Devotion Based on The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer

Everyone loves rainbows, and in The Milkmaid painting we can find all the colors of the rainbow. Did you know that when there’s a lighter second rainbow above the first, the colors are opposite the first rainbow?

But without light we couldn’t see rainbows or any of the colors. How wonderful that God created light on the very first day!

Darken a room as much as you can and read Genesis :1-2. Encourage children to notice they can’t see color very well, if at all, when it’s dark.

Turn on the lights as you read Genesis 1:3 when on the very first day of creation God said, “Let there be light.” And notice how the colors spring to life.

With God’s words, our world went from the darkness of verse 2 to a world He would fill with colorful skies and plants and creatures!

Try one of the following activities to help children appreciate the colorful world God created:

  • Write colors on slips of paper and have children draw one. They then name something natural of that color. For example, if the paper says pink, they might say a rose. For orange they might think of sunsets. Challenge children to be creative and think of the orange eyes of an lemur, or stripes on a tiger.
  • Have each child make a color wheel on a paper plate with the 3 primaries and 3 secondaries painted in pie-shaped wedges, (they could use markers or crayons instead of paint). Then send them on a scavenger hunt around your house and yard to find things of each color.

Rainbows appear after storms when sunlight shines through water droplets. The light slows down a little and gets bent or refracted, so it separates into the colors—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. (ROYGBIV) (In a color wheel for art we leave out indigo)

We can be so thankful that God created light and made the world such a colorful place for us to live. But the rainbow shows God’s love for us in another super important way.

Together read about Noah and the ark in Genesis 6-9:17. (depending on the age of your children, use a children’s Bible or read selected passages)

Imagine what it was like when the ark came to rest after the flood, and Noah led his family and all the animals out. Do you think they just walked?

I think the kangaroos bounced down the ramp, and parrots flapped away to find trees. Striped zebras kicked up their hoofs when they felt dry ground, and giraffes stretched their long necks to reach their favorite leaves. What do you think other animals would do first? What would you have done?

Then Noah built an altar to thank God for saving him and all those amazing creatures. AND what did God do? He put a rainbow in the sky as a sign and promise to us that He would never again destroy the world by a flood.

Instead He would rescue it and us through the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, through whom all the fullness of God shines (Colossians 1:19-20 and 2:9), showing us a heavenly rainbow of the Father’s love, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

Prayer: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the light that makes the world so colorful. Help us remember when we see a rainbow to thank you for Jesus who came to this earth to rescue us and give us a brand new life in Him. In His name, we pray. Amen.

Before You Go

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to 5 Ways Art Benefits Children’s Cognitive, Physical, Spiritual, and Social Development, with a Few Fun and Easy Activities for each Benefit

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages. Add link

Molly loves how the light makes her coat look shiny in this picture! She and I hope you enjoyed this devotion based on The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer. Next week we’ll have an art activity based on the painting.

 

 

The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer, Painter of Light

In The Milkmaid, one of Johannes Vermeer’s best-known paintings, we see why this mysterious artist is often called the “Painter of Light.” Two hundred years before the Impressionists, Vermeer’s paintings glow with light and color.

Read on to:

  • Find helpful vocabulary
  • Learn a little about Johannes Vermeer and his painting, The Milkmaid
  • Discover activities to help you and your children explore and enjoy The Milkmaid
  • See a cute photo of Molly, the Artsy Corgi

Vocabulary

These words, which will be in bold green the first time they come up, will help you and your children talk more easily about different parts of the painting.

  • Genre art  art that shows everyday events and people
  • Geometric  when used in artsimple shapes showing squares, circles, triangles
  • Impasto  thick paint applied to show texture
  • Texture  how a surface feels–in paintings this might be shown with thick paint or even scratches or spattering
  • Pigment  a color substance mixed with a binder, such as linseed oil or egg to make paint

The Artist

Vermeer (1632-1675) was born and lived all of his short life in the city of Delft in the Netherlands.

View of Delft by Johannes Vermeer, public domain

No one’s sure who Vermeer studied with, but he was admitted as a master to the Guild of St. Luke, which regulated artists, when he was just 21, so he had to have studied and been an apprentice for several years. Some believe he studied with a former student of Rembrandt. But it’s an unsolved mystery.

Vermeer painted slowly and with great detail, only finishing about 2 paintings a year. Today only about 35 of his paintings survive, and it’s possible that’s about all he ever painted. But that’s a mystery, too.

The Art of Painting by Johannes Vermeer, public domain

There are no portraits that are definitely of Vermeer, so we aren’t sure what he looked like. The above painting is believed to be a view of the artist painting in his studio. But it’s back to, so another mystery!

 At this time, history paintings, which included biblical and mythological scenes, were considered the most important kind of paintings, and Vermeer began his career painting this type of art. Eventually, he switched to quiet, indoor scenes depicting people, often women, involved in everyday tasks, and that’s what he’s most famous for. This type of painting is called genre art.

And that’s just what The Milkmaid is a wonderful example of.

The Painting

The Milkmaid by Johannes, 1660, The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, public domain

In The Milkmaid a woman stands at a table with a window on the left that allows light to flood into the room (a classic Vermeer composition). The maid is absorbed in her task of pouring milk from a jug into the bowl. Though just a maid, Vermeer has given her the dignity of a figure in an historical painting.

Notice the beautiful still life on the table—all the different textures—the rough, brown earthenware, the shiny and nubbly blue jug, a wicker basket, and a loaf and chunks of crusty bread. Hanging on the wall behind is a shiny gold kettle.

Vermeer’s backgrounds are geometric with many horizontal and vertical lines, which help give his paintings a calm mood.

So the scene is quiet. The only movement is the flowing milk.

Light is really the subject. Like the Impressionists in the 1800s, Vermeer was fascinated by light—how it reflected off different surfaces, sparkled on and changed the outlines of objects, and affected colors.

It’s believed that he may have used either a camera obscura (which was a little like a pinpoint camera made from a box) or various lenses to help him study light and help him draw accurately. Another unsolved mystery!

