Art Appreciation

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. 
Philippians 4:6-8

Beautifully illustrated children’s literature is a wonderful starting place for fostering an appreciation for good art. It is fun to have your children compare and contrast how different artists interpret the same poem or story. Scribner Illustrated Classics by Simon & Schuster Publishers and The Illustrated Children’s Library (formerly Children’s Classics by Dilithium Press) by Random House Value Publishing are both excellent series which feature color illustrations from history’s top illustrators. These lovely, quality books are worth collecting. Listed below are a just a few of the fine illustrators you may wish to seek when selecting books.     

Illustrators of Yesteryear: Randolph Caldecott, Kate Greenaway, N.C. Wyeth, Jessie Willcox Smith, Bessie Pease Gutmann, Arthur Rackman, Milo Winter     

Illustrators of Today: Donna Green, Trina Schart Hyman, Ernest H. Shepard, Eric Kincaid, Michael Hauge, Greg Hildebrandt, Louis Slobodkin, Leo & Diane Dillon, Susan Jeffers, Wesley Dennis, Ruth Sanderson     

Author/Illustrators: Tasha Tudor, Margurite DeAngeli, C.W. Anderson, Garth Williams, Howard Pyle, Lucy Fitch Perkins, Lois Lenski, Elizabeth Enright, Holling C. Holling, James Daugherty, Genevieve Foster, Robert McCloskey, Robert Lawson, Ezra Jack Keats, Virginia Lee Burton, Patrica Polacco, Aliki, Dr. Seuss, Richard Scarry, Beatrix Potter, David Macauly, Thomas Locker, Taro Yashima, Mitsumasa Anno, Peter Spier, Piero Ventura, Tomie DePaola, H.A. Rey, Jan Brett, Lauren Mills, Allen Say, Maud & Miska Petersham, Alice & Martin Provensen, Ingri & Parin D’Aulaire, Maria Sewall, Margaret Early, Diane Stanley, Robert Subuda, Edwin Tunis, Eric Sloane   

Picture Study

Inexpensive postcards, art prints, posters, books, catalogs of touring shows, and calendars are available from museums and are great for picture study in the Charlotte Mason fashion. Some libraries have poster-size prints you can check out, as well as oversized art books. An amazing amount of information and images come up when you do a “Google” search for a particular artist and/or painting title (then click on “images” in the upper left of the screen), perhaps the easiest way to find six works by a single artist if a book is not available at your public library. Here’s references to information on how some of today’s home educators incorporate picture study and what Miss Mason herself wrote about it, including titles of paintings and names of artists.    

The Original Home Schooling Series by Charlotte M. Mason, vol. 1: 48-51; 307-314 (Millet’s Sower, Angelus; Fitzroy’s Four Seasons; Jean Richter’s picture-books for children, Unser Vater, Sontag, etc.; Landseer’s Alexander & Diogenes; George Harrow’s original illustration of Beowulf in Heroes of Chivalry & Romance; Sir Joshua Reynolds); vol. 2: 71, 262; vol. 3: 238-239; vol. 4, book II: 102-103 (Fra Angelico, Giotto, Millet, Rembrandt); vol. 6: 14, 43 (Israels’ Pancake Woman, 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); 45 (Van Eyck’s Adoration of the Lamb, Botticelli’s Spring); 63 (De Hooch, Rembrandt, Botticelli); 214-217 (Constable, Rembrandt, De Hooch, Corot’s Evening), 275 (Velasqeuz).   

  • A Charlotte Mason Primer by Cindy Rushton, pages 82-84.
  •  A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola, pages 189-197.
  • A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison, pages 47-49.
  • Charlotte Mason Study Guide by Penny Gardner, pages 122-129.
  • Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay & Sally Clarkson, pages 112, 121. 

