I’ve always wanted my kids to have an appreciation for great art. I’ve wanted them to be able to recognize well-known paintings and have a general knowledge of the life of the artists who created them. And to be honest, I’ve always wanted this for myself as well.

However, I’ve struggled to figure out how to fit in art appreciation to our already busy school schedule and it seemed overwhelming to figure out where to start. But last year our family attended a Charlotte Mason co-op and I was introduced in the concept of Picture Study. Finally, I had found a simple and effective form of art appreciation! I immediately made plans to incorporate it into our home studies.

Picture Study for Art Appreciation

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Picture Study: Art Appreciation for Kids in just 10 Minutes a Day

Picture Study, as I’m presenting it here, was first introduced by Charlotte Mason.

“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, pg. 309

It requires just a little bit of prep time and gathering of materials.

1. Choose six artists to study throughout the school year.

I had no rhyme or reason to the artists that I chose this year other than they were simply artists that I enjoyed or wanting to know more about myself. You could consider studying artists from the same time period or who all painted in the same style. The artists we chose this year are Mary Cassatt, Leonardo Da Vinci, Norman Rockwell, Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Georgia O’Keefe.

(By the way, you should absolutely check out Project Masterpiece. I’m developing six-week unit studies for each of the above artists and offering the lesson plans absolutely FREE!)

Project Masterpiece

2. Choose six works of art from each artist.

Choosing six works of art allows us to study one work of art each week, spending a total of six weeks on each artist. It is necessary for us to have actual reproductions of each work and there are a few ways that I’ve gotten them.

Simply do a seach on google images to find the desired art work and print it from your home computer. 

Purchase Postcard size prints or Calendars featuring the artist you’ve selected.

Purchase coffee table books and make photo copies of the desired prints. 

But if at all possible, I HIGHLY recommend that you purchase Picture Study Portfolios from Simply Charlotte Mason.

Each Picture Study Portfolio includes 8 full-color pictures printed on 8.5″ x 11″ glossy card stock. It also includes a Picture Study handbook specific to the artist with artist biography, recommended sources, and leading thoughts for every print to help with discussions.


3. Picture Talk Mondays

On the first day of the school week, we spend about 10 minutes having a “picture talk”. This is a very simple procedure. We all gather around the table and I hand a child a copy of our chosen artwork. (I like to slip them into page protectors to keep them clean.) The child studies the picture for about 30 seconds to a minute and then passes it along to the next child. (Note: I have six kids participating, so I keep each child’s time with the picture a little on the short side. If you only have one or two students, you could easily let them study the picture for 2-5 minutes while playing some classical music.) There is NO discussion while the picture is being passed around.

Once every child has had a turn, I collect the artwork and place it in front of me so that they cannot see it. Then I ask each child to describe the picture taking turns adding details. I often prompt them by asking again and again, “What else did you see?” This helps the kids to really get to know the picture. They know that “picture talk” is coming, so they really focus on the details of the picture when it’s being passed around.

If I have a Picture Study Portfolio handbook for the artist, then I will also discuss the “Leading thoughts” which often includes interesting tidbits about the artwork or artist’s life.

4. Display the picture for the remainder of the week.

I then hang the picture in a prominent place in our school room. (I simply use magnets to display it on our whiteboard.) Next to the picture, I write pertinent information that I’d like the kids to attempt to remember: The name of the piece. Year it was created. What type of medium was used (acrylics, oils, pastels, etc.) And where the original artwork is currently located.

Each morning that week as we are getting school started I simply ask the following questions:

“Who is the artist we are studying right now?”

“Who remembers the name of the artwork we are featuring this week?”

“Can anyone tell me when it was created? What was used to create it? Where is it located now?”

5. Picture Study Notebook

Finally, I used a 3-inch binder to create a Picture Study Notebook for additional review.  Once we have moved on to a new piece of art, I add the previously studied work to our Notebook. The Picture Study Portfolio Handbooks will fit inside a page protector (with a little bit of effort) and make nice dividers between artists. The art prints fit nicely in the page protectors and I simply add the details I want them to continue memorizing on a small piece of paper affixed to the back of the print. The kids can flip through the Notebook at their leisure, quiz each other with it, or show off their art knowledge to visiting friends and family!

Don’t forget to check out my Project Masterpiece post to get your FREE Art Unit Studies!!

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