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Alas! We are in a hurry. The needs are innumerable; and we want "low prices." With the collaboration of M. Py, Mlle. Reyre, to whom we owe a set of stations of the cross which are easily reproduced, has executed an excellent Pietà in coloured wood. This very simple work is available at a very moderate price. How would it be if we should organise so as to produce, with the collaboration of students who would be formed in that task, unpretentious works devoid of luxury, but made with love! We must gather willing spirits around a center of life, of Catholic thought and of modern teaching. I say: modern, for want of a better word to express what there should be of life and youth in such teaching. To develop the sensibility, to free the imagination of the students, while forming them in the fine arts, cultivating their reason and taste; to consult with them the arts of the past, inculcating love and respect for them, while at the same time warning them against prejudice and routine; showing them the principles that are fixed, the continuity of tradition, but at the same time the vacuity of academic formulas and the vanity of pastiche; turning them away from all the paradoxes, those of the ignorant and of the lazy, all the while cultivating their spirit of invention and their love of life; initiating them into the various systems of religious art - hieratism, allegory, symbolism - while not losing sight of the fact that the principle of religious expression is found in the original and naïve observation of nature and the personal experience of the interior life: that is the program I propose to our school of sacred art. 

That school exists. (11) Setting forth its aims would be the best conclusion for this book. In his 1910 project, An art school under the protection of Nôtre-Dame de Paris Georges Desvallières wrote: "It is life that will be the basis for all our artistic education. Life examined, scrutinised, encountered in all its intimacy. That daily exploration shall be undertaken with the Gospel in hand; and this study will enlighten us as to what God requires of the modern artist." The role of the master shall be to organise all elements, to provide a method to ensure their functioning; in the final analysis, to allow the student to benefit from his experience: technical, intellectual and even, spiritual.

(11) Note by Denis: founded in Paris, 1919 at 8 rue de Fürstenberg.

 It is not a matter of forming young persons in the vague, purposeless manner of the academies. They must be engaged in the execution of works which have a precise end in view. They will thus reap benefit, first from the standpoint of their technical formation, but then also because, as assistants to their masters, they will share in the material rewards of his commissions. 

By restoring doctrinal discipline, collective labor, the collaboration of students with masters and of the students among themselves, we can restore what should be the normal relationship between public and artist. Such a school is conceived as a corporation which will form apprentices who will increase its ability to produce work. It will not exist if it does not produce. It will not work for the Salons or for Exhibitions; it will accept commissions like a builder's contractor, for precise destinations. The Catholic public is forewarned that, by having recourse to this "schola," they shall not be paying for the fame of this or that master, nor for the benefit of this or that middle-man, and that they will be given neither gaudy work nor rubbish. At prices specified in advance by the corporation they will receive works worthy of God’s house, conceived and executed by masters and pupils equally imbued with the greatness of their mission, manifestatores Dei, as the ancient painters of Siena put it, whose device was: "capacity, knowledge and strength of will, with love." 

In practice, there are or there shall be various workshops: decorative painting, stained glass, mosaic, sculpture, goldsmithing, enamelling, vestment-making, furniture. The least architecture possible: it is from the architects of the churches that we expect commissions and instructions. Ensembles may nonetheless be organised and executed by the school. Teachings indispensable to the cultivation of the Christian artist can thus be given. It must be a home for creative activity, as it must be a great centre of experience. 


The religious orientation has as its goal the formation of a "clean" milieu, an "enlightened" milieu, that is to say, one that is fundamentally Christian. Catholic practice and lectures on dogma and liturgy will furnish the means. 

The professor of dogma should give us more than simple information as to what is orthodox or, on the contrary, heretical. His role won't be limited to giving young artists a practical, and in some sense, negative knowledge, to warning them against those things which, among the inventions of their creative imagination, might contradict or harm the Faith. He should provide a positive enlightenment, allowing persons who must, by their role in life, in a certain sense, live by dogma, to deepen it so that its unity, its intimate harmonies, its appropriateness and its necessity are all made clear. But that knowledge can only come from one single source, ordered in all its parts around clear principles. That is as much as to say that the professor of dogma must teach the theology of St. Thomas. This theology is organised in a natural manner to facilitate contemplation, which must be the source of the Christian work of art. On the other hand, it is based on the philosophy which alone has the honor of being officially approved by the Church as being capable of nourishing and organising the minds of her children. 

Well then, if right thought is the principle of right morals, it is also the principle of Art, which essentially presupposes the rectitude of reason. Of course, it is not for the artist to be judged by philosophy, but it is true that errors in philosophy have been at the root of many of the excesses of modern art; one might hope that St. Thomas’ thought, an objectivist thought [pensée objectiviste], the friend of common-sense - intellectual, but not excessively so - might help renew the minds of contemporary artists, guiding them into the calm waters of a wisdom that brings everything together in unity ['à redresser l'esprit des artistes contemporains et à l'apaiser dans une unifiante sagesse.'

As the Liturgy is based on the traditional correspondence between the images of the sacred text and revealed truths, between the phenomena of nature and the phenomena of the interior life, it brings special enlightenment to artists whose function it is to translate into poetic language the truths of the Faith. 

Our intellectual aims can be summarised in a phrase from Michelangelo: "Good painting is in itself noble and devout; it is not enough, in order to imitate partially the venerable image of our Lord, to be a master full of knowledge and insight; for myself, I esteem that he must lead a very Christian, or even, if he can, a holy life, so that the Holy Spirit might inspire him."