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The Charlotte Mason John Constable Picture Study Aid is done! It follows the Ambleside Online picture study schedule, though I will most like add at least one more piece in the future.
I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the reasons I love making these picture study aids is because they’re a form of mother culture for me. I knew very little about John Constable prior to making this one (I had really only studied three of his works, including The Hay Wain, in my 19th-century art class in college) and though I still have only skimmed the surface of his life and works, I do have a greater appreciation for him.
I found this wonderful quote about him in John Constable: The Making of a Master by Mark Evans:
Two of the most intriguing of his surviving sketchbooks, one used from July to October 1813, the other during the same months of 1814, reveal a transformation taking place in Constable’s working method. He spent these months in East Bergholt, walking in the fields and lanes of Suffolk and Essex, and each summer he filled a tiny book with pencil drawings. The 1813 sketchbook records how Constable examined the countryside in minute detail, ‘picking up’, as he put it, ‘little scraps of trees, plants, ferns, distances &c. &c.’
My own nature notebook is actually empty (I think that just makes it a notebook… 🤔), but after reading this quote, I was very inspired to go out and start “picking up little scraps” for myself.
I read in several places that he is often dismissed because his paintings are a bit oversaturated in society – on pillows, mugs, greeting cards, sofa art prints, etc. And, admittedly, I didn’t pay him much attention when I was studying his pieces in school as I prefer portrait and genre painting to landscapes. But after having read a little more about his life, the fact that he was one of the first plein air artists (meaning he painted at least part of his pieces outside), and how his art was a sort of reaction to the industrial revolution in England gave me a greater appreciation for him and his work.
This picture study aid includes six of his pieces according to the Ambleside Online Art Study schedule, as well as a brief synopsis of his childhood (from a biographer and also in his words), information on the six pieces, and a few books that were particularly helpful for me in putting this together (you can also see links to those below). If you are only wanting the prints without the additional information, you can download that file here or below.
Finally, as with the last few picture study aids, this one includes full-sized prints (without artist names or titles) at the end.
I found a wealth of information about Constable in terms of books for research purposes. In particular, these four were helpful:
- Memoirs of the Life of John Constable by C.R. Leslie – This gives some insight into the life and mind of the artist through letters he wrote to various people as well as some background information from the compiler. I found it to be very interesting to see what he said about each piece and what he had to go through to get some of them done. It does contain a section in the back with black and white copies of his pieces, but this would not be a good book for specifically viewing his paintings.
- John Constable: A Kingdom of his Own by Anthony Bailey – This is more of biography and also contains some small pictures, but this is also more for gaining information on the artist.
- John Constable: The Making of a Master by Mark Evans – This has beautiful prints of his paintings as well as background information.
- Constable by Jonathan Clarkson – Another book with beautiful prints and background information.
Sadly, I was unable to find a single children’s book (other than a coloring book which I don’t recommend) about Constable. However, in Discovering Great Artists by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga, which offers art projects inspired by well-known artists, there is a section on Constable specifically about painting skies. This is fitting, as Constable wrote in a letter from October 23, 1821:
I have done a good deal of skying, for I am determined to conquer all difficulties, and that among the rest…. That landscape painter who does not make his skies a very material part of his composition, neglects to avail himself of one of his greatest aids. Sir Joshua Reynolds, speaking of the landscapes of Titian, of Salvator, and of Claude, says: ‘Even their skies seem to sympathise with their subjects.’ I have often been advised to consider my sky as ‘a white sheet thrown behind the objects’. Certainly, if the sky is obtrusive, as mine are, it is bad; but if it is evaded, as mine are not, it is worse; it must and always shall with me make an effectual part of the composition. It will be difficult to name a class of landscape in which the sky is not the key note, the standard of scale, and the chief organ of sentiment. You may conceive, then, what a ‘white sheet’ would do for me, impressed as I am with these notions, and they cannot be erroneous. The sky is the source of light in nature, and governs everything; even our common observations on the weather of every day are altogether suggested by it. The difficulty of skies in painting is very great, both as to composition and execution; because, with all their brilliancy, they ought not to come forward, or, indeed, be hardly thought of any more than extreme distances are; but this does not apply to phenomena or accidental effects of sky, because they always attract particularly. I may say all this to you, though you do not want to be told that I know very well what I am about, and that my skies have not been neglected, though they have often failed in execution, no doubt, from an over-anxiety about them, which will alone destroy that easy appearance which nature always has in all her movements.
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 BA 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.
For both younger and older children, the Come Look With Me series by Gladys S. Blizzard is excellent.
You may download it for personal use in your own homeschool (Ambleside Online, another Charlotte Mason curriculum, or otherwise). All of the prints are included in the Picture Study Aid file, so need to download a separate file for that. If you have any feedback or suggestions, please feel free to fill out this form!
(if you are downloading the picture study aid, you do not need to download the artwork file – they are included in the picture study aid)