You can’t really see it on reproductions, but Vermeer often applied paint thickly (impasto) to achieve textures and to leave ridges and points that would catch the light and make things shimmer and sparkle more realistically.

When you can look closely at the paintings you see beads of light produced by painted dabs and dots that look a little like the pointillism of 19th century artists like Seurat.

Vermeer loved bright contrast in colors and especially loved yellows and blues. Somehow he afforded the blue pigment made from lapis lazuli, a blue pigment that had to come from Afghanistan. Most artists used the pigment sparingly because it was more expensive than gold, but not Vermeer! Another mystery!

Activities to Help You and Your Children further Explore this Beautiful Painting

Before doing any other activities, ask children to tell what’s going on in the painting and what tells them that. Enhance their observational and verbal skills by rephrasing words and adding new vocabulary.

Ask children what they think will happen next. Have them imagine and describe who will eat the meal the maid is preparing.

The Milkmaid by Johannes, 1660, The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, public domain

There’s so much detail to see in a Vermeer, that a scavenger hunt or I spy of activity would be great to find different colors, textures, and items.

Have them find a color or texture in the painting and then look for it in your house or outside on a walk. All the colors of the rainbow  (especially deep blues!) are in this painting, along with many textures—soft, shiny, rough, nubbly, etc, so they’ll be busy for a while.

Before You Go

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to 5 Ways Art Benefits Children’s Cognitive, Physical, Spiritual, and Social Development, with a Few Fun and Easy Activities for each Benefit

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages. Add link

Cute picture of Molly the Artsy CorgiIt’s been so cold lately, that Molly decided enjoy a warm fire surrounded by cuddly, NOT cold, snowpeople!

Molly hopes you enjoy learning about The Milkmaid and will join us next week for a devotion based on Vermeer’s colorful painting. You can sign up to receive these posts above.

Polar Bear Art Activity Based on The Icebergs by Frederick Edwin Church

God has given polar bears many unique features to help them survive in cold arctic regions. In this art project children will learn about some of these features as they draw and put together a collage of a polar bear framed against the colorful aurora borealis.

In this post you’ll find:

  • Supply list
  • Step-by-step Directions
  • Helpful Hints
  • Containing the Mess
  • Variations and adaptations for older and younger children
  • 6 Ways this activity aids children’s mental, physical, social, and spiritual development
  • Molly the Artsy Corgi picture

Let’s get started!

Supplies:

  • White and black construction paper
  • Pastels (There are 2 kinds of pastels—chalk-like soft pastels or crayon-like oil pastels. Either kind works for this project. If you or your child is bothered by dust, choose oil pastels instead of the soft ones)
  • Pencil, black marker, and scissors
  • White glue or glue stick

Directions:

Start with the background of ice floes and

the aurora borealis:

  1. Tear jagged pieces of white paper that will stretch across the width of the black paper (tearing these gives a more natural look)
  2. Place the torn strip on a paper scrap and color blocks of pastels along the edges of the paper. Apply the color heavily.
  3. Place the strip a little below the top of the black paper and with your finger, “push” the color up and away from the white paper and onto the black paper. You can apply more pastel to the strip if it’s not dark enough.
  4. Repeat this with other strips and colors, moving the strips down a ways each time. Children can do as many layers as they wish.
  5. If you’re using soft pastels, you can clean off the dust with a tissue.
  6. Polar bears live and hunt out on ice floes, so cut white paper for the ice floes and arrange on paper to look as if some are farther away. Glue these down.

Next the polar bear

mother polar bear and cub, public domain, wikimedia

My elementary students are all drawing animals right now. Some classes are doing owls or seahorses, while others are drawing patterned animals, such as giraffes.

In each class we begin by looking carefully at the animal to see its unique features, head and body shape, and nose and ear size and placement.

Looking at these things not only gives them a greater appreciation for how our wise and creative God has made each animal just right for its environment, but it also helps them draw more accurately.

The bear we draw here is simplified for drawing by several ages, but we still want to make it show some of a polar bear’s unique features.

So as we go through drawing a polar bear, I’ll  do the same thing so you can help your child look carefully at the bear’s special features and draw these more accurately. It’s often best to draw on another paper first to make a pattern for the “good” paper, especially if it’s a collage. Draw the head and body separately  and then glue together.

polar bear out on ice floes, public media, wikimedia

  1. Bears have circular-shaped heads, and so do polar bears, but they are thinner and have thinner heads than many other bears.
  2. So its head is a circle that narrows more as you get to the chin.
  3. Polar bears have rounded ears, but they’re small so they don’t lose too much heat through them. Notice the wide placement of them toward the side of the head.
  4. Notice that polar bears have a longer snout than many bears that ends in a very large nose. Snout and nose together, make polar bears super smellers. For the snout draw an inverted triangle that’s rounded under the nose.
  5. Polar bears have smallish eyes that are close together in the front like most predators. They need to be able to see well in front of them to catch and grab their pray. Look carefully at where the eyes are in relation to the snout.
  6. In this drawing we’re looking at the bear face on and only see those powerful shoulders rising behind and around the head in an inverted U shape. Make another, much smaller u, to forms the front legs.
  7. Polar bears have huge feet, the size of dinner plates! These spread their weight so they can walk on thin ice. Their foot pads have little bumps that give them traction on ice and snow. They have long claws to help with traction and grab and hold onto slippery seals.
  8. I’ve just tried to show the enormous size of the feet without much detail.
  9. Outline your bear’s head and body in black marker, cut out and glue together.
  10. When cutting the bear’s body try making it a little jagged in places to suggest the thick fur polar bears have to keep warm, in addition to layers of fat.
  11. To finish, glue your polar bear wherever you’d like on the background.

Helpful Hints:

  • Children often need to see how to tear shapes.  Quick tears result in random shapes, so show children how to tear jagged pieces of paper by tearing slowly in one direction then changing direction to tear slowly again.
  • If older children decide to add the blue shading, I mostly gathered the blue on my finger and then brushed it across the edges of the bear’s fur and on the ice. In a few places, I made some scribbles with the pastel stick itself.

