The Maastricht Institute of Arts is presenting a considerable part of its collection of plaster casts to celebrate the academy’s 200th anniversary.

Racks filled with plaster hands, feet and heads, with a familiar face here and there. Shelves piled with pieces of buildings, animals, flowers and leaves; all made of plaster. The collection was started when the Stadsteekenschool was founded in 1823 and now comprises around 500 items. The plaster objects are not original works of art, but copies of statues from Ancient Greece, or ornaments from Gothic churches in the Netherlands or pieces of work by 20th-century academy students.

The items were selected by the teachers because they were considered ‘beautiful’ or important, and were therefore used to teach pupils the ‘perfect’ proportions. By copying the statues on paper with charcoal, the students would learn what ‘good art’ should look like.

Nowadays, art education is different, and plaster casts are hardly ever drawn as an exercise any more. One exception is in the lessons on the anatomy of people and animals given in the Master Scientific Illustration course, at Maastricht Institute of Arts.

For a long time, making drawings of the plaster casts was considered essential to art education, so that students could learn what “good art” should look like and how to draw proportions, forms, and light and shade correctly. Now we have the chance to do so again. Help yourself to paper and pencil, and get started!


Image: Salvage Cellebroedersstraat, Maastricht, 1968. Photographer unknown. © Zuyd University of Applied Sciences


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