One of our favorite studies are of artists. We spend about 2 weeks on a piece of art and generally about 12 weeks on an artist. We start by learning about where the artist is from using a map or globe and put the artist on the timeline so we can compare their lives to world events.
Looking Down Yosemite Valley, California, 1865
If the artist lived during a dramatic time in history we talk about it (like Fragonard and the French Revolution) or if the paintings are of interesting places we talk about the place. I also tend to draw out unusual facts from the artist's life or work. Looking at the dress of the subjects and the theme is also a good way to place the artist and work in its place in history.
A Young Girl Reading, 1776When we choose an artist, I try to get books with the prints in them from the library or at half-price books. We have a shelf at the kitchen table where I leave the book open to the picture for 2 weeks.
We talk about the work, the title, and what we notice...sometimes I have them study it and then close their eyes and describe it considering foreground, background, subject, and focus. We will often compare the works to other artists. Either the kids will bring it up or I will, but not by a rule. It is more of a real connection we've made on our own. We also talk about the type of piece (landscape, still life, portrait, etc.), mediums (watercolor, oil, engraving, sculputure, etc.), technique used in the work (i.e. pointellism), elements of the piece (color, lighting, focus, ) and/or size of the work. We don't talk about all of them for every piece, just the things that really stand out.
The Stay at Homes, 1927
To wrap it up, we put a print into a photo album. It is a nice way to remember all of the works we've studied.
Windmill at Wijk bij Duurstede, c. 1670
Our preference is no nudity. When I purchase books, there will sometimes be work that has it (Renoir is an example). I made folders to slide over the books to only show the pics that we are studying.