to that end.

In the The Sense of Art I devoted space to the history of the idea of aesthetic experience and to modern aesthetic theories that feature the concept.17 I also provided a continuum of examples of aesthetic experience that begins with responses to the freshness of an ideal spring morning, the trajectory of a falling leaf, the music of birdsong, a vista of the Andes mountains, impressions of Moscow an hour before sunset, the enchanting qualities of Venetian canals and architecture, a comparison of the appreciation of a shallow-bowled spoon to that of a poem, absorption in the formal qualities and expressive qualities of a Cézanne landscape, and the portrayal of inhumanity as well as hope in Pablo Picasso’s Guernica. In short, the continuum moved from the relatively simple and uncomplicated to the more complex.

Do these examples of aesthetic experience have anything in common? To be sure, there are different viewpoints and even some doubt about the viability of the notion of aesthetic experience. But after a period of skepticism when theorists shied away from the concept there is now a revived recognition of its value, the feeling being that too much is lost if the concept were to be expunged from talk about art and human experience.18

One twentieth-century philosopher who devoted a major portion of his writings to articulating the concept of aesthetic experience was Monroe C. Beardsley, sometimes referred to in his time as the Dean of American aesthetics. He proposed that aesthetic experience might usefully be construed as a cluster of feelings.19 In other words, aesthetic experience cannot be reduced to a single feeling or emotion. He believed there are certain features that are indispensable to aesthetic experience while others are often, though not necessarily, present in it.

Following Beardsley, experience tends to assume an aesthetic character when it is controlled by the internal properties of the object under consideration. Or, as was said earlier, when initial impact gives way to the scrutiny of a work’s various aspects and relationships. Such a response is freely undertaken and the percipient’s interest is carried forward by a dawning realization that things are working themselves out in fitting and appropriate ways, a feeling that often gives rise to intense pleasure and even exhilaration. Percipients, however, must refrain from luxuriating in pleasurable feelings and emotive reactions lest attention be drawn away from a work’s complexities and nuances. Hence a degree of emotional distance has to be maintained that is not believed, however, that marked by disinterestedness. Intense and sustained attention to an artwork further tends to suspend the kinds of practical concerns that usually preoccupy individuals. For a while, persons feel free of life’s common frustrations. Thus does Beardsley speak of object-directedness, felt freedom, and detached affect as important features of aesthetic experience.

Two additional properties of aesthetic experience should be mentioned. One is the feeling of active discovery. This is a consequence of a percipient’s having gotten a mental and emotional hold of the work’s design components and their emergent qualities and meanings. One may say that the sense of art that persons bring to a work allows them to make sense of the work. Such sense making has obvious pedagogical significance and constitutes a cognitive dimension of aesthetic experience. It also counters the belief that the experience of works of art is passive. The more complex a work the greater is its challenge to sense making and the more intense a feeling of active discovery. In the case of extraordinary artistic accomplishment what is discovered are not just the qualities of materials and design components but also profound expressions of spiritual and human values. Such discoveries are most likely to occur during the phases of scrutiny and recollection mentioned earlier and would undoubtedly include the kind of information about The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp that Professor Piro provided in his narrative of the project.

Another feature present in many aesthetic experiences, though not necessarily in all, is a feeling of personal wholeness. When persons have achieved the perception of an artwork as an integrated whole, that is, after they have taken due account of its complexity, coherence of components, intensity of expression, and import, their own selves may also feel more unified, whole, and invigorated. The world, at least for a while, tends to look and feel like a better place. This is what Beardsley calls the tonic effect of aesthetic experience that has been attested to by many lovers of art and is yet another value of aesthetic experience.

