The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

With so many products available we often need a little help in making our curriculum choices. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine family understands because we are in the same boat! Do you need more information on a product before you buy? With over 5,500 products listed in 52 easy-to-use categories, much of the information you need to know is only a click away! Let our reviewer-families help yours.
Do you want to get the word out about your product or service to the homeschool community? Email Jenny Higgins and share a little about what you´d like showcased, and we can help with that!

Art Up Close - From Ancient to Modern Review by Margaret Chind

Claire d'Harcourt
Princeton Architectural Press
202 Warren Street
Hudson, NY 12534

Art is a passion for my daughter. For as long as I can remember she has declared that she wants to be an artist, a painter, when she grows up. Over time it has changed, but has stay mostly on target. Art Up Close - From Ancient to Modern is exactly the kind of resource I want to use to help her work toward that goal. Originally, just a painter has merged into a children’s book author and illustrator with a nature and animal conservationist message. This passion has driven our learning desires and adventure with the visual arts, and Art Up Close is wonderful addition to our tools and resources.

Art Up Close is an oversize hardcover full-color book coming in at about fourteen and three-quarter inches by eleven inches in size. My copy arrived with a full-color jacket and over the last two months with repeated interaction the book is still pristine, but the jacket has started showing a lot of love. I’m not sure a jacket would last on a book this size, and the book matches the cover, so it is not really necessary. There are twenty-three classic works of art included and this book can be completely used as a standalone resource.

It is also fun to use this book and a starting board for further study depending on the age and skill or desire level of the child. Each reproduction segment is on a two-page full spread with the image above and about ten or so key targets on the bottom. There is a descriptive title and date written at the bottom in a fun font for information. At the end of the book there is a lift-the-flap answer section with details and more information on each work of art. I say art, because this book is not just featuring paintings. There is also woodblock printing, tapestry, calligraphy, and various forms of painting within.

In the back of the book there are several resources. As I mentioned there is an interactive guide to further discuss the twenty-three works of art presented in the book prior. There is also an index page listing where each of the mentioned art pieces are showing or exhibited. In addition, there are ten pages with descriptive paragraphs worth gold in information about each form of art describing more and more of what the art within is made of and what it all portrays. 

There is not a right or wrong way to use this resource. In our homeschool, we have found some fairly creative ways to use this book and have enjoyed every interaction so far. The book is absolutely interactive even if you only read through it. The main concept is to view a piece of art such as the painting titled The Fight Between Carnival and Lent by the famous painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder dated 1559. View the art and then look at the medallions on the page. On most pages, I find them on the bottom of the page. On the Pieter Bruegel spread they are on each exterior margin and there are eleven of them. In each medallion is an enlarged focus from the painting. The idea is to see the enlargement and then find it within the large painting as a whole. The process truly makes the reader take more time and effort and really study the painting and all that is found within. It is along the lines of a seek and find book but is worth so much more than just a where’s what’s his name title.

The works of art are sourced from around the world and feature images that date from 1300 BC to the twentieth century, including features of ancient Egypt, Byzantine, Renaissance, Medieval Europe, Japanese woodblock, impressionism, surrealist and cubist art as well as Arabic and Aztec manuscripts. It is incredible to see how art has changed and what features also stay the same. In my life, I have always enjoyed art and art appreciation, however, trying to provide sources for a student with a true passion of art has changed the way I see art even beyond my college appreciation courses. Projects and paintings are so complex with so many layers and details that are often overlooked. Art Up Close is a book that truly takes some great masterpieces commonly known to art enthusiasts and presents an opportunity to truly absorb all the details and gather a greater appreciation for all that is within. To understand the painting, why it was created and the time within its design provides such an education and creative foundation for students.

Some days, we just looked and searched. Other days, we found an artist we liked such as Pieter Bruegel or the form of a Flemish Tapestry and used the pages as a spring-board for further research. We jumped from Art Up Close to our big Art encyclopedia book and read more about the artist or format. On some days, when we were feeling especially energetic we took the inspiration of something like an Egyptian papyrus to inspire our own attempts at an Egyptian similar project featuring different stories of Egyptian gods and goddess in tales we have read. We have been able to take something about art and translate it into our history class as well as use the work of art for a foundation of a language arts writing assignment and even merged into math with counting objects featuring and a bit of geography while discussing the biography of the artist or geographical background of the pieces of art featured.

I have found myself extremely impressed with this book and absolutely desire to get the other known book in the series, Masterpieces Up Close, for our shelf. This is presented as a children’s book, but readers and art curious of every age can easily enjoy what is within these pages. The large oversize dimensions of this book make it great for laying out on the floor and pouring over the pages while on belly and elbows being drawn in. Exactly the way I remember a good deal of my own childhood and exactly how I want to inspire a love for learning with my own children. Absolutely impressed and very glad to have come across this book.

We used this art book within our own homeschool including several students of elementary and primary school age on down to preschool and an infant (even she loved to stare at the pages with us with so much to see!). I did not make particular assignments, but let our time with the book flow organically and it was amazing to see how many different directions we would go. Each interaction was filled with smiles and more knowledge gained. While my art enthusiast was obviously my target for this book, each of us enjoyed it and continue to want more in the next time we brought it out for a perusal.

The overall book was very durably designed and attractively presented. With twenty-three paintings one could organize a curriculum around it featuring a project every other week and make it last a school year. I love to let our art flow, and this can be used freely or could be used in a very structured format as well, if desired. We all enjoyed it and I know we will continue to do so.

-Product review by Margaret Chind, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November, 2017