 The following links feature some helpful articles about Charlotte Mason’s method of doing picture study:  


Special Museums to Visit

How fortunate we are to have the Mint Museum in Charlotte with free admission for home educators during school hours! Each of my children collect postcards of their favorite paintings when we visit a museum. This is a habit my own parents instilled in me, and provides a wonderful way to help keep memories alive! When they were young we visited the Mint Museum about every six months and stayed no longer than an hour, which is enough for little ones, taking advantage of free admission on Tuesdays after 5pm. One time Rosy, at age 5, and Luke, at age 3, were mesmerized by a large piece, “The Adoration of Saint Joan.” Their Grandmother had given them a children’s video about Joan of Arc the day before, so they understood the story and kept returning to this panel, sitting on the floor staring at it. This interest led to us reading two biographies on Joan. Two years later, a missionary from Mexico visited their Sunday school class and asked if only grown-ups could be missionaries. Rosy responded, “God can use children. Look how He called Joan of Arc and she obeyed.” Oh, the impact of great art and great books! J   

National Gallery, Washington, DC; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC; The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; The Frick Collection, NYC (old masters housed in a lovely old mansion on 5th Ave.); Reynolda House, Winston-Salem, NC (art, antique toys & clothing, bowling alley, etc. housed in the former RJ Reynolds home; fascinating); The Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC; Bob Jones University Collection, Greenville, SC (an impressive collection of religious art); Folk Art Museum at Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, VA; Belmont, The Gari Melchers Estate and Memorial Gallery, Fredericksburg, VA (this talented but little-known 19th century artist is a good one for families to study because his favorite subject matter was mothers and children); Cedar Grove, the home of Thomas Cole, Catskill, NY; Olana, the home of Frederic Church, Hudson, NY.


 Art Museums on the Internet

Whether planning a trip or wanting to look up a particular artist, painting, or era of art, the internet can be a great resource for teachers. However, you’ll want to supervise children visiting these sites; it is easy to come across material about immorality in an artist’s life or art that you may not wish to view. Listed are just a few sites to get you started.


Living Books for Art Appreciation

All of us are engaged daily with works of art, even if we are neither professional nor amateur artists. We read books, we listen to music, we look at posters, we admire flower arrangements. Art, as I am using the word, does not include just “high art” – that is, painting, sculpture, poetry, classical music – but also the more popular expressions – the novel, the theater, the cinema and popular music. In fact, there is a very real sense in which the Christian life itself should be our greatest work of art. Even for the great artist, the most crucial work of art is his life.
Francis Schaeffer, Art and the Bible, Chapter 2 

Art is skilled human creativity that reflects God’s truth and God’s beauty…(However,) not all art is worthy of the Christian’s contemplation and meditation…Remember the principle (from 1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23), everything is permissible but not everything is profitable…The key word to get in Phillipians 4:8 is the word ‘think’ and it is best translated as ‘to reckon’ from the Greek and has the implication of carefully reflecting on, to consider or meditate on a thing with a view of obtaining it. In other words, owning a concept. 

Jeff Baldwin, A Christian View of the Arts, 1999 NCHE Conference

The following list records some books and videos that our family has enjoyed for art appreciation. So that you will understand my comments in the reviews, please allow me to explain how our family chooses art to study. First, I want to be careful not to be judgemental, recognizing that even fellow believers share different views. These are simply the conclusions that my husband and I have arrived at for our own family. Exploring an artist’s worldview and any moral failings is best reserved for the teen years, having developed a solid basis and strong roots from which to evaluate. After prayerful consideration of Scripture (such as Gen. 9:20-27; Matt. 5:28; Phil. 4:8) and acknowledging how our Creator has beautifully designed the human body to be enjoyed in marriage, we have decided not to expose our children to nudity in art, which glorifies man rather than God. There is so much excellent art to enjoy without showing them something which could lead to a lifelong struggle, especially for our son. It is interesting to note that Michelangelo himself struggled before God over his desire to sculpt the human form, as recorded in his diary. The books listed, for the most part, are appropriate for sharing with children and we will shelter our children from the occasional objectionable material in any of our books by removing pages, painting clothing on, etc. As for trips to art museums, it has been very easy to lead them to the art we wish to view and as they get older (& taller) we will train them – after instructing them from Scripture as to the reason why – to turn their eyes away from anything not suitable, just as they would coming across magazine covers at the grocery store. Of course, this is simply our personal conviction and not something to get legalistic about. Every family will need to decide for themselves how they wish to handle this issue. 


