Simple, Hands-Off Art Study

“Little Girl in a Blue Armchair,” Mary Cassatt, oil on canvas (1878)

My grandmother used to have a large version of this painting hanging in her home. I hadn’t thought of it in years until I was looking through Mary Cassatt's work earlier this summer. 

I recognized it right away—the girl’s posture and that brilliant shade of blue. 

And suddenly I was back, an only child wandering through her grandmother’s home, opening drawers, peeking under tablecloths, and admiring the brightly colored armchairs. Anytime I climbed up onto one of the over-stuffed chairs and tried to sit up straight like a lady, my bottom slid down the cushion. But no matter—it's much more comfortable to slouch anyway.

Art has the power to become part of our very beings. As parents, we are stewards of many images our children see and absorb. Many homeschoolers I've observed include fine art appreciation and picture study in their curricula. 
They might choose an artist to study for a term or even a full year, 
spending time committing the details of the paintings to memory, 
studying the background of the artist, 
or recreating their own versions of their favorite paintings. 
I love this! I want this in my life.

I'm interested in a more organic approach to art study. 
Less of a formal lesson and more of 
an exposure, 
a slow absorption of the painting, 
an osmosis. 
Simply posting a fine art print in a high-traffic area of our homes creates opportunities to make those paintings become part of our child's minds. And our minds! 

Choose the Painting

Start with your personal favorites. Are there any artists you remember seeing in the city museum or studying in school? I have some very vivid memories in art museums. 
When my grandma took me to see the Degas exhibit in Pasadena. 
Seeing Van Gogh's self-portrait in Vienna. 
Sitting on a bench in front of one of Monet's wall-size waterlily paintings. 
If you don't have any favorites yet, consider checking out a visual arts encyclopedia from the library. Spend ten minutes flipping through the pages until you locate a page that speaks to you. Then prop it up in an easel and you're done!

I like to do personal unit studies and think it's fun to search for paintings that coincide with what I'm reading about. For example, my current study is on the beginning of time, earliest history, and the Creation (more on this soon). I came across a painting from the 1600s by Izaak van Oosten called "The Garden of Eden" that I'm going to put on my fridge soon! I keep an ongoing list of artwork that fits within my personal curriculum. These are the kinds of things I think about. Ha!

You could choose paintings to coincide with the time of year or the holiday.
The Exploring Nature with Children curriculum lists a nature-themed painting for every week of the year. Things like grassy meadows, butterflies, and the harvest moon.
The week before Easter I post a painting a day to represent Holy Week.
Make it fit with your family's interests and passions.

Get the Painting

Art in the public domain can be freely printed! Don't ask me how long it took me to figure that out. I often print straight from Wikimedia Commons to my home printer. You can also send the image files to a printing center like FedEx or Staples for high quality prints. Your public library likely offers printing too! If you're going through the trouble of printing a fine painting, it's good to protect it with either a page protector or by laminating. I even invested in a laminator a couple years ago and am surprised how often I use it. Before long, you'll have a little collection of nice paintings to pull out on a whim.

Art book spreads are easy to display in an easel. You could post a fine art wall calendar or make a painting the background on your family computer. 
We're going for minimal effort, maximum rewards.

Display the Painting
I like to post a painting on the fridge or 
on the wall of our breakfast bar. 
Choose a spot where the most people will see it the most times. 
Effortless exposure! 
Done and done.

I leave a painting up until I'm tired of it or I get excited about a new one.

Posting beautiful paintings in my home helps me feel like I'm following Goethe's advice:

“A man should 

hear a little music,

read a little poetry, and

see a fine picture

every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”



Popular Posts