Containing the Mess:

  • Place a tablecloth or large sheet of paper under your work. Pastels are a little messy. If you used the soft pastels, you can just shake out the cloth outside. Watch out for what direction the wind’s blowing though!
  • Have paper towels and tissues to clean up hands and paper between colors and steps.
  • Place wax paper under papers as you spread glue on them to prevent them from sticking.

Variations and adaptations for older and younger children:

  • Instead of a black background with the aurora borealis, use blue paper for daylight and add snowflakes with white paint. You can spatter the paint or use Q-tips.
  • Younger children may need help with drawing and cutting, but if you show them shapes like the U and circles, they will learn to look and draw more accurately, too.
  • Younger children will enjoy coloring  and pushing the pastel colors onto the black paper, but may need help moving the paper down each time.
  • Older children may want to use deep blue pastel to add shading to the bear and the ice
  • Older children may want to study more polar bear pictures and try drawing one from the side
  • Use the same method to draw and create a smaller polar bear for a cub next to the large bear.
  • Send your polar bear to your grandparents or display on the fridge!
  • Use as an illustration or cover for a school report on the amazing polar bear!

6 Ways this activity aids children’s mental, physical, social, and spiritual development:

  1. Using pencils, scissors, and other art tools helps develop fine motor skills.
  2. Looking carefully at what they want to draw helps develop better observation and drawing skills.
  3. Learning about the polar bear’s special features enhances their appreciation of God’s creativity and care for all His creatures.
  4. This activity helps develop visual/spatial skills and how to understand and use visual information—important in learning to interpret photos, graphs, maps, etc.
  5. When children make choices in creating art, it enhances problem-solving skills.
  6. Making art enhances creativity and refreshes minds and eyes tired from screens.

Before You Go:

If you’d like more activity ideas and devotions for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to 5 Ways Art Benefits Children’s Cognitive, Physical, Spiritual, and Social Development, with a Few Fun and Easy Activities to go with each Benefit

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

Molly the Artsy Corgi Picture

Molly loves snow and she hopes you enjoy making this mixed media picture of a polar bear!

Sign up for our blog and don’t miss more art fun!

 

 

 

 

 

A Devotional based on an Iceberg that Played Hide and Seek

Have you ever hidden so well during a game of hide and seek that no one could find you? Was it a little scary? Can icebergs play hide and seek? In 1999 an iceberg the size of Rhode Island broke away from Antarctica and went missing! That’s right, but let’s back up a little.

In the Northern Hemisphere, from February to July, chunks of ice break off or calve from Greenland’s glaciers. Some also calve from glaciers in Alaska. Chunks may be small or as large as the ones shown in Church’s painting. Most of an iceberg is out of sight below the water, and it’s this part that’s so dangerous to ships.

The Icebergs by Frederick Edwin Church, Dallas Museum of Art, public domain

In the North Atlantic, ocean currents often carry icebergs from Greenland to an area off Newfoundland called Iceberg Alley. This was where Church went to study and sketch icebergs for his painting. So many icebergs in this area important for fishing and shipping, have caused the loss of many ships and lives over the years. Ship crews had to be constantly on the alert for this threat.

But everything changed on the clear and calm night of April 15, 1912 when the Titanic hit an iceberg on her maiden voyage from England to New York.  Titanic sank within 2 ½ hours, and over 1,500 passengers and crew drowned.

The disaster prompted several countries to meet and establish an International Ice Patrol to keep track of icebergs in the North Atlantic and warn ships of their locations.

This patrol, part of the United States Coast Guard, still operates. At first Coast Guard ships patrolled Iceberg Alley from February to July. Since WWII they use airplanes to spot and keep track of icebergs.

Today the International Ice Center also uses satellites. In 1999 that dangerously large iceberg calved from Antarctica, went missing. SeaWinds, a special radar to help improve weather prediction, had recently been launched aboard a NASA satellite, and it located the iceberg drifting off the coast of Argentina. Since then, satellites also help track icebergs.

God doesn’t need ships or planes or satellites to keep track of icebergs.

Chapter 38 of Job tells us God has created and continues to care for every big and small part of His creation. He has “walked in the recesses of the deep,” (verse16); has “entered the storehouses of the snow and seen the storehouses of the hail,” (verse 22). God knows “from whose womb comes the ice and who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen, (verses 29-30).

God created icebergs. They can’t go missing from Him.

Has there ever been a time when you felt lost? Maybe you had an argument with a friend. You got in trouble at school. Or a pet has died. Did you feel confused or scared, or all alone?

We know from the psalms that King David sometimes felt lost and afraid. But in Psalm 139, he writes that God knows “when I sit and when I rise; (verse 2). And “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (versus 8-10).

David knew God would never let him go missing.

Next time you feel lost and alone, remember that no chunk of ice, no matter how big or small ever goes missing from God. They’re always on God’s radar and so are you. He’ll never let you go missing.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for always being with us. No matter where we are you will be there to comfort and guide us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Before You Go

If you’d like more activity ideas and devotions for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to 5 Ways Art Benefits Children’s Cognitive, Physical, Spiritual, and Social Development, with a Few Fun and Easy Activities for each Benefit

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages. Add link

Molly and I hope you enjoyed this devotion based on The Icebergs by Frederick Edwin Church. Come on back next week for an art activity based on the painting.

 

Lost and Found, The Icebergs by Frederick Edwin Church

How could The Icebergs, a 5-foot tall and 9-foot wide painting, be lost for nearly a hundred years?    In plain sight! That’s how.

Read on to:

  • Find helpful vocabulary
  • Learn a little about Frederick Edwin Church
  • Learn the story of this once lost masterpiece
  • See activities to help you and your children explore and enjoy The Icebergs
  • A cute photo of Molly, the Artsy Corgi

Vocabulary

These words, which will be in bold green the first time they come up, will help you and your children talk more easily about different parts of a painting.