To reiterate, not all of the symptoms of aesthetic experience must be present for an experience to have an aesthetic character. Yet examining aesthetic experiences in terms of its characteristic features should help to explain the different degrees of satisfaction persons derive from encountering works of art. Beardsley believed that when a visual, auditory, or verbal work of art presents little to perception or imagination, when it provides minimal occasion for active discovery, or when it assaults the senses and insults intelligence, it cannot possess much aesthetic value or what he called artistic goodness, whatever other value—monetary, propagandistic, psychological, historical, or sociological—it might have. In short, Beardsley believed the arts to be a source of important human values. He said that their harmonious design, good proportions, and intense expressiveness are part of the breadth of life. The results are heightened sensitivity, a closer relationship with the environment, and an intensified realization of possibility.20

A Contemporary Concept of the Aesthetic

One contemporary way of thinking about aesthetic experience preserves what is best in past theorizing while recognizing the need for further analysis and refinement. Noël Carroll’s work is representative of this tendency.21

In his effort to delineate the domain of the aesthetic as precisely as possible, Carroll reviewed several standard definitions of aesthetic experience. These consist of what he terms the appropriate-response conception, according to which any response to art that is appropriate is therefore also aesthetic; the anti-cognitive conception, according to which the aim of aesthetic experience is neither understanding nor knowledge but satisfaction or gratification; and the disinterested, sympathetic, and contemplative conception, according to which practical pressures and social concerns are set aside during aesthetic experience in favor of concentration on a work’s intrinsic values for their own sakes. Carroll finds problems with each of these conceptions, but his major concern is to point out the ambiguity inherent in the notion of intrinsic value, that is, the idea of valuing something for its own sake. As he makes clear in a number of telling examples, it becomes evident that we do not appreciate works of art for their own sakes but rather for the effects they can have on human experience, some of which I’ve mentioned.

To separate himself from the experience-for-its-own-sake position, Carroll takes some cues from evolutionary theory. He thinks that the notion of natural selection throws some light on the value that has been attributed to aesthetic experience. Aesthetic experiences are prized because they are believed to be improving kinds of experiences that contribute to certain powers and capacities that make life better and more effectual. This is to say that aesthetic experiences have adaptive powers. They can augment a person’s potential for developing, sustaining, and refining pattern detection, for recognizing emotional states, and for making fine discriminations. These are all capacities that are adaptive for individual and social life because they play important roles in several areas of human existence. There are, in other words, two kinds of inherent value: the direct and immediate felt values of aesthetic experiences and their effects on other values prized by a society.

What, then, according to Carroll, enables us to say that a certain stretch of time has an aesthetic character? Carroll believes experience is reasonably termed aesthetic when it tracks the formal and expressive aspects of artworks. Although he is concerned to retain and defend the concept of aesthetic experience, an important part of Carroll’s analysis, one that has relevance for the Rembrandt project, is his belief that not all appropriate experiences of artworks need be aesthetic experiences. A good example is presented by Professor Piro’s remarks about Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp, which he regards as a window onto the artistic, social, and cultural spheres of seventeenth-century Holland.

A Brief Summing Up

Once again what can be meant by a humanistic approach to an understanding and appreciation of Rembrandt and his times? In Levi’s terms it means understanding the place of aesthetic communication, historical continuity, and critical reflection in human experience, and in Kaufmann’s the approach implies the preservation and appreciation of the greatest works of humanity, the teaching of vision, the fostering of a critical spirit, and a consideration of alternatives. By its selection of Rembrandt as a central figure of interest the project pays respect to one purpose and by teaching aesthetic vision it honors another. It aligns itself with yet another purpose by acknowledging the need for a degree of finesse in cross-disciplinary inquiry and teaching. By calling attention to the life and culture of seventeenth-century Holland the project further appreciates the values of both historical continuity and cultural diversity. Finally, the goals and objectives of the Rembrandt project assume special importance in a culture increasingly afflicted by historical amnesia and often by indifference to its own artistic accomplishments. 22


The epigraphs are from Albert William Levi, “Teaching the Humanities through the Arts,” unpublished remarks prepared for a community college humanities project; E. H. Gombrich, Idols and Icons (New York: Phaidon, 1979), pp. 15-16; Walter Kaufmann, The Future of the Humanities (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1977), pp. xv-xvi; Anthony Bailey, Responses to Rembrandt (New York: Timkin Publishers, 1994), p. 99; Simon Schama, Rembrandt’s Eyes (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), p. 699; and Howard Gardner, The Disciplined Mind (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999), p. 19.

