Charlotte Mason believed that picture study was an important part of a child’s education. She felt strongly that as a child studied a carefully chosen work of art, the child was drinking in beauty and developing powers of observation that would affect them for life. It was part of spreading a feast, as Ms. Mason liked to call it, before your child.
“We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture.” (Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, Home Education, pg 309)
A Child Should Learn to Really Look at a Picture
Charlotte Mason gives these guidelines:
“…a reproduction of a suitable picture, by Millet, for example, is put into the children’s hands, and they study it by themselves. Then, children of from six to nine describe the picture, giving all the details and showing by a few lines on the blackboard where is such a tree or such a house; judging if they can the time of day; discovering the story if there be one. The older children add to this some study of the lines of composition, light and shade, the particular style of the master; and reproduce from memory certain details. The object of these lessons is that the pupils should learn how to appreciate rather than how to produce.” (Vol. 3, pg 239, emphasis mine)
Picture study can be really simple. Have the child observe the picture for a few minutes. Then turn the picture over and have him narrate to you everything he remembers. It may help if you ask him to describe the picture to someone who has never seen it.
We also like to take turns asking each other about things we might have missed. This is one of our favorite parts as we try to pick out details that we think the other might have overlooked.
Questions to Ask During Picture Study
Here are some questions you may ask during your time of picture study.
- How does this painting make you feel?
- Does it remind you of something?
- What story does it tell?
- What time of day is it?
- From where is the sun shining? How can you tell?
- What is the focal point of the painting?
- What is in the foreground?
- What is in the background?
- How does the artist show perspective?
Making Charlotte Mason Picture Study Easy, Seasonal, and Enjoyable
My book Poetry & Art Through the Seasons attempts to make picture study (and poetry) simple and doable. There are four painting and poetry pieces per month covering the entire year. If you are familiar with Charlotte Mason’s teachings, you may notice that I don’t follow her suggestion of introducing paintings by one artist for several weeks before moving on to the next artist. This is because my goal was to have works of art and poetry that coincide with the seasons.
With each painting, I’ve included questions to increase your child’s observation skills. I’ve also introduce some of the vocabulary that we commonly use when we talk about poetry and art. You know your child best. Feel free to skip questions or reword them to make them easier to understand.
These are the same poetry and art that are included with Wonder-Filled Days in Nature.
I’ve put together three free poetry and art pieces for you to enjoy with your child to give you a taste of what the book is like.
Poetry and Art Pieces That are Included
- October by Jules Bastien-Lepage/ Something Told the Wild Geese by Rachel Field
- Landscape by Diego Rivera/ Open Range by Kathryn and Byron Jackson
- The Old Oaken Bucket by Grandma Moses/ Thanksgiving by by Ivy O. Eastwick
There are also full size print outs included of each painting. If you’re trying to save on ink, you can either just use the small paintings included with the poems or look at a larger one on your computer screen.
I hope this inspires you to add picture study to your day. This is my daughter’s favorite part of school and she always looks forward to it. We often (but not always) like to include tea and a snack to make it even more special.
“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…he should go forth well furnished because imagination has the property of magical expansion, the more it holds the more it will hold.” (Charlotte Mason, Volume 6, pg 43)
Do you do picture study as part of your homeschool?