Our Picture Studies

Doubting Thomas

"In accordance with the root-idea of our Picture Talks, in these lessons we aim at giving ideas of three classes, concerning - (1) the meaning of the picture; (2) the beauty with which that meaning is expressed; (3) the personality of the artist - where this is clearly felt in his works...I will now pass on to practical details. It is scarcely possible to begin these lessons too early... The teacher will probably find she has a very small role to play, her part being merely to secure attention for some point that the child is inclined to overlook, and to explain in a very few simple words those problems that the child cannot solve for himself. Definite teaching is out of the question; suitable ideas are easily given, and a thoughtful love of Art inspired by simple natural talk over the picture at which the child is looking."PNEU

Picture Study, sometimes called Artist Study, is a favorite in our homeschool, probably because each of my children has their own ‘Book of Masterpieces’. They are extremely proud of these albums and since they have been such a success in our school, I thought I would mention how we use them.

Every six weeks I introduce a new artist by downloading one of his paintings and displaying it on my computer full size. I read just a little about the artist’s life from Pictures Every Child Should Know by Mary (Delores) Bacon (free and online). This book is rather old so not all artists are included in it. Sometimes, I have to do an artist biography search ahead of time. Recently, we have been using the series, Leonardo da Vinci (Revised Edition) (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists) We only spend a short amount of time learning about the artist's life. Most of the time we are looking at paintings.

After spending 10 minutes reading about the artist’s life and viewing the print very carefully, the children try to narrate the painting to one another--that is, they describe the picture from memory. Sometimes, one of the children will not look at the painting and the others will narrate to her. She pretends she is blind. This helps the others narrate in more detail. Afterwards, they critique each other. I have taught them to always mention something positive about the narration before they point out something missed. Then I pass out their individual copies of the print in postcard form. I just take a disk of the prints I downloaded from an online museum (generally http://artrenewal.org or http://cgfa.acropolisinc.com) to the local photo developers and they print them for about 15 cents each. I make sure the resolution is pretty good and I don't print anything larger than 4 by 6. I do this only once a year and plan ahead. (You can print this handy chart that explains FAIR USE GUIDELINES for educators concerning copyrighted material and take it along with you just in case an uninformed store clerk gives you trouble)  My children place them in their albums and write down the artist’s name and the painting. The albums are large, nicely bound photo albums that have a space for labeling. Afterwards, I go into my computer’s control panel and make the print become the background so that my childrern can view it all week.

Often, my children will save up allowance and birthday money in order to buy more small prints from the artists studied. I think this is a wonderful way to spend their money and encourage it. We go online together, and find even more paintings that we haven’t studied. Renoir is an excellent example of this. I think some of his most child-friendly, beautiful works are practically unknown. After doing a search online, we bought many of his paintings of sisters and family and he is a favorite among my daughters.

These albums are very special. Our children love to peruse them and show our guests the paintings they have collected in them. A Charlotte Mason education capitalizes on the child’s curiosity, rather than using lectures, workbooks, quizzes and other ‘schoolish’ methods. I heartily recommend trying it.