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Picture Study – Charlotte Mason Mondays

  |   Charlotte Mason Mondays, Curriculum, Language Arts, Lesson Plan, Picture Study, Teaching - all grades   |   12 Comments
Picture Study

Millet’s The Gleaners

Guizot on Picture Study:

The Study of art is a taste at once engrossing and unselfish, which may be indulged without effort, and yet has the power of exciting the deepest emotions—a taste able to exercise and to gratify both the nobler and softer parts of our nature.  

Just as we must provide ideas on which children’s minds are to feast through their reading of exceptional living books, we must also offer this opportunity through our students’ regular exposure to and study of excellent art work.

A hallmark of the Charlotte Mason methodology of teaching and learning is Picture Study. Recently I helped another homeschool mom incorporate it on a regular basis into her homeschooling. Fortunately, Ms. Mason gave us a clear blueprint of how to systematically include picture study into our homeschooling efforts.

Charlotte Mason’s Suggestions for Picture Study

  • Begin early. Age six, at the time of formal lessons in Charlotte’s day, is not too early to begin.


  • Choose about six pictures of one artist to study each term. Rather than muddy children’s minds with continual but random art selections, Ms. Mason thought it beneficial to help her students get to know one artist at a time each term.


  • Give your student time to experience a painting by keeping it on display for a week or two at a time. Give students time to connect with each work.


  • Let your students quietly study the painting first, resisting the urge to discuss the artist’s background and your analysis of the piece. Give only the briefest amount of information necessary to enhance your students’ experience with the work before giving them a chance to connect with the picture and tell you about it. Give credence to all of their thoughts and opinions.


  • Task your student with giving you an oral or written narration of the painting. Narrations consist of their response as you ask, “Describe the painting as you were talking to me on the phone and I couldn’t see it.” Younger students will be most comfortable with oral narrations, but older ones might provide either oral or written. Alternative assignment for a middle elementary + student who is familiar with oral narrations of art work:  Let the student study the picture for a time, then put it away.  Have your student narrate from memory.


  • Have your students choose a favorite piece each term to imitate by drawing or painting. This an excellent way to incorporate those skills into your schooling.

With Train up a Child Publishing curricula, we organize our studies chronologically beginning with Creation and ending with modern times, so we prefer to manage our study of art work and artists in the same manner, examining artists and their creations in light of the time periods they lived and worked.

An Example

Following is an example from Charlotte Mason’s Home Education of an oral narration given by a nine year old boy who had the opportunity of studying six of Jean-François Millet’s works during a twelve week school term. At the end of the twelve weeks, the children were asked to describe their favorite of the six paintings.  First, here is the painting, The Sower:

Picture Study

And this is the student’s narration:

‘I like The Sower the best.  The sower is sowing seeds and the picture is all dark except high on the right side where there’s a man plowing a field. While he’s plowing, the sower is sowing. He has a bag in his left hand and he’s sowing with his right hand. He’s wearing wooden clogs. It’s about six o’clock in the morning. You can see his head better than his legs and body because it’s against the light.’

Artists for Further Picture Study

This list of artists include dates so you many organize your art study chronologically if you wish.

Giotto (1266-1377)

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Albrecht Durer (1471-1528)

Caravaggio (1571-1610)

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

Diego Velazquez (1599-1660)

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)

Jean Francios Millet (1814-1875)

Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)

Frederic Remington (1861-1909)

Grandma Moses (1860-1961)

Don’t forget to add some modern and American painters – our favorites are Norman Rockwell and N.C. Wyeth.

To add to your enjoyment and appreciation of picture study, consider visiting your local art museum and those you may come in contact with while you are on vacation in other parts of the country (or the world).

If you have any particular tips on how YOU have  incorporated picture study into your homeschool, I am sure our readers would love to read about them!  Please comment!


Read here about how to do Picture Study with Older Students.



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  • Kim | May 21, 2012 at 4:34 am

    Where do you get art work??

  • { jamie } | Nov 7, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Wonderful post, Dana! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Ida Red | Nov 3, 2009 at 10:55 am

    WONDERFUL!!!! You have inspired me! I love it!

  • Dana | Nov 1, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Thank you, Jimmie! I love your artist study lens, btw! (And thanks for including my post:)

  • Jimmie | Nov 1, 2009 at 6:48 am

    This is a great overview, Dana! I’ve linked to you on my artist study lens.

  • Cindy | Oct 30, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Thanks for adding this to the CM Carnival! We love picture/artist study at our house, too!

    • Dana | Oct 30, 2009 at 8:16 pm

      Hi Cindy,
      Thanks for putting together the next CM carnival! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for taking the time to comment!


  • Dana | Oct 27, 2009 at 5:44 am

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, Kris and Danielle! I think we are often intimidated if we don’t know much about art. What I like about the Charlotte Mason approach is that a lot of knowledge is not required. With younger students, we are looking more for exposure and personal connection with the art work.

  • Danielle Theobald | Oct 26, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    What a great post! I’ve felt at a loss as to how to introduce art appreciation to my children. I love the gentle and unintimidating approach that’s suggested. I can’t wait to begin! Thanks so much.

  • kris | Oct 26, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    I love this whole picture study concept. Many would not think to introduce youngsters as young as 6 to the great artists. This is a fabulous way to do it. Kids so love art and pieces of artwork. The projects to do at the end are always so much fun.

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