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One of the things that drew me most to the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education is her emphasis on exposing children to fine art. I loved the idea of simply showing them works of great art and allowing them to absorb them on their own. There were no explanations or in-depth analyses of the pieces to complicate them. The children were simply meant to enjoy and take in the art.
About this topic, Ms. Mason said:
His education should furnish him with whole galleries of mental pictures, pictures by great artists old and new;––…–– in fact, every child should leave school with at least a couple of hundred pictures by great masters hanging permanently in the halls of his imagination, to say nothing of great buildings, sculpture, beauty of form and colour in things he sees. Perhaps we might secure at least a hundred lovely landscapes too,––sunsets, cloudscapes, starlight nights. At any rate he should go forth well furnished because imagination has the property of magical expansion, the more it holds the more it will hold. (Vol 6 pg 43)
I especially liked the last part… “imagination has the property of magical expansion, the more it holds the more it will hold.”
As we’ve been going through the Ambleside Online picture study schedule the last year or two (you can see how we’ve been doing it here), there have been a few times that B has asked me something specific about a picture like, “what’s that thing?” or, “who is that?” In some cases, I’ve been able to come up with some random factoid that happened to wedge itself in my brain when I was in school, or I can pull one of my textbooks down from the shelf (I’ve kept about 90% of them because I have a hard time getting rid of books ? ) and look up the piece in question. In other cases, though, I haven’t had a ready answer.
Because of this, I decided to come up with something I could use in my own homeschool to help me with picture study. I’m sharing it here in case anyone else might find it useful!
Art of the Yuan Dynasty
For Term 2 of the 2016-17 school year, the Ambleside Online scheduled artist is Giotto (I made another picture study aid for him here). I thought it might be interesting to see what his contemporaries were doing in other parts of the world. Right around the same time that he was born and making his way around Italy, painting masterpiece frescos in various churches as well as changing the path of art history, Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, was reigning over one-fifth of the world’s land area. His realm covered sections of Eastern Europe and Asia, including China where he set himself up as the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty and that is where I decided to focus for this picture study aid.
I attempted to include a variety of images to not only explore the art of the period and location, but also their culture. My original intention was to include at least one of the Four Yuan Master Painters (Wang Meng), but I wasn’t able to find any other pieces that fit this format well. I definitely encourage you to check out the others, especially Huang Gongwang’s Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains.
For further reading and other pieces from this area and time period, I liked the following resources:
- Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- The Adventures of Marco Polo by Russell Freedman – This children’s book has beautiful illustrations (including archival art) and an entire chapter covering Polo’s experiences in Kublai Khan’s court.
- The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty by James C.Y. Wyatt – Wyatt and The Metropolitan Museum of Art collaborated on several books for an exhibition about Kublai Khan at the museum. This volume in particular is filled with beautiful photographs of art and artifacts from the Yuan dynasty.
You can downloadable printable images of the pieces here and the picture study aid below:
This is by no means an exhaustive analysis or study of each piece, and that is intentional. I tried to keep it all very simple in the spirit of there being, “no talk about schools of painting, little about style; consideration of these matters comes in later life, the first and most important thing is to know the pictures themselves. As in a worthy book we leave the author to tell his own tale, so do we trust a picture to tell its tale through the medium the artist gave it. In the region of art as else-where we shut out the middleman.” (vol 6 pg 216)
Also, please keep in mind that I’m not even close to being a Charlotte Mason expert! And though I do have a degree in art history, I’m definitely not an expert in that area either. ?
For enjoying art with children in general, I also included a page of art sources that I’ve found particularly good:
Online Art Collections
For younger children, I highly recommend the Mini-Master series by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober. Also, the Touch The Art series by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo.
You may download it for personal use in your own homeschool (Ambleside Online, another Charlotte Mason curriculum, or otherwise). If you have any feedback, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me!