The educational term Portfolio

 

Did we know that the educational term Portfolio might have its origin in visual arts?

 

By Marjan Prevodnik

It may come as a surprise to art educators that the first examples of portfolios - as collections of personal works evidencing educational growth - date back to the 19th century. We see an example in H. Daumier’s illustration of the ‘Print Collectors’’ (1860-1864). In Daumier’s artwork we see two old men looking over a collection of prints. Art collectors and educators might recognize the usefulness of portfolios in:  (1) satisfying needs to experience aesthetic appreciation and contemplation, (2) focusing attention on the best artworks of one or several printmaking artists, in order to make judgments about an artists depth of expertise in a particular area, (3) preparing prints intended for exhibitions or auctions, and (4) studying expert printmaking techniques.

The Print Collectors, by Honore Daumier (1808-79). Watercolour.  France, c. 1860-64. © Victoria and Albert Museum / V&A Prints

If we postulate that the men shown in Daumier’s illustration were actually putting together a  portfolio, we might wonder : who will see prints, why they will want to see them? The fact that art portfolios served a variety of art-based purposes, long before the idea of the portfolio as a useful tool for teaching and learning in non-art disciplines was adopted,  suggests that strategies of curriculum design and instruction in art education might be applicable to other disciplines and appreciated by instructors of other subjects. This might be seen as advocacy for the arts.

For more information, please contact Marjan Prevodnik, Visual Arts adviser at The National Institute of Education, Ljubljana, Slovenia

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