Way of Beauty
God called man into existence, committing to him the craftsman’s task. Through his “artistic creativity” man appears more than ever “in the image of God”, and he accomplishes this task above all in shaping the wondrous “material” of his own humanity and then exercising creative dominion over the universe which surrounds him.
-Pope John Paul II, Letter to Artists
The traditional quadrivium is essentially the study of pattern, harmony, symmetry and order in nature and mathematics, viewed as a reflection of the Divine Order. Along with Church tradition, they provide the model for the rhythms and cycles of the liturgy. Christian culture, like classical culture before it, was patterned after this cosmic order, which provides the unifying principle that runs through every traditional discipline. Literature, art, music, architecture, philosophy—all of creation and potentially all human activity—are bound together by this common harmony and receive their fullest meaning in the Church’s liturgy.
When we apprehend beauty we do so intuitively; an education that improves our ability to apprehend beauty also develops our intuition. All creativity, even that employed in business or scientific endeavors, is at its source intuitive. Furthermore, the creativity that an education in beauty stimulates and generates not just more ideas, but better ideas—better because they are more in harmony with the natural order. The recognition of beauty moves us to love what we see, and leaves us more inclined to serve God and our fellow man.
The Way of Beauty courses are taught by the College’s Artist-in-Residence David Clayton, an internationally known painter of icons, who was trained in the natural sciences at Oxford University and in the techniques of Baroque painting at one of the ateliers of Florence. He has received commissions at churches and monasteries in the U.S. and in Europe, and has illustrated a variety of Catholic books, most recently one written by scripture scholar and apologist Scott Hahn. All students will learn to understand the principles and techniques that make classic works of art beautiful; those interested in creating their own works are welcome to join his optional evening classes in drawing and painting.
The course draws on works of pre-Christian classical thinkers, the Church Fathers (especially St. Augustine and Boethius) who established it as a Christian tradition, the developments of later medieval thinkers such as Aquinas and Bonaventure, and the writings of more recent figures such as popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI which place it in a modern context.