by Sheila Carroll (This article appeared in the 2005 edition of The Charlotte Mason Monthly eNewsletter.) Used with permission. All rights reserved.
The study of great works of art is an important component of a Charlotte Mason education. Many educators think children should first learn to “do art”, that is learn free-hand drawing and other art techniques. Then later, usually much later, the child is introduced to great works of art.
Charlotte Mason believed that is putting the cart before the horse.Ms. Mason wrote, “There must be knowledge … 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 (about art) but the pictures themselves.” (A Philosophy of Education, p. 214)
Learning to enjoy and understand a work of art is a sweet pleasure that lasts a lifetime. However, finding affordable reproductions, especially for homeschooling families on one income, is a challenge. Charlotte Mason noted that she acquired her reproductions, postcard-size black and white engravings from a commercial source. “A friendly picture dealer supplies us with half a dozen beautiful reproductions of the work of some single artist, term by term.” (p. 215).
How to Study a Picture
Introduce the artist with a few interesting details of his life. An excellent book to aid in this is Art in Story by Marianne Saccardi. Then, a “few sympathetic words about his trees or his skies, his river-paths or his figures, the pictures are studied one at a time; that is, children learn, not merely to see a picture but to look at it taking in every detail. Then the picture is turned over and the children tell what they have seen (i.e. narrate)” (p. 214).
Preparing an Art Portfolio
Developing an art portfolio by time period or simply to hold all the works is a good practice. You will need a three-ring binder and “sheet protectors”. Staples sell a box of 200 (more than enough). The sheet protector is three-hole punched, so you then prepare the work of art as below and store it in a three-ring binder.
Since your child will be studying one work of art at a time, it helps to set the work off visually. Take a sheet of black or off-white construction paper and center the work of art on the page. To the back side of the construction paper add the title, the artist and the date. Then, put the whole in the plastic sheet protector.
Sources for Inexpensive (or free!) Picture Study
Many museums have digital copies of their works online. It is permissible to download one copy for study purposes. The drawback is that a good print requires using your colored ink cartridge a good bit. The plus side is that you get a fairly good reproduction that you can print in 8 1/2″ x 11″ format, which permits you to see more detail. Use any search engine to find the works of the artist you want to study.
A really good searchable data-base is Artcylopedia which has online art for over 8,000 famous painters, sculptors and photographers, at art museum sites and image archives worldwide.
Dover Books has many quality reproductions in the form of “art cards”. This can be small or large format prints that sell for $1.50 and $5.95 respectively. Each book contains 12 – 24 prints of one artist or study period such as Impressionism. [They also have CD collections of art for about $15. See 120 Great Impressionist Paintings for an example.]
The bookseller Barnes and Noble regularly sells remaindered books in its “Sales Annex” online and has a special table in most stores. Remaindered books are publishers overstocks that have been dramatically reduced, often more than 80% off the list price.
Bargain books are not used or damaged, but some titles are marked to indicate that they are publishers’ overstocks. An example of a bargain available not long ago was Georgia O’Keefe’s One Hundred Flowers, a stunning collection of her works with a list price of $100, which Barnes & Noble sold for $19.98. [Used copies are available for a lot less than that, too.]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sheila Carroll is founder of Living Books Curriculum, a literature rich, complete curriculum growing from the work of Charlotte Mason. This article previously appeared in Parent’s Journal, the e-newsletter of Living Books Curriculum.
Visit the LBC website: http://www.livingbookscurriculum.com
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