Artist Study

artist studyIf children appreciate the vulgar and sentimental in art, it is because that is the manner of art to which they become habituated…This sort of study of pictures should not be left to chance, but they should take one artist after another, term by term, and study quietly some half-dozen reproductions of his work in the course of the term.


In Charlotte Mason’s first book Home Education (which I highly recommend reading even if you don’t read any of the others), she includes ideas for a lesson on “picture-talk” as she calls it. Showing the child the picture and asking questions such as “think of what the artist had in mind” or “what ideas he meant to convey to us”. Give them time to study the painting carefully, then put it away and ask the child to describe the painting.

Here is an excerpt on Picture Study from Simply Charlotte Mason’s seminars:

Ambleside Online has a great list of artists to study by year and by term as well as links to many of their works (some of the links are outdated, however if you search Wikipedia has most of the major works- I find that the easiest site to search). You can also save and print these works of art (all except the most modern). I like to print 4×6 copies at Snapfish or Shutterfly when they are offering prints for less than 10cents each. Then I put them in a photo album for my kids to flip through. It’s easier for me to have it in hand than always having to get on the computer… Using their recommended schedule not only saves me a ton of time, but it introduces us to many artists we would not otherwise study.

Of course, my favorite way to study art is to visit an art museum in person.

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We have been fortunate enough to be able to visit art museums such as the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, the British Museum, the Ufizzi, the Picasso museum, the National Gallery (DC), Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC), Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) and many more. There is nothing quite like standing in front of the original painting. I was never a fan of Van Gogh until I saw Starry Night in Paris, it was absolutely stunning, the brush strokes and brilliant colors, the reprints can’t even compare. My eight year old had tears in his eyes when we visited the Sistine Chapel and he saw the Creation of Adam that he had not only studied but tried to reproduce. My boys laughed hysterically when they saw some of Picasso’s paintings, they thought they were so silly and have since spent hours painting and drawing copies of his work.

Many of these museums have ipad apps for kids to help them make a connection with the work before they visit the museum and many offer scavenger hunts at the museum to make finding works of art more exciting. We always buy a book from the museum so that we can have larger images of the works and many of them have additional insights about the artist or paintings. Even if you only have access to a local art museum, I think it’s so important to let them be in front of actual works of art and experience the beauty and magic in person!

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