Saturday, April 17, 2010

Some CM thoughts on Art

The topic at our recent Charlotte Mason meeting was Art and I thought I'd share some CM thoughts for anyone that may not have been able to attend. It's lengthy, but worth the read, so if you don't have time now, come back later with a cup of tea and enjoy!

The Grand Canal, Venice by John Ruskin

On the study of art...

...art is not to be approached by such a macadamised road. It is of the spirit, and in ways of the spirit must we make our attempt. We recognise that the power of appreciating art and of producing to some extent an interpretation of what one sees is as universal as intelligence, imagination, nay, speech, the power of producing words. But there must be knowledge and, in the first place, not the technical knowledge of how to produce, but some reverent knowledge of what has been produced; that is, children should learn pictures, line by line, group by group, by reading, not books, but pictures themselves. ~Vol. 6 p. 214

This is what I love about CM, "It is of the spirit". Haven't you ever wondered how an artist with the same tools, pencil, paint, canvas; the same materials, can create something so surreal? It is of the spirit. CM got that and was adamant about cultivating, not hindering, that in the children.

There are always those present with us whom God whispers in the ear, through whom He sends a direct message to the rest. Among these messengers are the great painters who interpret to us some of the meanings of life.
~Vol. 4 p. 102

Study of Gneiss Rock by John Ruskin

That we may be in a condition to receive this grace of teaching from all great Art, we must learn to appreciate and to discriminate, to separate between the meretricious and the essential, between technique (the mere power of expression) and the thing to be expressed - though the thing be no more than the grace and majesty of a tree. Here, again, I would urge that appreciation is not a voluntary offering, but a debt we owe, and a debt we must acquire the means to pay by patient and humble study.
~Vol. 4 p. 103

On Nature Notebooks...

As soon as a child is old enough, he should keep his own nature notebook for his enjoyment. Every day's walk will give something interesting to add - three squirrels playing in a tree, a bluejay flying across a field, a caterpillar crawling up a bush, a snail eating a cabbage leaf, a spider suddenly dropping from a thread to the ground, where he found ivy and how it was growing and what plants were growing with it, and how ivy manages to climb. ~Vol. 1 p. 55

Peacock's feather by John Ruskin

This is what we wish to do for children in teaching them to draw - to cause the eye to rest, not unconsciously, but consciously, on some object of beauty which will leave in their minds an image of delight for all their lives to come. ~Vol. 1 p. 313

The first buttercup in a child's nature notebook is shockingly crude, the sort of thing to scandalise a teacher of brush-drawing, but by and by another buttercup will appear with the delicate poise, uplift and radiance of the growing flower. ~Vol. 6, p. 217

On teaching children to draw...

The children should be carefully taught to make all their mistakes in the air, and not touch the paper of blackboard until the hand is ready to draw fearlessly and with precision the line required. No retouching can be allowed. The old habit of indecision with cramped muscular handling of the pencil, followed by indiarubber was ruinous to all proper development and fostered stammering if not in word, in thought and hand. ~P.N.E.U article Brush Drawing by Mrs. Henry Perrin

I would again urge upon parents and teachers the necessity of leading the child to make his own observations of simple objects and to draw his own portraits of them, and above all to encourage imagination and originality of expression in design. Do nothing for the child but make him work for you, put him before nature, and tell him to paint what he sees, without thinking what he ought to see or what you see. ~P.N.E.U article Brush Drawing by Mrs. Henry Perrin

"Steam and electricity are our servants, because we learned from them their nature, entered into it, and worked in sympathy with it - did not oppose it. The nature of the child can no more be altered by us. We must study, sympathize and conquer by obeying it." ~quoted anonymously in PNEU article on Brush Drawing (see below)

From the mind of an artist...

'I took out my notebook and carefully began to draw a little aspen tree that was across the road. Casually, but not lazily, I started drawing, and as I drew, my casual air passed away. The beautiful lines of the tree insisted on being recorded diligently. They became more and more beautiful as each line rose among the others and took its place. With increasing wonder every instant, I saw that they were composing themselves using finer laws than any that men knew about. Finally the tree was there on my paper, and everything I thought I had known about trees before seemed to be nothing. From that point on, 'He has made everything beautiful in His time' became my interpretation of the bond between the human mind and the things it can see.' ~CM quoting Ruskin, Vol. 3, p205.

Trees in a lane, Ambleside by John Ruskin

Here are some additional links to the sections in CM's Original Homeschooling Series discussing art:

Vol. 1, Part V, XXI. Pictorial Art – (Modern English Version here)

Vol. 6, II The Knowledge of Man (f) Art – (Modern English Version here scroll down to p.213 section f.)

Here is a link to a PNEU article on Brush Drawing with wonderful ideas on teaching children to draw:

Brush Drawing by Mrs. Henry Perrin

And here is an article by a couple of the Ambleside Online Advisory on picture study, I found this very helpful to anyone who does not know how they can teach art without understanding it themselves:

Picture Study

iris in the garden by a very inspired me!


  1. Thank you for this wealth of info!
    Are you part of a CM study group or co-op?

  2. Your iris is beautiful, Naomi!

  3. I love all the beautiful quotes here...
    thank you so much for sharing! One of these days, I'm going to link back to you!!

    thanks again!
    amy in peru

  4. I am so very impressed by your iris! I'm inspired to get going again with my own nature notebook. :)

  5. Melissa, we have a monthly CM mtg here in Southern California where we pick a CM topic, read directly from her 6 volumes and discuss. Since I'm doing the reading anyway, I'll probably post here on each topic we cover at the monthly meeting. There are 2 smaller groups that also meet weekly for nature study with their kids. Both have been wonderful blessings.

    Thank you for compliments on the iris - it was too beautiful not to be captured!