27/05/2024 10:24 AM


Adorn your Feelings

Homeschool Picture Study – Studying Great Art With Children

3 min read

Children need works of art in the same way they need science and literature to gain knowledge of the world and how it works. Art is a means of getting at great ideas that cannot be accessed by any other means. Renowned art critic, John Ruskin, said painting was a “noble and expressive language, invaluable as the vehicle of thought.”

How better to express the sorrow of a mother’s loss than Michelangelo’s Pieta, or the fun of a fall day playing outdoors than Winslow Homer’s Snap the Whip. Charlotte Mason, a British educational reformer, used picture study as a regular part of the curriculum for her schools. She felt that the knowledge children gain is not how to paint or sculpt themselves but rather a reverent understanding of what has been created.

In her book A Philosophy of Education, Ms. Mason wrote that children should learn pictures line by line, group by group, by reading not books (about art) but the pictures themselves. Picture Study with children is a delightful process and teaches them to pay close attention to detail, An essential skill in any field.

Children easily warm to a study of great paintings, if these few, simple guidelines are followed:

Select the work of art

Select three works for study over a 6-week period. Choose works that are suitable for age of the child. Mary Cassatt’s (1844-1926) lovely paintings of home scenes are ideal for very young children. Religious art can give a rich source of insight. Sir Edwin Henry Landseer’s (1802-73) animal studies, such as The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner, are perfect for young minds.

Make sure the picture is relatively large and the only reproduction on the page (reduces distractions). It is also important the work be a high-quality reproduction where the colors are true to the original. Your library is a good source of large format art books. Also, most national bookstore chains have remaindered art books at a very inexpensive price.

Introduce the work of art

Begin the study of a new picture by first looking together at the reproduction. Let you student say what she sees, do not offer suggestions. If she is slow to answer ask questions like, What is the deepest color and lightest color? Why do you think the artist painted that way? Invite the child to see all the details of the picture. Encourage seeing what is actually in the picture, rather than what you think the artist means by it.

Introduce the artist

Introduce the artist with a few interesting details of his life. An excellent book to aid you in this is Art in Story: Teaching Art History to Elementary School Children by Marianne Saccardi (Linnet Publications).

Study the work of art

Leave the picture up for one week. Throughout the week refer to the picture in passing. Several times ask your student to find two new things in the picture, but make the request more a game than an assignment.

Narrate the work of art

At the end of the week turn the picture over and ask your student to narrate (tell back) all he recalls of the work of art. Listen quietly and without comment until he is done. It bears repeating here that your child is learning to recall the details of the painting itself, not what you think the artist meant by the painting.

Following these simple guidelines for picture study yields great fruit in the life and mind of your child. You will be giving them not only beauty but introducing them to great thoughts in the works and deep feeling and purpose in the life of the artists.

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