Last year, we easily skipped Picture Study in our curriculum. But this year we have added it in and are trying to be consistent with it, especially as we delve deeper into integrating more of Charlotte Mason's methods into our homeschooling. We are currently studying Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) for our Picture Study sessions. Rubens was chosen because he was alive during the time period we are studying in history and I find him really interesting. I know that CM does not necessarily recommend keeping all your time periods together, but this is something that we've chose to do.
To keep it simple, we are only using a couple of books to help us:
Story Lives of Master Artists by Anna Curtis Chandler gives a "before the story" biography of the artists and then a story of something from that artist's life, mixing history with narration. I like the way this book is set-up, giving just enough to inform the kids and interest them without overwhelming them. This book is out-of-print, but I found my copy at a used curriculum sale for $1, which is probably why it looks a bit abused but it's still quite the little gem.
Rubens (an Abrams art book) is a nice book of 16 large prints. The larger prints allow the children to get a good look at the paintings, instead of being limited to postcard sized photos. It also gives me a decent selection of paintings so I can choose what is appropriate for the kids to study. Additionally, the book gives a brief background and history of the painting, which is quite helpful for us when we want to compare it to historical events. There are probably other books out there on Rubens that are better, but again, I found this for a couple bucks so I wasn't going to be choosy.
I was also able to locate some Rubens paintings at some of the art museums not too far from us (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Getty, and Norton Simon). This will be of great value for the children. We'll attend the museums later once we have delved deeper into Rubens' works. There's just something thrilling about seeing a painting up close of an artist you've become familiar with.
Some of Charlotte Mason's thoughts:
"There is no talk about schools of painting, little about style; consideration of these matters comes in later life, but 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
"There are few subjects regarded with more respect and less confidence in our
schools than this of 'Art.' Of course, we say, children should have their
artistic powers cultivated, especially those who have such powers, but
how is the question... We recognise that the power of appreciating art and of producing to
some extent an interpretation of what one sees is as universal as intelligence,
imagination, nay, speech, the power of producing words. But there must be
knowledge and, in the first place, not the technical knowledge of how to
produce, but some reverent knowledge of what has been produced; that is,
children should learn pictures, line by line, group by group, by reading, not
books, but pictures themselves. A friendly picture-dealer supplies us with half
a dozen beautiful little reproductions of the work of some single artist, term
by term. 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; that is, children learn, not merely to see a
picture but to look at it, taking in every detail. Then the picture is
turned over and the children tell what they have seen..." Vol 6, pg 213-214