• Food for thought, a feast for the soul...

  • ...a celebration of the spirit.

Fresh Eyes and an Open Mind:

The Roots of Classical Realism 

Overview: Six week program combining great book discussion, art studio and museum studies, March-April 2018.  


  • Discussion Seminars on “The Figino” by Comanini

  • Museum Studies at the San Antonio Museum of Art,  highlighting Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Renaissance art. Sketching in the gallery.

  • Life Drawing at the Coppini Academy

BookThe Figino, or On the Purpose of Painting: Art Theory in the Late Renaissance (Toronto Italian Studies) by Gregorio Comanini  - Ann Doyle-Anderson (Editor), Giancarlo Maiorino (Editor)

Seminar Leader/ Instructor: David Saussy


Course Description: 

We live in an increasingly visual culture. But do we even know how to see?  More than ever, we are liable to form a deep-seated habit around the idea that life and actual experience looks like what we see in digital image streams and videos.

In looking, we have test ourselves, to see whether we understand. We might learn how to do this – or, even better, learn how to learn – in several distinct ways. We can step inside the shoes or sit at the feet of those masters of seeing, the great artists and artisans of the image-making traditions, and try to look at the world through their eyes, and compare it with our own experience. Far from an exercise in art history, we can let their works guide our questioning and our seeing here and now. We might, moreover, study the written works of those individuals who strained every nerve to reflect on the experience of images and what it means to see beautifully and well. We can, by some act of intellectual empathy, to see as they see; and we can study these works in the context of purposive conversation and common inquiry, which, by stirring up our minds and awakening them to fundamental questions and real problems, opens the eyes of mind. And lastly, we ourselves may enter a studio, and study directly from nature herself, and discover how we ourselves are looking at the world.  All three endeavors are complementary, and together can help us reflect more originally, freshly – and even joyfully – on our own experiences.

In this course, all three pursuits – Socratic or purposive conversation on a great book, Museum studies and work in a Fine Arts Studio -  are woven together to offer comprehensive starting point for the learning of both artist and non-artist alike, in order to get at the roots of our seeing and our image-making.    

This course is not an art history course: works of the past are used as springboards for learning about the way things are today. We will let the works themselves guide our seeing, our questioning and our conversations. For the museum and studio practice, an approach to drawing/sketching will be presented not as a fine art so much as a liberal art, that is, as a means of reflection on experience, and as a way of peeling back our layers of preconceptions about what we think we are seeing.  In the studio and museum, participants will encouraged to adopt an an open attitude to experience, by giving attention to shape alone as it presents itself in our perception, as distinguished from the names of things. Following a rigorous process of observation, reflection, decision, comparison and correction, we can convert our habitual perceptions and opinions about what we believe we see, into fresh perceptions of what we do see.  This is a method that is well-suited both to the beginner and the more experienced artist alike.

Engaging in all of the activities of this course, we are in a better position to be able to move from fixation on habitual ways of seeing, to a free relationship with one of the central and most vital experiences of our life.

The course pathway serves the mission of Symposium Great Books institute to provide the highest quality learning opportunities for people of all ages based on the great books in the broader liberal arts tradition – which includes not only great texts, but also paintings and artworks. This path is designed with an eye to a need for serious and unique learning experiences outside the pale of academic degree-granting programs. The spirit of inquiry and collaboration pervades the design of this course, root to branch. No prior special artistic experience is required to join this course. All that is required is a desire and readiness to launch into learning.

March-April 2018 (Dates TBA)

Week 1: Seminar - The Figino (selected reading)

Week 2: Museum Studies (SAMA) - Egyptian and Greek artifacts (select objects)  

Week 3: Studio (Coppini Academy) - Shape and Form

Week 4: Seminar - The Figino (selected reading) 

Week 5: Museum Studies (SAMA) –  Renaissance Painting

Week 6: Studio (Coppini Academy) - Light and Shade 

About the Seminar Leader/Instructor:

David Saussy, co-founder, President and seminar leader of Symposium Great Books Institute, graduated with a B.A. and an M.A. from St. John’s College in Santa Fe and Annapolis. He taught English and Philosophy to high school Juniors and Seniors for five years, and currently works with his wife in creating unique and meaningful learning opportunities for adults not only in the Liberal Arts, but in the Sacred Arts. Most recently, David had a piece of art selected for the 2017 Annual San Antonio Artist League Exhibition in King Williams, San Antonio. David is a past student of Tony Ryder.

Registration Opens Fall 2018.



Thucydides' Peloponnesian War
January-March 2018, San Antonio, TX - in conjunction with the San Antonio Museum of Art.  
The Education Quartet
iSymposium: A Serious Reader's Pathway Through Four Western Classics - Plato's Republic, Dante's Divine Comedy, Rousseau's Emile and Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Starting Winter 2018.
Journey to the East
iSymposium East: A Serious Reader's Pathway through Six Eastern Classics from India, China and Japan
Plato's Meno
September - October 2017, San Antonio, TX
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