1. Joseph Piro, “Teaching the ‘American’ Rembrandts,’” 2004 NEH Materials Grant Proposal (2004). Also see his “The Rembrandt Teaching Project: Promoting Multiple Literacies in Teaching and Learning,” Art Education 54, no. 3 (May 2001): 12-17, and “Rembrandt and Collections of His Art in America: An NEH Curriculum Project,” The Journal of Aesthetic Education 42, no. 2 (Summer 2008): 1-18. This is a special issue devoted to the project’s work. Its contents can be accessed in the Project Foundation section of the site

2. See my “Toward Percipience: A Humanities Curriculum for Arts Education,” in Bennett Reimer and Ralph A. Smith, eds., The Arts, Education and Aesthetic Knowing, Ninety-first Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Part II (Chicago: National Society for the Study of Education, 1992), pp. 51-69. Distributed by the University of Chicago Press.

3. See the Introduction to a collection of writings assembled in my Readings in Discipline-Based Art Education: A Literature of Educational Reform (Reston, Va.: National Art Education Association, 2000).

4. Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for the Social Studies (Newark, N.J.: National Council for the Social Studies, 1994). Donald Schneider, Task Force Chair.

5. The National Visual Arts Standards (Reston, Va.: National Art Education Association, 1994). Jeanne Rollins, Task Force Chair. It is to be expected that the discussion of national standards for the visual arts and social studies will undergo continuous study and change.

6. See Albert William Levi, “Teaching Literature as a Humanity,” The Journal of General Education 28, no 4 (Winter 1977): 28.

7. See my chapter, “Toward Percipience: A Humanities Curriculum for Arts Education,” p. 54.

8. Walter Kaufmann, The Future of the Humanities (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1977), pp. xvii-xxi.

9. The phases of impact, scrutiny, recollection, and renewal can be found in Kenneth Clark’s Looking at Pictures (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1961), pp. 16-18.

10. For some useful tips in scanning works of art see Leslie Cunliffe, “Enhancing Novices’ Ability to Achieve Percipience of Works of Art,” Journal of Empirical Studies of the Arts 17, no. 2 (1999): 155-169.

11. For an extended discussion of The Polish Rider and the problems of connoisseurship, see Anthony Bailey, Responses to Rembrandt (New York: Timkin Publishers, 1994), esp. pp. 83-96.

12. For a description of a case-driven approach to understanding puzzles in art, see Margaret P. Battin, John Fisher, Ronald Moore, and Anita Silvers, Puzzles in Art: An Aesthetics Casebook (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989).

13. A reference to a Rembrandt effect can be found in Bailey, Responses to Art, p. 99.

14. Michael Kelly, ed., Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, Vol. 1 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), p ix.

15. Ronald Moore, “History of Aesthetic Education,” Ibid, pp. 89-91.

16. See Kevin F. McCarthy, Elizabeth H. Ondaatje, Laura Zakaras, and Arthur Brooks, Gifts of the Muse: Reframing the Debate About the Benefits of the Arts (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2004), and my review “In the Humanist Tradition: The RAND Study of the Benefits of Art,” Arts Education Policy Review 107, no. 1 (September/October 2005): 37-39. Also Laura Zakaras and Julia F. Lowell, Cultivating Demand for the Arts (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2008). Chapter two discusses aesthetic experience as a key to cultivating demand.

17. For a sample unit devoted to teaching aesthetic criticism, see my The Sense of Art: A Study in Aesthetic Education (New York: Routledge, 1989), pp. 219-52.

18. For a renewal of interest in the idea of aesthetic experience, see Marcia Muelder Eaton and Roland Moore, “The Revival of Aesthetic Experience and Its Relevance to Aesthetic Education,” Journal of Aesthetic Education 36, no. 2 (Summer 2002): 11-23.

