Thursday, September 15, 2011

Artist/Picture Study - Norman Rockwell

This year as part of homeschooling, we are doing Artist Studies inspired by Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy.

Miss Mason suggested that a different artist and at least six of her/his works of art be studied for up to 12 weeks.

So, we are focusing on six different artists over the course of the 2011-2012 school year (each artist is studied for six weeks).

By the end of the year, the girls will have learned about and shared their observations about 36 different works of arts.

The focus is on immersing the girls into each artist's life, artistic style, methods, and images so they can better know her/him and appreciate what s/he created.

For the first artist of the year, I chose Norman Rockwell because of his ties to New England (an area that we are focusing on for a multi-disciplinary, 12-week unit study).

I read the girls a book called Norman Rockwell by Mike Venezia which is part of the Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists series.

Flipping through the pages of the book again
after I read it to them.

The book provided background information abut Mr. Rockwell, and prepared them for the second part of the process: studying the first of six images that the artist created.

Relaxing while examining Norman Rockwell's work called
"Painting the Little House" (1921).
They do look a bit unhappy in the photograph,
but they are actually quite focused on the image.

After they examined the picture for some time, I asked each one to recall some of the things they remembered about the image.

The girls looked at the image for five minutes
and then orally described what they remembered.

Olivia (who is eight years old) shared these observations:
- The dog is sticking out his tongue.
- There's a rag hanging on the wall.
- The book is open.
- He has a bandage on his toe.
- He's wearing overalls.

Sophia (who is ten years old) shared these observations:
- He has a bandage wrapped on his toe.
- He has paint all over himself.
- The rags are the tail of a kite.
- He's working on a trunk.
- It looks like he has only two brushes to work with.
- It's dark.
- The walls are cracked a bit.
- His overalls look too small.
- There's no window that you can see.
- His dog look faithful. I wish I had a horse just like that.
- He has a very concentrated expression on his face.
- The wall has splashes of paint here and there.

For looking at an image for only five minutes, I was happy with the amount of details that they could recall.

Olivia was disappointed that she was unable to remember as much as Sophia. However, Olivia has challenges with her short-term memory (part of a learning disability she has), so I was pleased she was able to remember five elements of the picture.

As we continue to work on artist and picture studies throughout the year, I'm hoping that the number of elements both girls can remember will increase.

The remaining five illustrations that the girls will study will include Rockwell's:

- "Crackers in Bed" (1920) - a boy reading books in bed with his dog at the foot of the bed.

- "Louisa May Alcott in Her Attic at Concord" (1937) - Ms. Alcott writing while sitting on a couch in the attic. The girls and I just visited the Alcott home in Concord last week so this painting will have special meaning to the girls.

- Series of four images: "Freedom of Speech," "Freedom of Worship," "Freedom from Fear," and "Freedom from Want" (1943) - these paintings reflect President Franklin Roosevelt's speech in 1942 about the reason why the free world was fighting the war.

- "April Fool: Girl with Shopkeeper" (1948) - an illustration filled with lots of surreal images - like a cat with the head of a dog and the tail of a raccoon; the shopkeeper's head is on all of the dolls; and ivy is growing around a hot potbellied stove.

- "The Problem We All Live With" (1964) - the painting of a scene showing Ruby Bridges being escorted to a New Orleans school by four federal marshals.

Although I am using a couple of books for images of Mr. Rockwell's work, for other artists I will be using postcards which feature their work. Some were from local art museums and others were from a series of books that include postcard-size images of masterpieces.

The first book in the series - which I would recommend - is called Child Size Masterpieces of Steps 1, 2, 3 - Matching, Pairing, and Sorting - Level 1 Easy; and is written by Aline D. Wolf.

This book - as well as the additional six books in the series - have reproductions of masterpieces by a wide variety of artists. The girls each can hold a postcard and study the image before telling me about what they remember about the work of art.

This has been a delightful and interesting part of homeschooling, and we are all looking forward to learning more about Mr. Rockwell as well as the other five artists chosen for this year.


Dawn said...

We love Norman Rockwell and he is a great first artist for kids to learn how to do picture studies. Have a wonderful time with it.

amy in peru said...

I do love Norman Rockwell... he really captures the American spirit and life in general! did you know he painted most of his pictures from a photograph? there is a really interesting book out sometime recently about this... very interesting.

thanks for sharing this with the cm blog carnival!

amy in peru

Nancy said...

Last year we enjoyed Mr. Rockwell as one of our artists. The stories about his models I found fascinating. And, like Amy said, he was one of the first to use "technology" and paint from photographs at times. Your post brought back some fun memories!

The most viewed post on my blog is about Rockwell and his four freedoms. I'm guessing that it must part the national standards curriculum for schools. (

Admiration, Hope and Love,