  • landscape a painting of land, trees, etc. may have some people and buildings, but these aren’t the focus
  • sketch a quick, non-detailed drawing or painting that artists use as studies for more finished works
  • foreground, middle ground, background art words for the front, middle, and back parts of a painting.
  • Horizon where the land or water meets the sky

The Artist

Frederick Edwin Church, (1826-1900) was one of the very few students of Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School of landscape artists. (check out other posts I’ve written about the Hudson River artists)

Like others in the group, Church first painted landscapes along the Hudson River and in other rural areas of New York and New England. In 1857 he hit fame with his 7-foot-wide painting of the Horseshoe Falls of Niagara. Water rushing away from the bottom edge of the painting (which was set at floor level) makes viewers like they’re about to tumble over the falls. Church exhibited Niagara by itself in a gallery in NYC and thousands paid 25 cents to sit in front of it and view the rainbow, mist, and foaming waters.

Church’s interest in science and exploration soon took him to South America to climb mountains and trudge through tropical rain forests,

Heart of the Andes by Frederick Edwin Church, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, public domain

to Italy and Greece to study ancient ruins, and to the Middle East to ride camels to reach the fabled city of Petra.

El Khasne, Petra by Frederick Edwin Church, Olana State Historical Site, public domain

From pencil and oil sketches in these places, he painted huge landscape masterpieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For The Icebergs, Church chartered a small sailing ship for a month-long summer expedition to the waters off the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador. From the ship he used a rowboat to get closer to the icebergs so he could do pencil and oil sketches. The sailors thought he was crazy to go so close.

The Painting

The Icebergs by Frederick Edwin Church, Dallas Museum of Art, public domain

Church finished the final Icebergs painting and displayed it before crowds in NYC and Boston, just as he had Niagara. But the Civil War had just begun, and Church couldn’t find a buyer for the huge painting, so he sent it to be exhibited in London. After its successful exhibit, a businessman from Manchester, England bought The Icebergs and installed it in his country estate.

The estate was bought and sold many times over the years, eventually becoming the property of the City of Manchester. At different times the city used the house for a hospital and an orphanage. By 1978 it was a detention home for boys. Except for a short stay at a church that gave it back, The Icebergs remained with the property all those years, because no one knew its true worth. Though many art experts wondered what had happened to the painting, it hung dusty and forgotten, but in plain view, on a little-used stairway.

Then in 1978, the home’s administrator decided to sell the painting to raise a little money to buy some land. Suddenly the world rediscovered Church’s masterpiece. And it didn’t just raise a little money, it sold for 2.5 million dollars at auction (setting a record for American paintings) to an anonymous buyer who donated it to the Dallas Museum of Art, where it remains today, welcoming visitors to the American Art wing.

Activities to Help You and Your Children further Explore The Icebergs

Before doing any other activities, ask children to tell what’s going on in the painting and what tells them that. Enhance their observational and verbal skills by rephrasing words and adding new vocabulary.

  • Help them notice how the foreground ice formation frames the iceberg in the middle ground.
  • Point out how Church has highlighted that middle ground iceberg with sunlight.
  • Encourage them to look way into the background at the distant horizon to see more icebergs.

Though we might expect a painting of icebergs to be mostly white, Church’s interest in science as well as his artistic training, helped him look carefully to see many colors reflected in the towering icebergs.

A friend of Church, who was a pastor, wrote this description of what he saw as he accompanied Church in the rowboat, “the steepled icebergs ,a vast metropolis in ice, pearly white and red as roses glittering in the sunset.” Pastor Louis Noble.

Go to this link to The Icebergs at the Dallas Art Museum and enlarge and scan around the painting,

  • Encourage children to see the details. Have them call out or write down the colors they see.
  • Older children might enjoy coming up with similes for the different colors and textures they see. For example, parts of the iceberg look like peaks of white frosting.

Before You Go

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to 5 Ways Art Benefits Children’s Cognitive, Physical, Spiritual, and Social Development, with a Few Fun and Easy Activities for each Benefit

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages. Add link

Pictures of Molly

Molly and I took some photos on a cold day here in Colorado a few days ago. It was so cold that frost and snow froze instantly on every surface! We hope you enjoy them

And we hope you enjoy this first post in a series about Frederick Edwin Church. Next week we’ll have a devotion based on the painting or Church’s life and work.

If you’re new to my blog, this is what you’ll usually find in each month-long series. One post will come each week, usually followed by a newsletter the last week:

Post 1 will engage your children’s minds in art appreciation activities. with background information about the artist and artwork with pictures and links for you.  Then I’ll give you some kid-friendly activities to help you and your children enjoy and appreciate the artwork.

Post 2 will engage your children’s hearts in a kid-friendly devotion based on the artwork.

Post 3 will engage children’s hands in an art activity based on the artwork. There are always suggestions to make the activities doable for a range of ages.

Post 4 may be related books to read or an interview with a children’s author. I include picture books as well as middle grade books.

In my end-of-month newsletter, you’ll find lots of ideas and links to help you make connections to other subjects related to the month’s artwork and artist. I hope this format will help you with games, lessons, and activities to engage your children’s minds, hearts, and hands in learning about and enjoying art.

Glittery Angel Art Project Based on Fra Angelico’s Painting of the Annunciation

Angels surrounded the coming of Immanuel. The Archangel Gabriel announced His coming birth to Mary. An angelic host appeared to the shepherds on the night of His birth. Children will enjoy making glittery angels to display on a Christmas tree or table and remind us of the angels who sang at Christ’s birth.

In this post you’ll find:

  • Supply list
  • Step-by-step directions
  • Examples of angels done by 1st graders this year
  • Helpful hints
  • Clean-up tips
  • Variations and/or adaptations for different ages
  • Molly Photo

Let’s get started!