19. See “Aesthetic Experience” in Monroe C. Beardsley, The Aesthetic Point of View: Selected Essays, ed. Michael J. Wreen and Donald M. Callen (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982), pp. 288-97.

20. See Beardsley’s “Aesthetic Experience Regained,” in The Aesthetic Point of View: Selected Essays, p. 90.

21. Noël Carroll, “Art and the Domain of the Aesthetic,” British Journal of Aesthetics 40, no. 2 (April 2000): 198-201.

22. For an inspiring discussion of the importance of history, see Paul Gagnon, “Finding Who and Where We Are,” American Federation of Teachers (Summer 2005): 37-41.

Appendix: Case Studies: A Pedagogical Note

The framework, which reflects my thinking about the goals and purposes of the Rembrandt project, is largely conceptual in nature, a guide as it were to the art, life, and times of Rembrandt and to a selection of his works in American museums. Although there are references to themes, interdisciplinary and inquiry-based learning, standards-based instruction in the arts and social studies, and tips about responding to works of art, they are not spelled out in great detail. Members of the Rembrandt team undertook this task. Because there was some curiosity about the meaning of case studies, I briefly set out what I had in mind.

I have been influenced by a case-driven approach to understanding that is described and illustrated in Puzzles about Art: An Aesthetics Casebook, previously referenced. The book was prepared by philosophers of art principally for the purpose of addressing issues in aesthetics, but its pedagogy also has applications in other contexts. For example, the approach does not begin with discussions of theories that are then followed with exemplifications of the theories in question. Instead, discussion begins with interesting puzzles called cases that are intended to stimulate thinking and perhaps throw light on a number of aesthetic issues. It is only when the going gets complicated and perhaps bogged down that appeal is made to relevant theory, which may or may not resolve the issues at hand because some cases remain controversial. Anent the project, one example would be the controversy that swirls about the authenticity of certain of Rembrandt's works, notably The Polish Rider. But questions about authenticity are not the only puzzles that can emerge in studying Rembrandt. I’ve selected some puzzles from the aesthetics casebook that I think can be adapted to the purposes of the project.

One puzzle (pp.101-102) recalls writers who believed that Mont-Sainte-Victoire, a mountain Cézanne repeatedly painted, was important to the artist because of the ways he identified with it and therefore was able to realize himself through his depictions of it. But what does it mean to say artists can realize themselves by painting the same thing over and over again? Did Rembrandt realize himself in the several portrayals he made of Saskia in the same way that Cézanne is said to have done in his painting of Mont-Sainte-Victoire? One can also ask why Rembrandt made so many self-portraits and what they suggest about his life. This puzzle could also spawn a number of other questions about students' own self-realizations, and so forth. Another puzzle (pp. 138-140) uses Rembrandt to generate questions and issues regarding fakes and forgeries. The work in question is The Man in a Golden Helmet, reputedly by Rembrandt but of questionable status. The puzzle asks how awareness that a work is a copy, fake, or forgery can affect response to the work. The writer of the puzzle also imagines a range of related situations intended to encourage critical thinking and refers to issues generated by the forgeries of Jan van Meegeren. A third puzzle (p. 77) invites questions about choosing between a portrait of Socrates by Rembrandt and a photograph of a painting of Socrates. What would each characteristically reveal? If the photograph were by a famous photographer, would that knowledge affect one's choice? Likewise, what are the differences between a portrait of Rembrandt, a photograph, and a digital image?

These three puzzles are merely samples from a rich collection grouped under the rubrics of art and artworks; beauty, ugliness, and aesthetic experience; meaning and interpretation; creativity and fidelity; art and other values; and critical judgment. Case studies might be tried at different age levels. Whatever the results, knowledge about puzzles should part of an art teacher's stock of knowledge.

Ralph A. Smith
Professor Emeritus
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign