Sunday, December 18, 2011

Art Appreciation Made Easy

I love fine art. I just don't know how to talk about it and really "appreciate" it without someone interpreting it for me.  I remember going to an art museum in Sacramento with my Polish friend and realizing this very fact. She could go on and on about each painting- how the light hits this part and makes this statement or how the artist used this color to show this emotion and or not. I was amazed at her ability! I got so much more out of that one trip to the museum than I ever had from all the art museums I had ever seen.  From that point on, it's always been on my mind as something I would like to learn how to be able to do.

With my Magnificat subscription, there is at least one piece of art that is explained in light of the Catholic faith.  They talk about all the elements of the painting and how it conveys what the artist had in mind.  I love to read this and have learned so much. I decided to share one of these articles with my group of boys that I teach for coop. They got into it much more than I thought they would and made me see that this art appreciation skill just might come in due time. 

Now for Christmas, I dug out a book that I've had for many years by the Metropolitan Museum of Art entitled The Christmas Story.  So far, we've looked at a few of the artworks and it has not only enriched our Christmas season, but also our Jesse Tree reflections. I took it out today for the story of John the Baptist.  We talked about the painting while rereading the Bible story.   I read a little about the artist and what the artist was trying to convey.  It held Liam's attention much more than if I had just read from the Bible.  Note: the only bad thing about this book is that it uses the King James Version for the Bible verses.

On a different day, we took it out to look at a picture of the Annunciation.  We talked about symbolism, colors, setting, and perspective.  Then I read a little about the artist and what the artist was trying to convey.  The kids enjoyed it so much! They were searching for the symbols, examining all the details, and giving their opinions- it was better than Where's WaldoFun fact: Did you know a monkey in art symbolizes sin?  I've never liked monkeys...  And it was so effortless.  I felt like I was reading a picture book.  If you think about it, looking at a book of paintings is kind of like a picture book on steroids.

Two months ago, I would have never thought I'd be teaching art appreciation with such ease. Now that I'm doing it with the help of books such as these, I am seeing how it might be a possibility how I could walk in an art museum and start talking about the painting like Sister Wendy. Ok, maybe not a professed Sister Wendy, but maybe a novice or at the very least a postulate!

I would to get some more of these art appreciation aides for the rest of the year too. I'm going to try out this one for saints and this one for and Lent/Easter.


Mary said...

It is really exciting to learn the symbolism in Catholic art. Last Thursday I attended a class with Dr. Gildersleeve in which he talked about the symbolism in some Nativity art. It was so interesting. Suddenly a single picture becames a catechism of Divine Truths.

noreen said...

I would love to see those books Sarah! I went to a retreat recently and they were showing beautiful works of art and I had no idea what they were! They were beautiful though! I will have to see if I can find these books at my local library.

I posted today about your giveaway, Jesus in My Heart bracelet. It's just beautiful! Thank you so much.. it is a true piece of art! That's why you are teaching art appreciation with such ease, you have an eye for beauty!

noreen said...


I am so excited! My local library has each book you mentioned in this post and I put holds on them immediately! I'd love to be able to buy each book I want, but that's unreasonable so my local library is the next best thing!

Merry Christmas!

Jennifer @ Crafolic said...

Thanks sooooo much for this! It looks like just the thing I've been looking for!! I put a few books on hold at my library! I'm excited to get them!
Thank you!