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Bring Art History to Life (page 2)

Bring Art History to Life

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Updated on Dec 1, 2010

This is where the history part of the art history lesson comes in to play. When looking at artwork with Elementary school kids, point out how the paintings depict people. Focus on children, the chores they did, and the clothing they wore in the paintings. The paintings can serve as mini history lessons. Talk about what life might have been like living 100 or 200 years ago (depending on that period of art you're looking at). Point out the similarities as well as the differences. Not all of the children worked on farms. Children today still learn to dance, just like the subjects of many Degas paintings of young ballet dancers. Simple connections like this can go a long way.

At this age, your child should be able to focus more on the subject of the artwork than on just its formal qualities, like colors and lines. Ask open-ended questions about the art, like  how it makes your child feel or what she thinks is happening in the picture. Ask her what the artist is trying to make the viewer think or feel. By helping your child make connections to the art on an emotional as well as conceptual level - even in the simplest of ways - your child will explore a deeper side of art and exercise her critical thinking skills.

For the Older Child.  As your child comes closer to the teenage years, she may be able to put the artwork into some perspective. Talk about when she thinks the art was created and how she can tell. Compare modern paintings to ones made hundreds of years ago. How are the figures depicted differently? How did artists influence each other? At this age, children can begin to put all the pieces together and develop a more holistic understanding and appreciation for art and art history.

Talk also about the subject of the paintings. Some paintings depict specific battles or events they may have learned about in history class. Others might depict religious icons they are familiar with.

After talking about what art has to offer, you might realize you want to start your child learning about art history as soon as possible, because it may take a lifetime to soak it all in!

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