May The Artists Learn to Forget—. An institution which educates artists has a difficult task in teaching art history. The inevitable comparison the students make between their own inchoate work and those of the Ancients, full of gravitas, is clearly unfair. The entirety of the past is weighing upon the scales in favor of the Ancient, even if we know that it too was once new. The problem can be set out like this: How do you introduce the accumulated grandeur of past artists to the new student, whose works either haven’t yet been realized, or haven’t attained to their concept? How does the artist learn from the past without being swallowed up by it?
Perhaps the easiest response to this dilemma is what some schools do today: they simply don’t teach art history to their artists. This method, however, leaves them with mere technique. For life, a balance must be found between utter ignorance and inundation with data. It is in the sense of approaching history for the sake of life that we can learn from Nietzsche, who posited that we reserve the right to live unhistorically at times:
this condition—unhistorical, contra-historical through and through—is the cradle not only of an unjust, but rather of every just deed; and no artist will paint his picture, no general achieve victory nor any people its freedom without first having desired and striven for it in such an unhistorical condition. As the man of action, according to Goethe’s phrase, is always without conscience, so he is also without knowledge; he forgets a great deal to do one thing, he is unjust to what lies behind him and knows only one right, the right of that which is to become. 
The student-artist must have the resolve to cast off the weight of the past, so that becoming be allowed to come forth into the world through new work. Without this fortitude, the budding artist might never emerge from the shadow cast by the artists of the past, and in this way the new and the different will have been damaged by the past. Playing with history and one’s own place within it may be another art in itself. When history might affirm your efforts, then look back and rescue its potential.
To My Artist-Friends—. Despite the present conditions, you remain important. Experience of the world bounces off of you prismatically, even if you don’t want that. You are particular, fragile prisms, and even your most melancholic allow light through: you’ve seen the glow illuminating Mark Rothko’s paintings. But sometimes I worry you might break if presented with the wrong world. There is a necessary nostalgia you’ve held for so long. It was with you in the furnace, imbued in you like an alloy—strengthening you in some ways, and weakening you in others. That alloy is the residue of Romanticism. Nietzsche saw this in you. His admiration found those fragile points: “We should not forget that, without exception, our dear artists are, and have to be to some extent, actors; and without play-acting they would scarcely endure life for any length of time.” We must let you proceed as Romantics. And though you walk through the valley of the death of Art, you must knock again at the door of its sepulcher. Sitting at the stoop of its home, Art will honor you again with light for prisms.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life, trans. Peter Preuss (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1980), 11-12.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1974), 155.