“We cannot measure the influence that one or another artists has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, then common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at a single picture.”
~ Charlotte Mason, Excerpt from Home Education
"Picture study" was one of the first ideas that inspired me about home education. It seemed so elegant and lovely to share beautiful artwork with your children, treating them to a masterpiece feast by the greatest artists of all time. To view pictures for the pleasure of the little child with no harsh memorization lessons, but only pure delight.
Have you considered sharing a few moments with the masters? They require little work from the teacher but the result is a sweet appreciation for the finer things in life. Not the fast and the furious that is plaguing the billboards today, but the slow and deliberate, classical creations of the human hand.
Mother and Child in a Picture Gallery by George Goodwin Kilburne
"We recognise that the power of appreciating art and of producing to some extent an interpretation of what one sees is as universal as intelligence, imagination, nay, speech, the power of producing words. But there must be knowledge and, in the first place, not the technical knowledge of how to produce, but some reverent knowledge of what has been produced; that is, children should learn pictures, line by line, group by group, by reading, not books, but pictures themselves."
~ Charlotte Mason, The Philosophy of Education
A "picture study" can be as simple as taping a masterpiece on the refrigerator every week and letting your children study, stare and share as they eat their meals. (A dollar store calendar featuring famous art is perfect for this!)
Or, a notebook can be assembled of all your chosen paintings along with a brief artist biography, the child's picture reviews and any other pertinent information you wish to document.
The general object is to expose your children to fine artwork in order to promote an appreciation and interest in the art itself. For once the flame has been lit, the love of learning will continue to grow.
"It will be noticed that the work done on these pictures is done by the children themselves. There is no talk about schools of painting, little about style; consideration of these matters comes in later life, but the first and most important thing is to know the pictures themselves. As in a worthy book we leave the author to tell his own tale, so do we trust a picture to tell its tale through the medium the artist gave it."
The Ancestors by George Goodwin Kilburne
Where to start?
"The child is given his first reproduction. He looks at it, and you let him talk about the picture. You don't lecture about schools of painting or style. The child is allowed direct and fresh access to the picture itself. At first, he may focus on little…
Next time, the skill will become sharper, the child more observant. He will regard the pictures as friends."
"Children whose minds and spirits are nourished with these paintings will, in turn, look at the world around them with new eyes. They will comment on the quality of dappled light under the trees, or note that the storm clouds remind them of a Rembrandt landscape. It is a wealth that will remain with them for life."
Some other practical ways to implement picture study into your homeschool:
- After studying the artwork, take turns pointing out all the details in the painting and sharing how each person feel's towards the picture. You may be surprised at how strong of an opinion they have on art!
- Flip the print over and see what details the children can remember without looking at it.
- Once the artwork has been discussed, turn the print over and see if your students can recreate it on a blank piece of paper. This will encourage them to dig into the details when they study the picture!
- If the print has a historical event attached to it or a scene from the Scriptures, read together some pertaining information to make the painting come alive.
- As the student gets older, you may want to prepare a portfolio of the art you have studied. We did this when we had a child old enough to write which included their treasured art reviews.
- Read a short biography about the artist of the painting. Share other artwork by the artist and compare them. Do they notice anything in common? Does the artist always paint people, landscapes or historical events? Study more paintings from the same artist until you feel like you "know" them and then move on to another.
- We also like to do themed picture studies where something is being learned which pertains to the painting. You will find our versions here: Bible in Art Picture Study Part 1: Van Gogh and Bible in Art Picture Study Part 2: Rembrandt.
- Include picture study in your unit studies. When we studied Noah's ark, we studied famous ark paintings in history. When we studied apples in autumn, we studied the famous apple paintings by Cezanne.
- Purchase curriculums that include picture study in the workbooks such as the Language Lessons series from Queen Homeschool (affiliate link).
- Be creative, there is no right way to enjoy art! All it takes is a few minutes each week...
just like when you enjoy a story together."
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