Supplies:

 

  • Inexpensive white paper plates—the kind with rippled edges (coated or foam plates don’t work with the watercolor paints)
  • Watercolor paints
  • A fairly large paint brush
  • Tissue paper—white or light-colored
  • A copy of Hark the Herald Angels Sing music
  • Scissors, pencils, glue
  • Thin markers, colored pencils, crayons
  • Gold paper for halo
  • Glitter
  • Optional, clothespin

 

Directions:

  1. Wet paper plate all over with clear water (don’t soak it but make sure it’s wet)
  2. With a wet, but not dripping brush gather some paint and run the brush over a short section of the rippled edge. Allow the paint to run down onto the plate center.
  3. Repeat step 2 with other colors, swirling the plate a little so the colors mix in the center of the plate.
  4. Set plate aside to dry
  5. Cut an angel pattern from an extra paper plate (see photo)
  6. Use the pattern to cut an angel with its wings from the dry plate. Choose the part of the plate you like best.
  7. Cut a robe from colored paper or sheet music
  8. Cut a cape from the tissue paper.
  9. Glue the robe with the music to the angel’s body.  
  10. Glue the tissue robe on top of the music robe (Just glue both of these along the top so they look like fabric)
  11. Use colored pencils or thin markers to make the angel’s face
  12. Add a halo of gold-colored paper behind the angel’s head
  13. To add glitter, spread a thin layer of white glue wherever you want glitter. In a shallow box or over a large plate, shake the glitter over the glue areas. Allow glitter and glue to dry then shake off excess glitter into the box or waste basket

Examples of angels done by my 1st graders in art this year!

Helpful Hints:

  • It’s fun to swirl the paint on the plates, but stop before the colors become muddy.
  • You may have to experiment with several plates to learn how much water to use. (too much water and colors will be too light. Too little water and colors won’t flow and mix)
  • Rinse and partly dry your brush between colors

Variations and/or adaptations for different ages:

  • Younger children may need to watch once as an older child or adult applies the paint
  • Younger children may also need help cutting out the angel
  • Many children will enjoy experimenting and doing several plates.
  • Attach a clothespin to the back of the angel, if you wish, to hang on the tree

Clean up Hints:

  • Be sure to put a plastic table cloth or large paper under your work
  • Wax paper under items you’re putting glue on keeps them from sticking
  • When using glitter, place a clean sheet of paper or a large box to catch the glitter. It speeds cleanup and you may be able to return the unused glitter to its container.
  • Have a wastebasket handy for trash
  • Wash and lay brushes flat on paper towels to dry so they keep their shape
  • Leave paint set open until paint pans have dried.

 Before You Go

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide about how art benefits children cognitively, physically, spiritually, and socially, along with some fun and easy art activities.

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages, patterns for Christmas projects, and coloring pages for kids. You’ll also find an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages. http://www.kathy-oneill.com/

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Molly the Artsy Corgi and I wish you a joyous Christmas! May your angels remind you to celebrate the birth of our Lord, just as the angels did!

Molly and I will be taking a short break for the holidays, but we hope to see you back here for more great art and art projects in the New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

Pause from the Hustle and Bustle to Glimpse the True Meaning of Christmas in Fra Angelico’s Annunciation Painting

This year many of us are back to a more normal and busy season of shopping, decorating, and preparing for Christmas! What a blessing after many months apart, but sometimes the hustle and bustle becomes overwhelming and takes our eyes off the true meaning of Christmas.

In the Renaissance Florence, Italy was a city filled with hustle and bustle. It was a major center for weaving and dying wool and silk, and merchants made lots of money exporting their cloth all over Europe.

Their wealth helped fuel the Renaissance. Florence produced some of the most famous artists of all time:

Ghiberti (the bronze doors of the Baptistry), Brunelleschi (the architect who finally figured out how to build a dome big enough for Florence’s cathedral),

St. George, Donatello

Donatello (revolutionized sculpture with relaxed poses and realistic figures),

and of course Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

A few years before the pandemic my husband and I joined the thousands of tourists who daily spill out of trains into Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station and into a city still filled with hustle and bustle.

Getting our bearings outside Santa Maria Novella train station

Long lines await those who come to tour Florence’s Duomo (cathedral), gaze at the masterpieces by Leonardo and Botticelli at the Uffizi Art Gallery,

The Uffizi, author photo

Madonna and Child by Botticelli, photo by author

and see Michelangelo’s statue of David at the Accademia.

Not to be outdone, Florence’s streets are a shopper’s paradise. High-end fashions, gold jewelry, and home goods fill stores and overflow into big outdoor markets. Venders of leather products are everywhere, making it a toss-up whether the sales pitch, or the smell of leather is stronger!

Florence bustles even more at night. Families with babies in strollers and dogs on leashes emerge for their evening passeggiata, (stroll), joining tourists still snapping photos. Everyone throngs the streets, walking, shopping, visiting, and dining in outdoor restaurants. In every piazza (square), street musicians and puppeteers draw happy crowds. It’s fun, but can become overwhelming.

After a couple days we wanted a quiet place to refresh our tired minds and bodies and found it at the Museum of San Marco in what was once a Dominican monastery.

Surrounding a quiet cloister is some of the most beautiful art in Florence, though few people know about it. A cloister sometimes refers to a whole monastery, but is technically the covered walkway around a peaceful garden that the monastery buildings surround.

In the 1430s Dominican monks took over the monastery, dating from a much earlier time, and began renovations. One of the friars, Fra Giovanni, soon known as Fra Angelico, painted frescoes of the life of Christ throughout the monastery and in each of the monks’ cells (rooms).

In fresco painting, paint is applied to a freshly plastered wall, becoming part of the wall itself as plaster and paint dry together.

Once only monks could see Fra Angelco’s frescoes, but today anyone can wander through the quiet halls, looking into each small cell to see brightly colored frescoes of Jesus’ life on the otherwise plain walls.

One large fresco, The Annunciation, once greeted the monks, and now greets us, at the top of the stairs to the monks’ cells. Because the stairs turn a corner, we didn’t see the fresco until we were right below it. Then it filled our eyes as we climbed the last few stairs.

Fra Angelico’s Annunciation is a beautiful annunciation painting, showing a moment of quiet serenity in a cloister like the one downstairs. The archangel, Gabriel, bows before Mary to announce that she will bear the Christ Child, and Mary folds her arms in humble submission to God’s will.

