A Wonderful Example of How to Study Art

Dear Reader,

I recently read an article entitles “The Power of Patience” in Harvard Magazine by an art professor there, Jennifer L. Roberts. Her main object was to talk about how in this fast-paced world, we sometimes need to slow down. Learning doesn’t always happen quickly and Roberts tries to slow her students down and to control the tempo of her classes. ne can imagine that in such a technologically connected world, at such a busy university, that this is no easy feat.

The part that particularly intrigued me was when Roberts described how she has her students go and observe a painting in its museum setting for three solid hours. This is a really long span of time and one is not surprised to hear that her students initially balk at the idea and wonder how they will survive it. But Roberts herself has done this with a painting, Boy with a Squirrel by John Singleton Copley. She gives just some of her observations from the first hour of observation. They are certainly things I never would have noticed in a short span of time. Like that the squirrels belly hair and the boy’s ear have the same lines.

It all really makes me think that I let my kids rush through our artist studies too quickly. I think I will share Roberts’ experience with them to se if they can get the idea that it is valuable to just stop and observe for  a while.

Roberts sums up the reasons for her approach quite nicely:

“It is commonly assumed that vision is immediate. It seems direct, uncomplicated, and instantaneous—which is why it has arguably become the master sense for the delivery of information in the contemporary technological world. But what students learn in a visceral way in this assignment is that in any work of art there are details and orders and relationships that take time to perceive.”

Needless to say, as a fan of Charlotte Mason, I love the talk not just of art study but of observation, patience, and above all relationship as being important in education.


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