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An Introduction to Art History: A Classical Approach to Art – Part I: Rembrandt, Carl Linnaeus, Edgar Degas Review by Deanna Jasper

Barry Stebbing
How Great Thou ART Publications
1-800-982-DRAW (3729)
P.O. Box 48
McFarlan, NC 28102

An Introduction to Art History: A Classical Approach to Art – Part I: Rembrandt, Carl Linnaeus, Edgar Degas provides a year-long study of art history for ages six through adult. It is a part of a series by Barry Stebbing that will eventually have ten programs total, providing a wide variety of artists and styles from which to choose. (Parts I, II, and IV are currently available for purchase on the How Great Thou ART website.) An Introduction to Art History provides a Christian perspective, teaching students that they have the ability to create because we are made in the image of God the Creator, providing notes about the artists’ faith and making special note of Christian themes in their work.

The curriculum consists of a textbook and two sets of cards, which come with a one-inch black three-ring binder. (This package sells for $25.95.) Lessons are laid out in the softcover textbook (e-book available) consisting of forty-four black-and-white pages. Full color pictures of art being studied are found on the ten Masterpieces cards, and the sixteen Art Lesson Cards function as the student’s workbook for the course. (Copyright allows you to duplicate pages for users within your family, or you can purchase additional sets for $9.95.) Other materials needed are a set of twelve colored pencils, a set of eight water-soluble markers, a medium nib black drawing pen, a #6 round brush, and a three-ring binder. (A bundle of supplies is available on the website for $21.95).

An Introduction to Art History: A Classical Approach to Art – Part I: Rembrandt, Carl Linnaeus, Edgar Degas contains thirty-six lessons that can be completed in about thirty minutes each week. Twelve lessons are spent on each of the three artists. Each lesson consists of a brief art history lesson (including information about the period, artist, a particular masterpiece, or other related subject), followed by a hands-on art lesson (with instructions for completing part of an Art Lesson Card). Concepts covered include primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, tones, monochromatic pictures and color theory, foreshortening, Impressionism, Neo-Classical period, pastels, composition, focal point, chiaroscuro, and more. From what I can see, the different books in this series do not build upon one another and do not necessarily need to be completed in any particular order. (In the introduction, Stebbing encourages the user to “pick and choose, selecting what is most appropriate for your school year pertaining to the masters, periods, or styles.”)

I was drawn to this program because my six-year old daughter is quite artistic, and I want to include a systematic study of artists and artistic techniques in her education. The lessons are simple enough for a young child like her, yet I found myself learning alongside her and enjoying the activities as well. While someone who has already studied artistic techniques might find the lessons too elementary, I think most students would find something new to work on in almost every lesson.

My daughter was especially drawn to the full-color masterpiece cards. Our only complaint was that with up to four paintings printed on a page, sometimes each picture was a bit small, and it was harder to absorb the details of each work. (This mattered more with some of the larger paintings than with the nature sketches of Linnaeus.) The lesson on Degas’ study of Greek masterpieces includes a picture of a marble statue of three unclothed figures, and I appreciated the edited photo for the sake of modesty (though it certainly led to plenty of giggles even so and provided opportunity for discussion).

Another reason I was drawn to this program because the website talked about it going well with Classical Conversations (CC), which our family uses. On the website they suggest using the twelve half-hour lessons to fit into CC meetings, but since there is already a set curriculum established for the Foundations program, that’s not really an option. This could make a great supplementary program at home, however, or as a fun co-op class in addition to Community day for those who want to extend their fine arts experience. Quantity discounts are available when purchasing more than ten sets at a time. (Each family needs to purchase at least one set to be in compliance with copyright law.)

As far as how the different volumes fit in with CC’s Foundations curriculum cycles, the one I reviewed, Part I: Rembrandt, Carl Linnaeus, Edgar Degas, pairs extremely well with the second half of Cycle 2, when Rembrandt and Degas are studied, among other artists. (In the fourth edition of the Foundations curriculum, Cycle 2 also included Linnaeus, but he has been replaced in the new fifth edition with Van Gogh.) Part II: Ancient Art, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome complements Cycle 1’s subject matter in history. Part IV: The Renaissance, The Reformation, The 1600s fits well with the first half of Cycle 2. (Part III is not currently listed on the website, but since Stebbing says there will eventually be ten programs in all, I’m guessing it will be out soon.)

For any family looking for lessons in both art history and hands-on artistic techniques, An Introduction to Art History: A Classical Approach to Art – Part I: Rembrandt, Carl Linnaeus, Edgar Degas and the others in this series provide thoughtful, well-organized lessons that not only teach appreciation for art, but offer a chance to become a better artist yourself. I look forward to using other parts of the series with my children in the future.

-Product review by Deanna Jasper, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June, 2018