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Out of a major art academy in California and into the light of Aix-en-Provence and the Atelier Marchutz, one art student found a new path that took her back to her beloved homeland in New Mexico. She now works there as an artist and art therapist. Hundreds of alumni have taken this same voyage over the last three decades. Why do they continue to speak so fondly of their year in Aix ? What did they find that opened new paths ? A technique to paint like Paul Cézanne ? A nostalgic return to nature ? A following in the footsteps of any particular master ? No, none of these. She found a way to open her eyes to the present moment, and to connect her new vision to the art of the past. Indeed, this combination of present and past, the contemporary and the traditional, has always revealed new directions to individuals who have wished to make a painting.
Streets of Aix   Sunset in Provence
Saint Jean de Malte,
François de Asis - "Saint Jean de Malte, Aix" 1995
Paul Cézanne - "Bibémus"
  Cézanne himself noted that, "one does not put oneself in place of the past one only adds a new link". And what better place to open ones eyes than Aix-en-Provence ?  
At the Marchutz School students are asked to perceive as much as they possibly can from masterworks of the past, to discuss these perceptions in an open forum, and then, paradoxically, to let go of this knowledge during the act of looking and painting. Instructors impress upon their students that painting and drawing can become a daily process of seeing the world anew.
The fundamental principle of the Marchutz School is simple : the synthesis of sight (a perception of the world) and insight (a perception of art) can be the precursor to fresh, original painting. It can be the springboard to a new concept. However, simple isn't easy. For instance, one must know Cézanne before one can synthesize and then, let go of Cézanne.
Thus students at the Marchutz School begin. They draw and paint - everyday if possible. They work from models, children, musicians, dancers. They draw and paint in the fields of Beaurecueil, from the architecture in Aix, from inside the trains.
    They draw from sculpture in the Cathédral Saint-Sauveur, the boule players in the parks, the Celto-Ligurian sculptures
in the Musée Granet. They paint from reproductions of master works. They paint portraits of each other as well as their host families. They paint from their memories. They always use their imagination. During this process students may search for a formula - "une belle formule".
Their instructors gently inform them that no formula exists. Students are asked to work directly from nature and to work quickly, letting spontaneity, imagination, and their direct sensations form their images. Soon the young artists discover, among other things, that trees are not green and faces are not pink.
The world is made from red and green, blue and orange, yellow and violet, together fused. Students become what writer Annie Dillard calls unscrupulous observers : "There is a kind of seeing that involves a letting go. When I see this way I sway transfixed and emptied... my own shutter opens, and the moment's light prints on my own silver gut. When I see this way I am above all an unscrupulous observer". Little by little, the students' painting and drawing discipline becomes the center of their lives. When this happens they discover that painting is not dead. They discover new ways to speak about the old truths which have touched them most in the already existing art that they admire. As well as painting every day Marchutz students take long looks at slide comparisons of works from different centuries and cultures in a weekly seminar. They are asked to read and compare the writings of artists, critics, and art historians. They are asked to share, through dialogue, their impressions, and to analyze works of art from all centuries. What do these works share in common? How are they different? What might they mean to us? Leo Marchutz believed that through such comparison, "students begin to experience each work of the past as a member of a great family and by doing this one gets a kind of knowledge of how to do it (draw) or how not to do it".
Claude Monet, "La pie" 1868-69, Paris,Orsay.
Every November, with this great family in mind, the Marchutz School moves out of the light of Provence and into the museums of Paris. Instructors coax students into stopping for long sessions in front of only a few works in each museum instead of walking endlessly through every great hall. Stopping and actually looking - this is no easy task, especially when surrounded by the wealth of art that exists in, for example, the Louvre. But students do stop, and together they may spend two hours in front of Rembrandt's Bathsheba or perhaps an Assyrian bas-relief. After a while the group begins to see into the work rather than simply glance at it. It is as if they enter into an intimate dialogue with the artist who created the work.. They begin to understand the artistic decisions of the particular artist through direct contact with the work. In the museums, Marchutz School students develop what T. S. Elliot calls an historical sense :
Rue des Saussets, Paris
"This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as the temporal is what makes a writer traditional. And it is at the same time what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his contemporaneity". Museum experience changes students' capacity to see and always affects positively their attempts to create art when they return to Aix.
  Light, clarity, structure - Aix-en-Provence reveals these qualities to the students at the Marchutz School in myriad ways. But what of movement, reflection, the effernescent ?
Halle aux grains, Aix-en-Provence    
John with friends,
Piazza San Marco
  Alan Roberts, "La Salute", 1999
In the spring the Marchutz School takes a ten day painting excursion to Venice. Here students find a new set of inspirations as well as problems, not the least being that no other place in the world has been painted, photographed, printed or filmed more than Venice.
What can one do ? One can paint quickly, breathing in not the conventional image of this most mysterious city but its essence. Students at the Marchutz School return from Venice imbued with a deeper connection to their particular and unique world view. The light, color and atmosphere in the Mediterranean bassin have been an inspiration to artists throughout the centuries. The Marchutz School offers students a unique opportunity to study in the rich artistic environment of Aix-en-Provence - land of Paul Cézanne. And yet, the school is not based simply on place, nor personality nor one culture. Founded in 1972 by a group of international artists, the Marchutz School's core curriculum has evolved out of these artists' astonishment - astonishment at the intriguing beauty of the visible world and astonishment at the innovative freshness that can appear in a student's work after one long look at an African mask, an ancient Greek vase, or a Constable sketch painting.
The town of Aix-en-Provence, the educational legacy of Leo Marchutz, the present faculty's 25-year collaboration in the studio and landscape, as well as their profound experiences in the museums of Europe, are the invaluable assets that help inspire art students to reach beyond their normal expectations and find a new path toward self discovery.
Art Program   The Marchutz School   Sight and Insight   Apply
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