Living Books for Picture Study

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true,…honest,…just,…pure,…lovely…of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

    Philippians 4:8

There are always those present with us whom God whispers in the ear, through whom He sends a direct message to the rest. Among these messengers are the great painters who interpret to us some of the meanings of life. To read their messages aright is a thing due from us. But this, like other good gifts, does not come by nature. It is the reward of humble, patient study. It is not in a day or a year that Fra Angelico will tell us of the beauty of holiness, that Giotto will confide his interpretation of the meaning of life, that Millet will tell us of the simplicity and dignity that belong to labor on the soil, that Rembrandt will show us the sweetness of humanity in many a commonplace countenance.Ourselves, Book 2 Self-Direction, (Vol. 4) by Charlotte Mason, page 102

How do we prepare a child, again, to use the aesthetic sense with which he appears to come provided? His education should furnish him with whole galleries of mental pictures, pictures by great artists old and new; – [Jozef] Israels’ “Pancake Woman,” his “Children by the Sea;” Millet’s “Feeding the Birds,” “First Steps,”“Angelus;” Rembrandt’s “Night Watch,” “The Supper at Emmaus;” Velasquez’s “Surrender of Breda,” – 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, star-light 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.

Children should learn pictures, line by line, group by group, by reading, not books, but pictures themselves…After a short story of the artist’s life and a few sympathetic words about his trees or his skies, his river-paths or his figures, the little pictures are studied one at a time…taking in every detail. Then the picture is turned over and the children tell what they have seen…In this way children become acquainted with a hundred, or hundreds, of great artists during their schoollife and it is an intimacy which never forsakes them. Towards a Philosophy of Education (Vol. 6) by Charlotte Mason, pages 43, 214-215

Living Books for Art Appreciation: These are my “very best favorites” for reading about the lives of artists and understanding their times and paintings. Some are out-of-print but well worth finding through interlibrary loan. has schedules for artists & picture studies.

Young People’s Story of: Fine Art 15,000 BC – 1800 AD, Fine Art the Last 200 Years, Sculpture, Architecture 3,000 BC – Gothic Period, Architecture Gothic – Modern by V.M. Hillyer & E. G. Huey. These 5 volumes are such a delightful, memorable history by one of my favorite authors for children. We use these a lot and my children enjoy narrating from them. Originally published as A Child’s History of Art (which I think I recently saw at Growing Scholars, so it must be back in print, hurrah!) this edition is the 1966 reprint by Children’s Press and has color reproductions (the original edition was black-and-white), yet a few of the key pieces Hillyer writes about are not pictured, which is frustrating in an art book. However, the missing paintings can easily be found in other books. Great for all ages.

Adventures in Art by David Quine, Cornerstone Curriculum. A great resource for picture study that utilizes Charlotte Mason’s method of seeing and narrating, giving worldview information (based on Francis Schaeffer’s writings) on the artists. Covers 3 paintings per artist. You can purchase the quality art prints for this guide from Cornerstone which is the easiest way to lay out the prints and compare, but you can also find the prints in library books or online. Art for Children series by Ernest Raboff. Interesting biographies of famous artists teach children to look at paintings. All the titles I have read have been appropriate for children. Contains very positive information about each artist’s parents, childhood, and adult life.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art What Makes a ___ a___? series by Richard Muhlberger. Looks at an artist’s style & group of works; beautifully done!

God & the History of Art by Barry Stebbing, ages 10 – adult. This is an ideal combination of art history, art appreciation, and instruction in thebasics of drawing, color theory, and painting. Covering Egypt through the 20th century, the best part about this program is the emphasis on Christian artists who strived to serve and glorify God with their artwork, as distinguished from those who were merely commissioned to do religious art. There are some heartfelt, revealing quotes by artists from their writings in this material; things that are not covered in most art history texts. A joy! An inexpensive one-year program, God & Christian Artists, is also available.

The Bookshelf for Boys & Girls: Vol. 4, Pictures, Stories, & Music (1955 Edition); Vol. 6, The Story of Art & Music by Elizabeth Gutman (Art) & Ruth Goode (Music). Vol. 4 is a charming collection of paintings with helpful descriptions, sometimes from a Christian worldview, that includes many of the artists that Miss Mason mentions. Vol. 6 is an interesting narrative of the history of painting, architecture, and sculpture. We’ve edited some of the art.

Childcraft, Vol. 13 Art and Music (1949 edition); Vol. 10 Art for Children (1961 edition); Vol. 12 Look & Learn (1974 edition); and Vol. 13 Look Again (1974 edition). A favorite from childhood. Each edition features a different collection of fine art of interest to children.

Giotto Tended the Sheep by Opal Wheeler. An excellent biography of 14th c. Italian painter of Biblical scenes. Also wrote Millet Tilled the Soil.

The Glorious Impossible by Madeleine L’Engle, illustrated with frescoes from the Scrovegni Chapel by Giotto. Thought-provoking meditations on the life of Christ depicted in these frescoes. Beautiful writing and art!

Compiled by Beth S., February 2007

[Category Picture Study]


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