Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What is a Picture Study? ~ Charlotte Mason Series


“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."
~ Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children's Sake


At the British Museum by George Goodwin Kilburne
"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."
~ Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children's Sake


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...
Young Girl Reading by George Goodwin Kilburne
"Make it (picture study) a happy warm time,
just like when you enjoy a story together."
~ Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children's Sake


20 comments:

  1. Great post! We have been following the Ambleside Online picture study schedule, but have found it rather lacking this year. I love the fresh new ideas that I will incorporate for this next term, I also appreciate the beautiful artwork in this and your other art study posts. Thank you, thank you!

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment kindly Annie :)

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  2. Do you have any suggestions for a grade one child to begin with? I love this idea, I'm just not sure what artist to begin with! Thank you for this post!!

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    1. Hi there :) Vincent Van Gogh would be fun because of his bright paintings. I would suggest Starry Starry Night, Vincent's Bedroom in Arles and the Postman. Renoir also has some happy paintings of children and landscapes that would be enjoyable too. Hope this helps!

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  3. I really enjoyed your hints on how to study the paintings! I never would have thought to have the children draw their own version of the painting.

    Do you find the paintings in a book or do you find them online and print them out? I am sorry if you mentioned this in the post and I missed it, maybe my coffee hasn't kicked in yet!

    Have a blessed day!


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    1. I understand about the coffee kicking in :) When we did our art portfolios, I showed larger paintings on the computer when "studying them" and printed small ones on paper and pasted next to the art reviews. For unit studies, I will usually print them and place in our unit study notebooks. But, we have also used our library books and studied straight from them and gave oral accounts on other occasions. Old Calendars with artwork at the dollar stores are great for taping on the fridge to do more casual studies over lunch time. Anything that fits your style (and printing budget) really! Hope this helps!

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  4. Excellent tips, my friend. Thanks for sharing. We are loving the picture study aspect of the AO curriculum. :)
    Blessings!

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  5. I never would have thought to implement these ideas had I not come across your post. What a blessing it was for me today! I am going to try this in our homeschool. Thank you for taking the time to share this and inspire us.

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    1. It is a lot of fun to have art critics in the home :) I hope you give it a try!

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  6. My husband was an art student and his favorite class in college was Art History, so art appreciation has been important to him (and me) since our girls were little. One of the girls' favorite things to do is for me to hang a great piece of art, give the girls paint, and let them recreate the piece in their own unique style! :) Lucy Micklethwait's "A Child's Book of Art" is a wonderful resource and Usborne has a number of books & sticker books about classic art that we've used as well.

    Such a fun post! Thank you for these other fabulous ideas, JES!
    I found this post at the Encourage One Another link-up :D
    ~Lisha

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  7. Thank you for sharing these ideas and inspiring images!

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  8. I love this idea and did it with my children when they were small - I think you read my post on creating stories around artworks. Its sad when children don't appreciate art (and books).

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    1. I agree Jo, so much is lacking, it is no wonder the world is upside down. Most children only know what they see on television and that is a very sobering thought!

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  9. Great post.... I have loved using story books w/ large paintings and smaller writing..... it allowed the kids to see details as they sat with me and listened to me read - details they had time to really look at while I read. We need to do more of this type of thing now, though... haven't done much of it for quite a while. sigh.... there are so many wonderfult things to do that I end up missing some along the way. Thank you for the ideas. :)

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  10. Love CM style learning! Thanks for sharing on Titus 2 link-up.

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  11. Thank you, JES. When I first read about picture study, I read that you "should do this". Well, "this" didn't work for us, and I abandoned it altogether. I'm older and more relaxed now, and I have seen how sometimes children learn better in a more relaxed setting. I really like your idea of just taping it on the refrigerator. That's how my children have taught themselves geography. . . we have giant maps of the world and the U. S. on our walls. They just stand around and talk about them sometimes together or pore over them on their own. I can "do" picture study like this :)

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    1. Yes, I am with you Jody! I abandoned a lot of the fluff for what is truly practical to do and it makes homeschooling much more enjoyable (and fruitful still!!!). Have a lovely week! :)

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  12. Such easy and simple ways to enjoy art with the kids. We have a Charlotte Mason picture study cursive book and love the Spot the Difference books for our art studies.

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    1. Yes, we have that same cursive book! By Queen Homeschool?

      Thank you for sharing and have a wonderful week!

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