Sunday, May 23, 2010

Artist Study

This spring, in addition to learning art techniques, we began a study on famous artists.  We aren't studying our artists in chronological order since I am also working on a timeline for our classroom and this seems like a great opportunity to learn about timelines.  We also never know where our travels will take us and we want to be able to take advantage of the ability to view works, or a museum, of a particular artist when the opportunity presents itself.  So, I hope you will join us every week or so to see who we have been studying. 
We begin by collecting some facts about the artist and recording them in our art portfolios.  We are using some wonderful drawing books that are 12.5" x 15" and the perfect size to display art activities and the information.  You can order them here:
We then read books about the artist, or artists.  Most are non fiction, but some are fictional stories that give children a glimpse into the artist (or artists) lives from a perspective that they can understand.
My hope is that we will be able to view in person, one of the artist's work, their museum or birthplace over the next few years.  We are fortunate enough right now to live right in the middle of Europe and to date, we've already been able to make that happen.
The following books have been a wonderful source of information and I highly recommend using them if you try a study like this yourself. 
One book that will provide you with valuable information and assist you in helping your children (and maybe you) understand an artist or painting/sculpture is How to Talk to Your Children About Art by Francoise Barbe-Gall. This book is divided into 3 sections: 1. A good start this section helps your child develop an interest in art and offers helpful tips depending on their age 2. It's OK not to know provides information that you may not know and the answers to give your children and 3. How to look at a picture several famous paintings along with tips on how to look at, and discuss, these paintings and their artists with your children. These artists are listed chronologically.
One book  that I have used quite a bit, that covers a wide range of artists from the Renaissance to Modern Art, is Discovering Great Artists by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga.  This is a wonderful resource that is in chronological order that lists birthdays, art styles, art technique and an art activity for each artist.
Another great chronological book is Cave Paintings to Picasso by Henry Sayre. There is a lot of excellent information on each 50 art masterpieces and a timeline on each page.
A book by Bob Raczka is Name That Style all about ISMS in art.  It provides you with a basic understanding of different art styles, some famous artists, characteristics, and an example of those styles.
Another great resource to introduce paintings is by Usborne The Children's Book of Art.  Each page has  a famous painting with information about the artist and the work of art.  There is an internet link as well but we have not used it.  DK publishing has a similar book that I have ordered, but have not yet received called the Children's Book of Art.
Usborne has another book ART Treasury that not only provides information on a famous work of art and the artist, but also includes an idea for a project.
Another great resource is Art in Story: Teaching Art History to Elementary School Children by Marianne Saccardi.  This is a new resource to us but I wanted to mention it because of the amount of information in it.  The book is divided into eight parts ranging from Art of the Ancient World to Art of the Twentieth Century. In each section, there are several lesson plans that include background information on the artist, a story, how to view the art, journal writing and an activity. I can't wait to use it!
A wonderful resource for really young people is the Mini-Masters Series.  These are board books that can be purchased separately or in a boxed set.  I bought these for my girls when they were just born but they have been a wonderful resource to use as it showcases about 10 of each artist's work.  Little people love to look at the pictures and the books are welcoming and not overwhelming for them.
Another great way to introduce works of art to very young people are three books from the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art. One is 1, 2, 3, another is A,B,C and the last is Shapes. There are photos of paintings from the museum that reinforce counting, letters and shapes. The alphabet is also available in it's own version of a board book.
There are two great books by Judith Cressy and The Metropolitan Museum of Art called Can You Find It? and Can You Find It, Too?  There are many wonderful paintings where you search for details.  The first book features works of art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY and the second version presents books from 3 additional museums in the US and seven European collections.  The items are listed as is the artist and date of the work.  In the back of the book is an answer key and more information on the artist.
Other series that you may find helpful while studying these famous artists are:
Getting to Know the Worlds Greatest Artists, Art Explorers, Artists in Their Time,  and the For Kids Series.  You can find these at your local library or buy them used on-line.
We hope that you have as much fun studying famous artists and art history as we are having.  I will offer more book suggestions for specific artists as we study them.  In the future, we will be doing the same type of study with music history and famous playwrights.  We look forward to having you join us!


Lise said...

This is a great book list! I'll have to go check out some of them that I don't know. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I think your readers will enjoy the new MEET ME AT THE CORNER Virtual Field Trip to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. ( which features an interview with the curator of the Impressionist Gallery. Links to fun websites and a list of recommended books for kids ages 7-12.

Molly said...

Thanks for the tip, we just visited Paris and saw a whole lot of impressionist work so they'll love this! Thanks again!

Catherine said...

I remember when i was in elementary school we had a Travel Day where we got to pick 3 countries to visit and learn about them. One of my favorites was learning about how to paint like Michelangelo . We put paper under our desk and laid on the floor and got to experience how it was to paint on the ceiling like in the Sistine idea!!! love you and love that the kids have you to teach them such fun stuff!!!

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