The Classical Method
“Anybody can see the difference between Rembrandt and Picasso, but only those with knowledge of the monumental principles or the Grand Manner of picture composition can see the common denominator between the two.”
Jan Cato Bøttger, founder of Christiania Art Academy
THE CODE OF THE MASTERS – A HIDDEN KNOWLEDGE
The superior talent demonstrated by the great masters of art history comes from what we call the “master code” – a genius principle of abstraction that forms the basis in the Classical and High-Classical tradition. This code was and is still hidden from most people and is only known by the greatest masters in art history, which to a very limited extent passed it on or wrote it down. Unfortunately. The geniuses looked over each other’s shoulder however, no matter if it was 100 or 1000 years between them, and read the code the way Rubens did with da Vinci, as he had done with the old, Greek masters.
WHAT IS THE MASTER CODE?
With the master code we mean monumentalistic principles, or the “Grand Manner”. The language of this method consists of grammatical and mathematical principles that we can observe as underlying principles for picture composition in the works of many of the great masters throughout art history. These principles are the base for what we call the Classical and High-Classical knowledge.
DOES THIS KNOWLEDGE EXIST TODAY?
The mentioned code or method, differs on essential points from the practice and academic teachings that are portrayed as classical at many art schools today. These are in reality naturalistic schools engaged in stylistic plaster copies, light arrangement, sight seize and kitsch, which has little in common with the Classical and High-Classical method.
HOW DOES THE MASTER CODE INFLUENCE A PICTURE OR A SCULPTURE?
The master code is a long line of principles for image construction, which everybody can learn. The principles consist of different ways to construct a motive in order to bring life into the picture or motive. They provide form, depth, volume, dynamic etc. – elements that create a grand expression if the artist manages to combine them in a systematic whole, just like the greatest masters of art history, hence the expression Grand Manner. Thus, the method is not about the motive in itself or exactly what is depicted, but rather how the motive is charged with life through underlying, hidden techniques.
The division between figurative and non-figurative expression in visual arts is actually irrelevant, because both are abstractions of the motive, and both figurative and non-figurative are treated in the classical method. Both Rembrandt and Picasso knew and applied the master code in their work, but the code’s abstracted elements are fully hidden behind the motive of their pictures. The two artists’ figure interpretations are very different, but the common denominator behind the figures and motives is the master code, which provides both of their pictures with life and dynamism, and has allowed them to remain beacons in art history.
“High-classical picture grammar can be compared to principles and rules in music, chess and football. If you master its use, you deliver quality on a master level because the motive is charged with life. However, the abstracted elements of the grammar are completely hidden from those who do not know it. They only see the difference in stylistic expression, like the big differences between Rembrandt and Picasso. With knowledge about the classical principles for picture construction of the Grand Manner it is possible to see what Rembrandt and Picasso did in exactly the same way! Just as Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Matisse, Lucien, Freud and our own Bjarne Næss. On a deeper level, the difference between figurative and non-figurative art is not very big, seen that they are both abstractions. With specialised knowledge about the common denominator between these two; that is the language of the Grand Manner, every artist can charge their images with this language and create art that will leave a lasting impression with their own signature.”
– Jan Cato Bøttger
Christiania Art Academy teaches this knowledge to its students today, with the glowing hope that it will not be forgotten, but rather revived. As a student at the Christiania Art Academy you are part of our vision of lifting the Grand Manner into the arts of today and restore the classical qualities in the visual arts.