The above painting is one of his most famous paintings- The Birth of Venus (c. 1484- 86)- and was the painting that we studied yesterday for our Art or Picture Study.
The way we study art is this: I show a panting to the children and tell them the name of it. I then let them look at it for as long as they would like, usually about 1-2 minutes. Then I ask them to notice all of the details of the picture and to "take a photo of it with their minds". At this point there is usually lots of squinting and clicking sounds being made.
Then I turn the painting over or towards myself and ask them to narrate or tell what they remember or see in their minds about the painting in detail. This telling, or narration as it was called by Charlotte Mason, is a way for a child to truly internalize what they are learning and to put it into terms, words or context that they can relate to and remember.
It is always amazing and inspiring to hear back from the children all of the details- colors, body shapes, hair color, body positioning, complexion of character, background features, landscape, mood of the character and so, so much more.
So with this particular painting, The Birth of Venus, here is what they remembered about the painting:
a girl with fair skin standing on a seashell*this one is my favorite description, given by, of course, Nicolas. Who else would describe the color of a Greek goddesses robe as swamp-colored?
the wind blowing her long hair
hair had bands of pink and purple holding it
her head was turned a bit to the side
the ocean was in the background
falling pink flowers
a man and woman embracing and blowing on Venus
the man's robe was blue
*the woman's robe was the color of a swamp, sort of like army or olive green
the couple had large wings on their backs
there was another woman trying to cover up Venus with a beautiful pink quilt
As they narrate to me, I am usually looking at the painting. With each description, my eyes run up and down the picture in search of the characteristic they are telling me about. They are always precise and always remember more than I would expect them to.
Picture Study can be done with any piece of art and only takes a quiet few minutes to do. It is a way for children to remember and become familiar with works of art and is something that they will be able to carry with them for a lifetime.
Already, my children have been able to identify certain paintings that they have studied in the past. They may not always remember the name of the artist, of the painting for that matter, but they always remember the details of the painting and "how it made them feel when they first looked at it".