Monday, September 01, 2008

A Great Book for Picture Study

When I was learning about the Charlotte Mason method, I attended a seminar held by Catherine Levison, back in the spring of 2002. In the discussion about picture study she mentioned using large color reproductions of works of art obtained for $3 each from the National Gallery of Art. Those are the kind of thing that I believe they intend to be framed and hung on the wall for decoration.

As an alternative to paying $3 for each print and to avoid placing an Internet order for the prints I use larger reproductions of art works published in books. If you keep your eyes peeled at library fundraiser book sales you can usually find large format books with large full color reproductions in them. The books are published in a wide variety of categories. You might find a book showing the collection at one museum. You might find a book with paintings in one style of art (impressionism, surrealism, etc.). You might find a book with the works of just one artist. The key is to look for large, at least 8.5 x 11 inches if not larger, and to make sure they are in color.

There is nothing special about using works from the National Gallery of Art, from what I can gather. It is just that there is a variety of artists work available and the fact that they sell each reproduction for $3 (not much money if you are studying a small amount of artists).

While at a library sale recently I found a used book for $2. It happens to be reproductions of artwork from the National Gallery of Art, with 122 full color (large) plates. The size of the book itself is about 9 x 12 inches. This book was published in 1979 and I believe it is out of print. However today on Amazon there are used paperback copies starting at just $2.18 and hardcover copies available used starting at $4.13. Today, there is even a new copy selling for $22.50.

Title: National Gallery of Art Washington
Authors: Introduction by John Walker, Director Emeritus and J. Carter Brown, Director
Publication: Harry N. Abrams Inc, 1979.
Format: softcover book
ISBN: 0810921855

Each full color reproduction is on the right side of the page. On the left side are two to four paragraphs discussing the painting and the artist. The artist’s date of birth and death is provided also. Actually for a few artists in addition to the large reproduction there are some smaller ones as well, you would skip those if doing picture study. Almost all of the plates are the large size.

When using a book for picture study you can just open the book and use it as is. If you really want the image not bound in a book, to display on a wall for a week or whatever, and you can bring yourself to do it, you can take the page out of the book and use it as a single sheet of paper. (I know some people cringe at the idea of taking apart a book.)

A confession: We have used picture study a la the Charlotte Mason method on and off over the years. Unfortunately sometimes picture study fell off of our schedule at times. I started it when my oldest was five and was amazed at how detailed his descriptions and how great his memory was, even at age five and six.

Before starting picture study with narrations with your child I suggest you try it yourself. You should realize how hard it is so you can appreciate the efforts of your young children.

More Information

Rather than write up my own summary of Picture Study, or the study of famous artworks, I am referring you to this article at Squidoo.

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Renae said...

Ambleside also has a yahoo group now dedicated to the artist studies. All the paintings are saved in files and formatted to 8.5 x 11. You still have to print them, but it is a nice alternative, too.

dstb said...

Art history/appreciation is one of the things that always seems to fall off our schedule.

My sister-in-law had recommended "How to Use Child-size Masterpieces for Art Appreciation" by Aline D. Wolf. I watched the video my sister-in-law had. Some of it would have been too easy for my boys (now 11 and 9), but there were other aspects I thought we could use. I just have never managed to put them into practice.

I also purchased a bunch of art cards (available at Dover) with the idea of creating an art game similar to what Amy Pak at Homeschool in the Woods created. Have I done that yet? No.

So, I have something to use in the interem...Have you tried the website Initially I used it for vocabulary practice. The boys liked it because they could see how their level changed and how much rice was being donated. Now Free Rice has other subjects including Art! They show you a picture and you have 4 choices of artists. If you get one wrong, it will come back to you a little later to guess again, so over time you do get a sense of the style of that artist. I find it very addictive.