Picture study is such a great way to add a little something to your day that brings a nice change of pace and “freshens your wits,” as Charlotte liked to describe it. You don’t need an art degree to teach art appreciation with Charlotte Mason’s method. It’s simple yet effective.
Choose one artist. Look together at one of his works until you can see it clearly in your mind’s eye. Hide the picture and try to describe it in detail. Look at it again to confirm or clarify what you saw. Display that picture for the rest of the week. Next week do the same thing with a different picture by the same artist. Stay on that artist for several weeks, studying six or so of his pictures. If you can find a living biography about the artist, read it together.
That’s it. A pleasant break in the week’s studies to look on something of beauty and fill your mind with the great ideas of a master artist.
Picture Study FAQ
Here are a couple of questions about picture study that we frequently hear and answer for homeschool moms.
Q: How many artists should we cover in a year?
A: Charlotte scheduled three artists per year, one to be the focus for each term of work. If you take your time reading a biography and study at least six of the artist’s works, you will probably still have a couple of weeks of wiggle room per term. Wiggle room is good.
Q: Do my artists need to correspond with the time period we are studying in history?
A: They can, but don’t feel locked in to making all those historical connections for your students. There is great benefit in selecting a variety of artists per year that have different styles to help your students keep them all straight in their minds. For example, if you study all the Impressionists during one year, it might be easy to get them confused with each other in your minds. Plus, if you spend a whole year on Ancient Egypt, you’ll have a hard time finding coordinating artists. So don’t feel that you must select corresponding artists or go in chronological order with picture study.
If you enter each artist in your Book of Centuries as you study him, your students will have the delight of recognizing an old friend when they come upon him in their history studies later. Then they will be able to make that mental connection themselves; and mental connections made by the students are the ones that last.
New Picture Study Portfolios
We’re pleased to be able to provide Picture Study Portfolios to make picture study even simpler for you to do. We’ve just added three new artists to the collection:
- Albrecht Dürer, a Renaissance painter and engraver who brought a fresh perspective,
- John Constable, a modern English painter whose landscapes and peaceful scenes feed the soul, and
- Fra Angelico, a talented monk who beautified his monastery with Biblical scenes.
Each portfolio contains a living biography appropriate for all ages, eight of the artist’s works printed in beautiful color on heavy card stock, and additional insights on each work to add to your personal relation with it and the artist.
“Thanks again for this amazing resource! The Picture Study Portfolios are a busy CM mom’s dream! (We wouldn’t be doing picture study otherwise.)”—Lori
“We received Michelangelo and Van Eyck and have jumped right in! The pictures are gorgeous and I am very pleased. We are living in Europe and have seen many of these paintings in person and I do think the prints express their beauty.”—Melanie
“We just completed Giotto. AMAZING. LOVED it.”—Adrienne
So select an artist and spend a few moments each week with him. You will soon discover the delight of doing picture study the Charlotte Mason way!