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One of the things that drew me most to the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education was 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 environment to help me with picture study and thought maybe others might find it useful as well. Giotto is the artist listed for this year’s Term 2 picture study, so I decided to start with him which is ironic as the art class that was part of the reason I chose to switch to an art history major in college began with Giotto.
This is by no means an exhaustive analysis or study of each piece, and that is intentional. I chose to simply include a short story from the life of Giotto, pertinent facts about key figures and objects in each piece (like poor, overwhelmed Joseph), as well as references to or reprints of the inspiration or story behind each work. Also, please keep in mind I’m not even close to being a Charlotte Mason expert and though I do have a degree in art history, I’m most definitely not an expert in that area either. 🙂
I tried to keep it all as simple as possible to keep 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)
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.
For great artist-themed art activities for all ages, I recommend Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters by MaryAnn F. Kohl.
Along with the aids that will go with the main AO artists, I intend on making non-western/people-of-color/female picture study aids for each term soon, but I wanted to post this one as soon as possible as I know some of my fellow AOers have already started Term 2. Those will hopefully be coming in the near future!
Feel free to download it for personal use in your own homeschool (Ambleside Online, another Charlotte Mason curriculum, or otherwise). This is my first attempt at doing something like this, so I would love feedback! You can leave a comment, send me an email through my contact page, or fill out my Picture Study survey!