The Annunciation, by Fra Angelico, Museum of San Marco, Florence, Italy, author photo

The fresco is part of a plain wall. It has no elaborate frame, but the simplicity of the painted columns and arches create lights and shadows that draw us into its painted space. They frame the serene Annunciation in beauty as no gilded frame could.

Archangel Gabriel’s colorful wings and gold embroidered robe catch our attention next. The robe drapes in graceful folds, showing rich shades and tints of pink.

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico, detail. author photo

That pink repeats in just two other places—the floor of the open cell behind Mary and on her headband. The repetition of pink takes our gaze from Gabriel to the woman seated on a humble wooden stool. Mary’s plain, white robe contrasts with her dark blue mantle and frames her face and folded arms.

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico, detail. author photo

Fra Angelico didn’t want us to miss her sweet expression and submissive gesture.

Behind Gabriel in the fresco, a garden blooms with delicate flowers and lush greenery. A walled garden in annunciation paintings symbolized Mary’s purity and virginity. It also reminded viewers of the Garden of Eden and what mankind lost when Adam and Eve sinned.

The Annunciation, by Fra Angelico, Museum of San Marco, Florence, Italy, author photo

Devotion, based on Luke 1:26-38

Fra Angelico eventually became prior of the monastery of San Marco. The Dominican order was founded, as were the Franciscans, as Europe transitioned from a mostly rural economy to a time of more trade and bigger cities. Traditional, often rural, monasteries and monks couldn’t easily help city dwellers.

Dominicans and Franciscans didn’t stay in their cloisters. They went out into the busy city streets to preach the gospel in down-to-earth sermons and minister to people in need. During the years of the Black Death thousands of friars died caring for the sick.

When the San Marco friars returned at the end of a busy day, they would pass through the quiet cloister and trudge up many stairs to their cells.

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico Museum of San Marco, Florence, Italy, author photo

  • As they turned the corner and Fra Angelico’s fresco of The Archangel Gabriel coming to Mary filled their eyes, were they reminded of the vast splendor of God and His heaven?
  • When they looked at Mary, did they share her attitude of humility and submission to be obedient to God’s call?
  • When they looked at the garden, did they think of the Garden of Eden and mankind’s fall into sin and separation from God?
  • When they looked at the cloister and thought of their own cloister downstairs, did they long for a permanent rest from their labors, especially against their own and others’ sins?
  • Did they stand in awe of the amazing love and grace God has given us in the gift of His Son?
  • Were they amazed anew by the miracle of God taking on human flesh and being born of a virgin to dwell among His people?
  • And did they praise God for opening the Way to return to a renewed and eternal garden of peace with God through faith in Christ’s perfect life, sacrificial death, and resurrection?

Most of us today can’t withdraw into a monastery to get away from the hustle and bustle of the materialistic holiday season.

But perhaps we can daily find a little quiet space and time to think on God’s splendor, our humble estate, our longing for a permanent rest from struggling with our own sin and a sinful world, and praise God for opening the Way through Christ back to the Garden!

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Molly and I hope you’ll come back for just one more post in December for an angel art project for your children. It’s so simple, yet bright and beautiful, you will want to display it on your tree or table!

 

 

Interview with Children’s Author Nancy I. Sanders

Molly and I are pleased today  to tell you about a wonderful bedtime  story for children, called Bedtime With Mommy.

To help us, we’re hosting its author, Nancy I. Sanders, on our blog today! Nancy has written numerous children’s books, and her latest is called Bedtime with Mommy. Nancy is a Mom and Grandma, so she knows how important those last snuggles before bed are for little ones. Bedtime with Mommy is sure to become a favorite with your child or grandchild, so let’s meet Nancy and learn how she came to write this cute board book!

Welcome, Nancy, to Kathy the Picture Lady blog!

Q: Please tell us a little about yourself and how you began writing.

A: I’ve always loved reading, so when my two sons were little and I began reading infant board books to them, I wanted to write books just like that. Little did I know that 35 years and more than 100 children’s books later in a variety of genres, I’d finally get to write a board book, too! The beautifully illustrated padded board book, Bedtime With Mommy (published by End Game Press) arrived just in time this fall to celebrate my granddaughter’s first birthday.

What a special way to celebrate your granddaughter’s birthday! I’m sure she loved snuggling in to read your book!

Q: What’s your favorite “Mommy” memory from your childhood?

A: I’m the youngest of seven children and grew up on a dairy farm. One of my favorite memories of my mother was when I was a preschooler. I remember waking up many times in the early hours of dawn when I heard my father leave the house for the morning milking as he headed up to the barn. I’d climb out of the double bed I shared with my older sister, tiptoe through another sister’s bedroom, and arrive at my parent’s bedroom. I’d climb into bed and snuggle with my mother, falling asleep for a short time in her arms before she had to get up and start cooking a full breakfast for our household of nine. I cherish that memory even today!

This is such a wonderful memory to cherish, and I bet it contributed to your idea for Bedtime with Mommy.

Q: Did you have a pet when you were a child?

A: Living on a 750-acre farm just a mile out of town, our barn became a drop-off place for unwanted cats, kittens, and dogs. My father had a policy about these unexpected abandoned pets—all were welcome! Twice a day during milking time, Dad filled up a huge roasting pan with dogfood and milk and all were well fed. In exchange, the cats helped keep the rats out of the hay mow and the dogs helped keep the groundhogs out of the fields. From Bassett hound to collies to a fluffy orange Angora cat, I have many happy memories of countless dogs and cats and we loved them all!

How fun to have so many dogs and cats to love!

Q: What was your favorite thing to do as a child?

A: It was seasonal. In the winter, I loved to ice skate on the pond and roast marshmallows with my brother and five sisters at the nearby bonfire. In the spring my oldest sister led us on hikes to visit the vernal pools to find the tadpoles. Summer days were spent digging up prized arrowheads from the ancient Iroquois trail that ran through our property. And in the Fall we’d climb the pear trees and wild apple trees to collect fruit for applesauce and tarts.

Ice skating was one of my favorite things to do in the winter, too! I grew up in Maine and we had lots of ice for skating!

Q: What were some of your favorite childhood books?