Art Inspired by the Bible

The titles listed make interesting visual aids for Bible study, comparing how different artists interpret Scripture and analyzing how each uses their imagination to adhere to or deviate from a text. European artists often put Israelites in their own country’s costume and landscape because they had never traveled to the Holy Land. The Doré illustrations show a knowledge of Bible lands. 
  • Stories from the Old Testament and Stories from the New Testament with Masterwork Paintings Inspired by the Stories, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. KJV text with gorgeous paintings, each indexed in back of book with brief information about the artist.
  • Rembrandt: The Old Testament, Rembrandt: Life of Christ, and Rembrandt: The Christmas Story, Thomas Nelson Publishers. These three titles contain Biblical sketches, etchings, and paintings by Rembrandt with the accompanying passage of scripture in NKJV. An astonishing body of work!
  • The Doré Bible Illustrations: 241 Plates by Gustave Doré, Dover Publications, Inc. These powerful, amazingly detailed woodcut engravings were first published in France for an illustrated Bible in 1865 and were used in many later editions.
  • Masterpieces of the Bible by Keith J. White. Beautiful selection, but a few paintings may need editing.
  • Noah’s Ark by Rien Poortvliet. Breathtaking art that makes one marvel at the intricateness and variety of God’s creation.


Art History

  • God & the History of Art by Barry Stebbing, ages 10 – adult. This is an ideal combination of art history, art appreciation, and instruction in the basics of drawing, color theory, and painting. Designed to cover one lesson per week, taking five years to complete, it is a good value. Drawings by homeschooled children are included along with famous reproductions. 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. I am enjoying using this as a personal reference, and look forward to going through it with my children when they are ready. An inexpensive one-year program, God & Christian Artists, is also available.
  • 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 an interesting history by one of my favorite authors. Originally published as A Child’s History of Art, 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. This set is out-of-print and well worth checking out through interlibrary loan. All ages.
  • Adventures in Art by David Quine. 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.
  • Great Painters by Piero Ventura. The reproductions are small and about 12 may need editing. Although out-of-print, this is a good resource for teachers who are looking for a quick, easy-to-understand reference because of the definitions of art movements & chronological list of key artists in the back of the book. All ages.
  • Gardner’s Art Through the Ages. College text that makes a good teacher reference. Find used at college bookstores or Goodwill. I have the 7th edition and it gives a lot of information on how other aspects of culture influenced art without getting into scandalous aspects of the artists’ lives. There is a lot of art to edit if nudity is a concern. High school – adult. 


Resources for Art Appreciation

  •  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 very appropriate for children. Very positive information about artist’s parents, childhood, and adult life.
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art What Makes a ___ a___? series by Richard Muhlberger. Beautifully done!
  •  Childcraft, Vol. 10 Art for Children (1961 edition); Vol. 13 Art and Music (1949 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.
  • 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, & sculpture. We’ve edited some of the art.
  • Looking at Paintings series by Peggy Roalf (Come Look With Me series by Gladys Blizzard is similar).
  • 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!
  • Norman Rockwell’s Growing Up in America and Norman Rockwell’s Chronicles of America by Margaret Rockwell. Gorgeous reproductions, study sketches, photographs of the models, and fascinating recollections of the illustrator (1894-1978), relatives, and friends make these titles a joyful history of childhood, family life, and the social issues of the 20th century that are explored in Rockwell’s work. There have been many other books (and calendars) published which showcase Rockwell’s art.
  • Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork & Lena Anderson. Very creatively done, but best to read aloud to edit out mention of some of the scandalous aspects of Monet’s life. I also thought it strange that a little girl would travel to another country without her parents and with a male neighbor, so I refer to Mr. Bloom as “Grandpa.”
  • You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum and You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the National Gallery by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman & Robin Preiss Glasser. Hilarious introductions to these museums and their respective cities.
  • Treasures to See: A Museum Picture-Book by Leonard Weisgard. Good introduction to museums.
  • The Art Lesson by Tomie DePaola. Insightful picture book about an incident from this author/illustrator’s childhood.
  • The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden. Lovely, inspiring example of an actual nature notebook. There is a gorgeous film of the same title which relates her life story through flashbacks as she sketches the beauty around her in the year 1906. Parents will want to preview first, as there are some things you’ll want to discuss with your children if you want them to view it. Shows the mother instructing her children to draw what they see, not what they think they see, as they draw their nature specimens sitting around the table. Excellent advice!
  • The Psalms of David with illuminations by James S. Freemantle. A labor of love as Mr. Freemantle spent 30 years lettering and illustrating this lovely volume as a gift to his wife.
  • Leonardo’s Horse by Jean Fritz, illustrated by Hudson Talbott. Good introduction to the Renaissance artist and the process of bronze sculpture.
  • The Wyeths: A Father and His Family, video by the Smithsonian. Documentary about the great children’s book illustrator, N.C. Wyeth with footage from home movies and interviews with his five talented children. As passionate as he was about his art, he put his family first, educating son Andrew at home (who became one of America’s most respected painters), nurturing his children’s talents, and having fun playing with them. This is a good one to check out of the library and watch as a family. Some profanity (Biblical terms used in a profane way) in a few of the interviews.
  • Before Five in a Row and Five in a Row are unit studies for ages 2-8 utilizing classic picture books. Contains simple suggestions for appreciating art and learning some basic art terms and techniques.


