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The Master and His Apprentices: Art History from a Christian Perspective Review by Christy SchaeferGina Ferguson
Art history is the subject where I have struggled the most to find appropriate resources for my high school age daughter. Although it is not required for graduation, art history is a topic I feel would benefit my daughter to assist her in becoming a well-rounded adult. Personally, I took an art history course in high school that may have been my single most eye-opening class, which is saying something from a science major.
Recently, we had the opportunity to use The Master and His Apprentices: Art History from a Christian Perspective, by Gina Ferguson. We were given the 371-page hard cover student text ($149.99 with free media mail shipping in the U.S.) and the soft cover Teacher Guide ($24.99, also with free mediamail shipping). Both books are additionally available as electronic downloads at a reduced price. However, I would like to note that I was willing and planning on having the electronic version of the student text printed and bound prior to receiving the physical version for review. The cost of the physical text, especially with free shipping, is a good deal less than color printing costs in my area.
The student text of The Master and His Apprentices contains 19 chapters on art throughout history, plus an appendix with additional information. Every page has at least one full color reproduction or image related to the topic; most pages have several color images! I was blown away by the quality of the graphics and appropriateness of each image chosen.
The introduction to this text explains the author's philosophy of God as the Master and all other artists as apprentices. Right away you can see this will definitely be a text written from a Christian perspective. The author explains how timelines will be used throughout the book to allow the student to relate various artistic periods to historical events and to the Bible. The book was written after the author experienced the need for a more family friendly approach to art history, where nude works of art are excluded making the text safe to use in family lessons. Still, the book does not suffer in its ability to provide proper high school level art history instruction.
Even with the Teacher Guide, the author states this text is not intended as a comprehensive art history resource, but as an introduction. She encourages students to research further their favorite artists and periods. Even as an introduction, The Master and His Apprentices covers a good deal of art history in the 19 chapters of the book:
- Ancient Cultures, including Ancient Near East, Egyptian, and Aegean
- Classical Antiquity, including Early Greek, Etruscan, and Roman
- Middle Ages, including Early Christian and Byzantine, Medieval and Islamic, Romanesque, and Gothic
- Baroque to today
- Non-Western Art
The text is organized chronologically, and includes a good deal of history from the time frame and geographic location being discussed. One might even say it is a history text written from an artistic point of view. Each major era includes a timeline that compares the major Biblical events with the comparative world and art events. Then, a complete timeline for all eras is included in the appendix. Major works of art have headings that list the type of work and the estimated, or known, date of completion. Nearly all types of art are covered in this art history text: architecture, sculpture, pottery, painting, mosaics, engravings, and illuminations.
The text is heavy on ancient art and is not as detailed after the Renaissance. One of the last chapters, Rococo to Today, is only eight pages; non-western art is also only eight pages. Those are very short chapters to cover such a large time frame and broad range of art. I would love to see a second volume from this author that covers from the Baroque period through today in greater detail.
The Teacher Guide that accompanies The Master and His Apprentices provides all that is needed to turn the student text into a full credit high school course. Variations on lesson plans are provided, butauthor expects this to be a full year course. Use both as an independent study and teacher led course are equally supported, yet I think it would be more beneficial for the student to have some interaction during their lessons.
A sample syllabus divides up the reading into weekly assignments, which are then the basis for the weekly worksheets provided in the Teacher Guide. The worksheets include basic comprehension questions, definitions, descriptions, and analysis prompts. Four exams are also included and listed on the syllabus, as well as topics for four papers to be written throughout the school year. Answer sheets are provided for the teacher to grade each weekly worksheet and the quarterly exams.
The license for this course is limited to one student who should be working from the copies in the Teacher Guide. Copying of worksheets and exams is not permitted without purchasing the reproducible rights at $2 per additional student. None of the questions or exams are included in the student text, which makes the text much more readable.
My tenth grade daughter has been slowly working through the text and worksheets at a pace that will allow her to complete the full credit in roughly two years. I have been providing her the worksheets for each reading assignment ahead of time, so she can break up her reading into even smaller sections and then answer the questions as they fit her reading. This method has worked well for us, and she is honestly enjoying her art history course. She greatly appreciates the timelines that allow her to see where in history each work is placed. She has even taken to comparing these timelines to the ones she created over the past few years with her own history courses.
Despite the fact that the family friendly nature of this text means several famous works of art are missing, we still are pleased with this course and plan to continue with it through to completion. We will augment some of the more modern art eras with additional resources and be sure to cover some of the missing art with our own research. Still, The Master and His Apprentices is a solid and captivating art history course that is readily enjoyed by all ages.
-Product review by Christy Schaefer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2018