A: Oooohhh, I have so many favorite “friends” from childhood. Our house was overflowing with books. We even had a bookcase of books in the bathroom! Here are a few that come to mind: Charlotte’s Web. Winnie the Pooh. The Secret Garden. The Jungle Book. Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series. Little Women. Freckles. Here’s a photo from my blog where you can see the childhood copies I still own today.

I love how you describe your house as overflowing with books!

Q: What is something not too many people know about you?

A: My husband Jeff and I play in a community orchestra that welcomes all levels of skill. (In the photo, we’re sitting on the left at the back of the stage behind the timpani.) Jeff plays the double bass. I played marimba in high school so now I’m one of the percussionists and help play glockenspiel, claves, the guiro, cymbal, timpani, and any other part a classical piece calls for. My favorite concert was when we performed the Nutcracker Suite a couple of years ago. I got to play the tambourine for the Russian dance!

As a percussionist, you have to have a good sense of rhythm, which I’m sure helps you when you write in rhyme!

Q: What do you like to do now for fun?

A: Writing is always my first choice for fun! But my husband and I also like to go camping at the nearby beaches or mountains. We also raise monarch butterflies in our backyard milkweed patch. I’m a Citizen Scientist and help track birds that visit our backyard. We’re right next to a riverbed that flows to the ocean and get some interesting varieties even though we live in the suburbs of Los Angeles.

Raising monarchs and tracking birds sounds like lots of fun!

Q: What inspired you to write Bedtime with Mommy?

A: We have four grandkids and reading a book (or more!) at bedtime is a big deal. I wanted to write a bedtime board book about the special relationship a mother and child have. My hope is that this book becomes a favorite.

Bedtime with Mommy shows that relationship so well. I think it will quickly become a favorite bedtime book!

Q: Bedtime with Mommy has so many delightful pictures of mommy animals and their babies from all around the world. Do you have a favorite from the book?

A: The panda Mommy and baby are so sweet. The illustrator, Felia Hanakata did such a wonderful job. Plus I love the words:

It’s bedtime in the FOREST.

Bamboo stands tall and straight.

My mommy shares a bedtime snack

Before it gets too late.

 I hold my special Bible.

We find my favorite Psalm.

We read about God’s promises.

I’m peaceful now and calm.

Q: Bedtime with Mommy is written in rhyme. What do you enjoy most about writing in rhyme?

A: The best part about writing in rhyme is when you’ve worked hard over days and weeks on one particular stanza and filled pages with notes and potential word pairs. Then suddenly there comes that magical moment when you read the stanza out loud and it practically sings because the rhythm and rhyme finally metamorphosize and come together.

Q: I love how you weave prayers and songs into the story! And that the book ends with a human mommy tucking her child into bed. Do you have any suggestions for parents or grandparents to help children enjoy Bedtime with Mommy and share God’s love with little children?

A:  Bedtime is such a prime time to share God’s love on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or wait until everything’s perfect. It can start tonight. Just say a simple prayer as you tuck your little one into bed. Or choose a faith-filled book such as Bedtime with Mommy and read it to them before you kiss them goodnight. You can sing a praise song together as you’re helping them into their jammies. Or tape a Bible memory verse on the bathroom mirror and say it together as they’re brushing their teeth. And of course if you already have a bedtime routine, you can weave in all these wonderful faith-filled moments and more!

These are wonderful ideas, Nancy! I’m sure parents and grandparents will love them.

Q: You’ve written so many wonderful books for children. Can you tell us a little about any new projects you’re working on?

A: I just signed the contract for the next book in the series, Bedtime with Daddy! So be sure to watch for it next Fall in September, 2022!

Molly and I will be sure to watch for Bedtime with Daddy!

Thank you so much, Nancy for sharing with our readers about Bedtime with Mommy! While Molly and I snuggle down to read it together, would you tell our readers where they can learn more about you and your books.

A: At my website at www.nancyisanders.com.

And I love to connect with readers online! Here’s where you can find me on the Internet. Please follow me if you’re on these platforms and like my pages!

Blogzone (for writers): https://nancyisanders.wordpress.com

Christian Children’s Authors: https://christianchildrensauthors.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nancyisanders

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nancyisanders

Facebook Author’s Page: https://www.facebook.com/NancyI.SandersAuthorPage/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NancyISanders

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/nancyisanders/

Amazon Author’s Page: www.amazon.com/author/nancysanders

Teachers Pay Teachers: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Teacher-Plus-Writer

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/95924.Nancy_I_Sanders

Linked in: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nancyisanders/

 

 

 

 

 

Set Your Thanksgiving Table with a Devotion and Art Activity Based on Saying Grace by Jean-Simeon Chardin

Let’s set our Thanksgiving table with a cute children’s art activity and devotion that will encourage your family to thank God for all their blessings. 

As always, there’s a cute Molly the Artsy Corgi picture at the end with more things you can do.

The Devotion

Let’s look again at Chardin’s painting, Saying Grace, the moment when the children are thanking God for their meal.

Saying Grace, Jean-Simeon Chardin, 1744, The Hermitage, public domain

Do you think this is a special day or a normal one when the mother has called the children from their play for lunch or supper?

What food has the mother cooked?

That’s right–just a normal day with a simple meal of soup, but the mother and children are taking time to fold their hands and thank God for providing for their daily needs, as Jesus teaches us to do in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:11).

You may need to explain that in the Lord’s Prayer, “our daily bread” symbolizes all our daily needs.

Read James 1:17 and ask children to list some of the daily needs and blessings God provides for them.

Read Luke 18:15-17 and point out that, like the people in the Bible, the mother in the painting is teaching her children that they can go to Jesus to talk with Him and thank Him for His care. They don’t have to wait until they’re older.

Invite your children to tell about a time they went to Jesus with a prayer.

Chardin could have shown the mother saying grace before the meal, but his focus is on the children, perhaps to emphasize that we are all like children, dependent on God, who made us. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture, and we must come humbly into His presence with thanksgiving and praise for His loving care.

Read Psalm 100 together.

