Friday, June 17, 2011

Charlotte Mason-style Picture Study: A Three Year Plan

I simply love the Fine Arts aspect of Homeschooling!  It fulfills something in me that I feel like I have been missing since being enrolled in college Humanities classes.  And even though most people think that boys won't enjoy Art Appreciation or classical music, I believe that every soul needs a little beauty to balance out the harsh realities of living in this world.  Art History is also "History" and it can coincide nicely with your timeline of the world. 

All you need to get started is an inexpensive photo album from Michael's (the ones with the sidebars for captions are ideal) and some photo prints of the masterpieces. 

Simply log on to  Click "Images" at the top of the page.  Now type in the name of the artwork you are looking for.  Find just the right image that you like and click on it to see it at full-size.  Now right-click and save it to your computer (i.e. Renoir Girl With A Watering Can).  Now, go to Kodak Gallery, Snapfish, or any other photo website and upload your selections for the year.  I order one 4x6 photos for each of my boys so that they can make their own Masterpiece Portfolio. 

I started out printing images from the computer onto photo paper.  Yikes!  That could get pricey!  The picture on the far right is a Botticelli that I saved from the computer and had printed for just a few pennies from Snapfish.

Usually, the week before we study a new artist, I try to find a child-friendly story about the artist's life, such as "Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists", found here or "Smart About Art" found here.  These have great narratives about the artist's childhood or their struggles to become successful, etc.  They read really well as opposed to the college-style text of most art books. 

However, if I can't find one, and don't want to order one, I'll get one of those ginormous art books from the library and find large representations of the paintings/sculptures that we are going to spotlight.  Be warned that some of the other selections in the book may not be child friendly.  I learned this the hard way with a Picasso book (blush).

When introducing a new piece, I'll tell the kids the name of the artist and ask them what they see.  Sometimes I'll have one child close his eyes and have the other child describe it to his brother.  As we learn more in the artist biographies about different art movements such as Cubism, Impressionism, etc., I'll ask more detailed questions:  Is this a portrait?  Is it a landscape?  Is it a still-life?  What do you see in the foreground? What colors did the artist use?  Is it realistic? Abstract?  Distorted by light?  Is the artist trying to make a statement about politics?  You can make this as basic or as complicated as their ages and interest level dictate.  If you see their eyes wandering....wrap it up.  You want to always leave them wanting more. 

The last part of the day is taking their personal copy of the artwork (their photo you ordered for them) and placing it in a photo sleeve of the album.  Write the name of the work on a whiteboard/chalkboard so that they can copy it neatly beside the picture in their book.  That's it!  You've shown them something beautiful, given them a chance to talk about it, compare it to a previous work or a previous artist, and now they have tucked it away for further review later. 

I thought we'd take a sampling of all the periods, simply because I wanted to touch mainly on the "Masters" and Year One of our History studies would have been a little sparse just studying Greek vases! 

So, without further adeiu, here is our 3-year Plan of Artists for study.  Note that some artists (like Kandinsky) might take 2 weeks to study, while others like VanGogh, might take 4 or 5, depending on the available number of resources and kid-friendly selections for them to enjoy.

Year One
Michelangelo (Say MICK-El-Angelo!):
  The Sistine Chapel, The Pieta, David, Tomb of Pope Julius II

   Primavera, Birth of Venus, Portrait of a Man with a Medallion

   The Milk Maid, Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Girl Reading a Letter,  The Lady and the Two Gentlemen, The Geographer

   Girl with a Watering Can, By the Seashore, The Umbrellas, Dance at Baugival, The Luncheon of the Boating Party, Ballat the Moulin de La Galette, The Theatre Box, The Dancer, The Parisian, Claude Monet Painting in his Garden

   Water Lily Pond, Water Lilies, Rouen Cathedral, Haystacks, Jean Monet on his Tricycle, The Promenade, A Corner of the Apartment

Van Gogh:
   Cypresses, The Starry Night, Vincent's Bedroom at Arles, The Night Cafe, The Postman, Self Portrait, Potato Eaters, Sunflowers, Irises