Artist Biographies:

  • A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter by Miriam Huffman Rockness, illustrated with the art of Lilias Trotter. A very inspiring story of the talented British artist and missionary, Isabella Lilias Trotter, 1853-1928. John Ruskin, the art critic Charlotte Mason admired, wanted to help her become one of the leading painters of the 19th c. Instead, her devotion to Christ led her to Algeria where she served the Muslim people for forty years, using her art and writing to share Christ. Her booklet Focussed inspired the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” High school – adult.
  • A Blossom in the Desert: Reflections of Faith in the Art & Writings of Lilias Trotter compiled and edited by Miriam Huffman Rockness. A lovely, inspiring, thought-provoking collection for all ages.
  • Butter at the Old Price by Marguerite de Angeli. Delightful autobiography of one of my favorite children’s author/illustrators.
  • Beatrix Potter: The Story of the Creator of Peter Rabbit by Elizabeth Buchan, F. Warne & Co. One of several biographies on Potter written for all ages, this is more positive about her childhood. There is also an inspiring documentary (part of PBS’s middle of the night children’s literature series) about this author/illustrator, whose artistic talents flourished while being educated by a tutor at home. The film Miss Potter, while partly fictionalized, is a beautiful delight!
  • Giotto Tended the Sheep by Opal Wheeler. An excellent biography of 14th c. Italian painter of Biblical scenes. Also wrote Millet Tilled the Soil.
  • Leonardo DaVinci and Michelangelo by Diane Stanley. Beautiful picture book biographies of these Italian Renaissance artists.
  • The Boy Who Loved to Draw: Benjamin West by Barbara Brenner, illustrated by Olivier Dunrea. Picture book of the early American artist.
  • Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry, illustrated by Wesley Dennis. More about the Quaker artist.
  • Jessie Willcox Smith: American Illustrator by Edward D. Nudelman. Great artist of childhood & mothers with children, 1863-1935.

Books about Tasha Tudor: The celebrated author/illustrator of children’s books was truly a “Renaissance” woman whose creativity overflowed into so many areas: cooking; gardening; handcrafts; making toys, games, and dolls for her children. Her 1830’s lifestyle was a work of art in itself.

  • Drawn from New England: Tasha Tudor by Bethany Tudor. Intriguing biography of one of my favorite illustrators written lovingly by her daughter. All ages.
  • The Private World of Tasha Tudor by Tasha Tudor & Richard Brown. Beautifully photographed look at a year on Mrs. Tudor’s Vermont farm, her glorious gardens, endearing art, and fascinating 1830’s lifestyle. Delightful, humorous quotes.
  • Tasha Tudor’s Garden and Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts by Tovah Martin, illustrated by Tasha Tudor, photographs by Richard Brown. Gorgeous!!!
  • Tasha Tudor’s Dollhouse: A Lifetime in Miniature and Forever Christmas by Harry Davis.
  • Tasha Tudor’s Cookbook written & illustrated by Tasha Tudor. Yummy!
  • The Art of Tasha Tudor by Harry Davis. This biography answered my questions about Mrs. Tudor and shows how her parents’ marriage and divorce affected her life. The author, like many of us, has a lifelong respect and admiration for the artist and her work. Good for high school – adult.

Compiled by Beth S., 1998 – 2010


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