The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a series of art appreciation books written by Richard Muhlberger that we’ve used for upper primary and the highschool years. Sometimes I’ve read portions aloud to everyone or they’ve read them individually. Each book is about 50 pages in length and explores how a particular artist differs from another and gives clues to identifying an artist’s work. I appreciate that the author doesn’t over-analyze the artist’s work but gives enough insight and information to help the observer develop their ‘seeing’ skills. About 12 paintings are studied in each book and one of our favourites in the series is, What Makes a Raphael A Raphael?
Other artists presented in the series are Monet, Bruegel, Degas, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Picasso, Mary Cassatt & Goya. They are mostly out of print but there are loads of secondhand copies at Amazon and Abebooks.
A short overview of the defining features of each artist’s work is included at the end of each book:
Linnea in Monet’s Garden, Illustrated by Lena Anderson. A lovely introduction to the artist that is suitable to read with multiple ages around 10 years old and under or for a confident reader to read on their own. I read it aloud a number of years ago and then Moozle read it for herself when she was eight. Linnae goes to Paris and visits Monet’s garden and tells about his life. Very nicely illustrated. See inside the book here.
Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry is a lovely book about the young Quaker boy, Benjamin West, and the extraordinary gift he had. I wrote about it here. A wonderful read aloud and a great insight into the development of a God-given artistic ability.
Books by James Mayhew – for a younger age group, these are picture books with a short story that help to get young children interested in an artist’s works.
Katie and the Spanish Princess
Katie visits the art gallery with her Grandma and steps into the paintings and meets the people portrayed by the artists Velazquez, Goya, and Murillo. Moozle liked them when she was about 4 or 5.
Katie and the Sunflowers (Gauguin, Van Gogh, Cezanne) is another in the series.
Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists by Mike Venezia.
This is a series of books on various artists that were much loved in our home around the ages of 6 to 8 years. They include interesting information and pictures of some of the more famous paintings by the individual artists. The inclusion of some quirky humour and cartoons make it a very enjoyable read for younger children.
The Great Art Scandal by Anna Nilsen
This is a great book especially for children around the age of 10 years of age who like puzzles. The reader gets an introduction to 30 modern artists and has to find a rogue painting by comparing the paintings in an exhibition with the masterpieces that inspired them. Very well done.
Art Fraud Detective is another similar book by the same author with paintings by the old masters such as Rembrandt and Raphael. Surreptitious art appreciation…
I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino is a Newberry Medal novel set in the seventeenth century. Juan de Pareja was the slave of the Spanish painter Diego Velazquez. The only off-putting part of the book was towards the end (Chapter 12) when Juan had his fortune told, otherwise the book gives a feel for the time period and is a good introduction to spark interest in the artist’s work. There’s also an audio version but my children didn’t enjoy listening to the narrator although I know another family who did…
I’ve previously mentioned this series of art books published by Phaidon Press which I found earlier this year at the National Art Gallery. Bookdepository have a good selection at the same or slightly reduced prices so I ordered the one below from there. If you are using the Ambleside Online art rotation, these books have excellent, good-sized reproductions of many of the art works AO recommend.
I was very happy to find Harmony Fine Arts when Moozle was about the age of six because it gave me a structured way to include not just art appreciation but also some art instruction. Two of my girls have been more interested in drawing, painting etc. than the others and Moozle’s older sister had used some of the Artistic Pursuits material. It wasn’t really a good fit for her younger sister so I decided to use this material instead and purchased Grade 1 in the print edition but it also comes as a download. It includes 32 Weeks of Plans – 8 artists and 8 composers so I decided to follow the composers also. There’s a sample lesson here.
We both really enjoyed the year we had with this. The Oxford First Book of Art and The Usborne Art Treasury were two of the options we used and they were both very good.
At the same time I used the Medieval and Renaissance Art & Music with her three older brothers as we were covering that historical period at the time. This was very enjoyable also but it didn’t have the practical art component of the Grade 1 material, not that the boys minded. The author may have made some changes to her materials as it was about five years ago that I purchased my copies. If you have a younger child who enjoys art and you want a simple, non-overwhelming plan to help you be consistent in giving them some instruction, I’d recommend the Grade 1 programme.
Harmony Fine Arts also has some free downloads.
Some practical ideas for art appreciation and art in general:
How to make tempera paint
This is an interesting article on nudity in art from a Christian perspective.
How to Teach Pastels at Home – we haven’t used any of these ideas yet but Moozle has done some work in pastels and is keen to do more so I’ll be checking this out soon.