Denver's representation of "Self Portrait With Bandaged Ear"

Solomon's "Starry Night"

   The Yellow Christ, Night Cafe at Arles (yes, Vincent painted this too--they were friends/rivals), Landscape with Peacocks {We like the book "The Yellow House: Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gaugin Side By Side" sold here}

Girl with a Mandolin, The Three Musicians, Three Women at the Spring, Les Demoiselles d'Auvignon, The Weeping Woman, The Acrobats (We had fun here with crazy cubist collages from magazine clippings)

Kandinsky:  Calm Bend, Composition VII, Overcast, Kandinsky's mobiles--there are several that are notable (we made our own mobiles from recycled objects from the "beautiful junk box" in the garage)

Year Two

DaVinci:  Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, Lady with an Ermine

Rubens:  The Hippopotamus and Crocodile Hunt, Slaying of Goliath, Daniel in the Lion's Den, The Three Graces (this last one may be objectional, as it contains nudity--hower, I wanted to show how Rubens potrayed women in a more shapely manner than we see women today in art/media.  It's where we got the term "A Rubenesque Figure"--obviously, use your best judgement)

Bruegel:  The Tower of Babel, Netherlandish Proverbs --this is awesome!, Peasant Wedding, The Hunters in the Snow

Cassatt:  The Boating Party, The Child's Bath, Children on the Beach, Summertime

Toulouse-LaTrec:  Chat Noir, Moulin Rouge(poster),  At The Moulin Rouge (painting),  Divan Japonais, At the Cirque Fernando:  The Ringmaster

Matisse:  The Dance, Red Fish, Two Girls in a Yellow and Red Interior, Madame Matisse in a Red Headress

Dali:  The Persistance of Memory, Lobster Telephone (sculpture), Metamorphasis of Narcissus, Swans Reflecting Elephants

Leichtenstein:  The Kiss, Spray, Blam!, Look Mickey

Warhol:  Ten Marilyns, 100 Cans, Ice Cream Dessert, Dollar Sign 1981 (this is a great time to study print-making or to play around with the kids' photography using a Photo Imaging program like Photoshop)

Year Three
Rembrandt: The Angel Stopping Abraham from Sacrificing Isaac to God, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp, Christ in the Storm, The Night Watch

Degas:  The Dance Class, Dancers in Blue, Two Dancers on Stage, La La at the Cirque Fernando

Seurat:  Sunday Afternoon in the Park on the Island of Grande Jatte, Bathers at Asnieres, Models, Invitation to the Sideshow, Boats, Young Woman Powerdering Herself

Cezanne: Still Life with Apples and Oranges, Pierrot and Harlequin, The Mounte Sainte-Victoire, Bread and Eggs

Rousseau:  Sleeping Gypsy, The Football Players, Tiger in A Tropical Storm (Surprised!), The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope, Traumgarten

Chagall: The Birthday, I and the Village, Mariee, Circus, Lovers and Flowers, View of Paris

Grandma Moses:  Sugaring Off, Country Fair, The Quilting Bee, The Tramp At Christmas (don't worry--it's about a hobo--LOL), Halloween

Hopper: Cape Cod Evening, Nighthawks, The Lee Shore, Morning Sun, Gas

There are so many great art projects that you can do while studying these artists!  A wonderful website is Kathy Barbro's blog Art Projects For Kids.  You can search by artist, style, art movement, etc. and find fantastic projects here.  Also, we enjoy Discovering Great Artists by MaryAnn Kohl.

Other great resources that you may find at your local library:  The "Dropping in" series....We enjoyed "Dropping in on the Impressionists" and are looking forward to "Dropping in on Grandma Moses".  It is very bright and friendly, with a puffin-bird narrating a walk through an exhibit at a museum and giving a really child-appropriate look at the artists' lives and styles.

I hope you will enjoy your Art Appreciation time as much as we do.  I love that my kids can see something in a museum or recognize something in Pop Culture and say, "Look!  That's a Vermeer!"  Viva La Art!


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