We know we don’t need to fold our hands or close our eyes to talk to God, but the mother has taught her children to sometimes fold their hands like this for prayer.

We see this same position in the iconic Praying Hands by Albrecht Durer. It’s as if our hands become a church steeple pointing to God, which may just remind us that we can always look up to our heavenly Father who is good and whose love endures forever (Psalm 100:5).

Praying Hands by Albrecht Durer, public domain

Prayer: We praise you, Lord, that we are the sheep of your pasture. Thank you that we can bring every need to you, and you love and provide for us each day. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

The Art Project, Praying Hands

Praying hands for thanksgiving table

This simple project will remind your children that their praying hands can be like a steeple pointing to God as we bring our praises and requests to Him.

It can be done with crayons in about 15 minutes, so could be a simple project to engage children as they wait for dinner on Thanksgiving Day. But I’ll also explain an extra step you can do if you have time and don’t mind a little mess.

 At the Thanksgiving table guests may write prayer requests or praises on slips of paper and put these in the bottom of the bag under the praying hands.

Supplies:

  • brown, white, or Thanksgiving-motif paper lunch bags
  • scissors
  • pencils
  • glue
  • crayons or markers
  • Tempera paint, a largish brush, and paper towels if you want to do the extra step

Directions

  1. Place a folded paper bag flat on the table with the folded bottom of the bag facing up
  2. Have child place his or her hand flat on the bag with finger tips pointed toward the top of the bag and their wrist at the upper edge of the folded bag bottom
  3. With a pencil, trace around the child’s hand
  4. Keeping the bag folded, cut in from the sides of the bag (just above the folded bag bottom) to the child’s wrist line. Then cut up and around the traced hand (through both thicknesses of the bag) and out to the bag’s other edge on the other side of the hand
  5. The child may then decorate or color the hands. Most want to add rings, fingernails, watches, etc.
  6. Open the bag
  7. To form the praying hands, glue the tips of the fingers together. (just a little glue so you can still put things into the bottom of the bag)

The extra step:

  1. Before opening the bag, fold the two hands away from each other and the bag bottom
  2. Spread a thin layer of paint on the child’s hands and help them make hand prints on what will be the inside or palm of their praying hands
  3. They need to hold their hand still, fingers together, and just press down gently
  4. They will also need to do each hand separately so thumbs and fingers match

Helpful Hints

  • When tracing the child’s hand, have them keep their fingers mostly together, although you’ll want to draw the lines between their fingers.
  • If you’re not sure how much paint to use for the hand prints, have some scrap paper handy and do a couple trial prints

Cleanup tips

If you decide to do the hand prints, as you finish printing with each of the child’s hands, fold a paper towel into their hand to hold until you get them to wherever you’ll wash up

Before You Go

Are you looking for a kid’s devotion for fall that’s all about God’s care for butterflies and us? Visit Devokids for a children’s devotion I wrote. It’s called, Get Ready, Butterflies! Winter’s Coming!.

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for you whole family!

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

Molly and I hope this devotion and activity based on Saying Grace has been a blessing as you prepare for Thanksgiving. We put them together so you and your children would have plenty of time to go through the devotion and make the craft before Thanksgiving.  

We hope you’ll come back next time for an interview with Nancy Sanders about her new children’s book, Bedtime with Mommy.

Saying Grace by Jean-Siméon Chardin

Our November artist, Jean-Siméon Chardin, lavished time and great care on still life paintings of foods and genre scenes of everyday children and families. So what better artist for November, when we in the United States gather for a special Thanksgiving feast with family and friends, and give thanks to God for His blessings?

We’ll look briefly at a couple of Chardin’s still lifes and spend most of our time on the genre scene called Saying Grace.

Read on to:

  • Learn a little about Jean Siméon Chardin (Shar dan)
  • Be delighted by his paintings
  • See activities to help you and your children explore and enjoy Chardin’s work
  • See a photo of Molly, the Artsy Corgi

The Artist 

Chardin (1699- 1779) was born in Paris and never lived anywhere else. The son of a carpenter, Chardin was apprenticed at about 14 to a history painter. Even though he never traveled to Rome or the Netherlands, Chardin could study the works of artists from all over Europe in the various private collections and art markets of Paris.

He went on to join the Academie de Saint Luc (Luke) and open his own studio. (Luke, the gospel writer, was once considered the patron saint of artists, so artist guilds were named for him). Membership in such a guild was usually required for an artist to sell his or her work to the public and to have apprentices.

Though he trained with a history painter, Chardin never had an interest in that type of art. He also resisted the highly decorative rococo style popular in France at that time. Instead Chardin painted still lifes and genre scenes of everyday French people.

Near the end of his life, when his eyesight was failing, Chardin did some beautiful pastel portraits, such as the one of himself working at an easel. Look closely at his eyes and see that he’s looking at himself in a mirror before continuing his self-portrait. Don’t you just love those enormous round glasses? And his curious head gear?

Chardin, pastel self-portrait at an easel,1779, The Louvre, public domain

Chardin’s warm, expressive paintings were loved and bought by collectors across Europe and today are in numerous museums.

The Paintings

In Chardin’s work we see influences from the still life and genre art of The Netherlands in the 1600s. Like Dutch artists, such as Maria van Oosterwyck (see my post about her in March, 2021), Chardin lavished his talents on making still lifes realistic. The many intricate shapes and the red accents catch your attention. His still lifes show off gleaming silver and delicate china. You feel as if you could reach out and touch the fuzzy surface of a peach or the ridges of a walnut sitting in its shell. In the Basket of Peaches the knife handle seems to jut out into our space, showing Chardin’s mastery of perspective.

The Preparations of a Lunch, Jean-Simeon Chardin, 1756, Musee des Beaux-Arts de Carcassonne, public domain

Basket of Peaches with Walnuts, Knife, and a Glass of Wine, Jean-Simeon Chardin, 1768, The Louvre, public domain

In Chardin’s genre paintings, we catch glimpses of the clothing and interior settings of middle-class French people. We see women check a child’s lessons, arrive home with food from the market, and children play with tops and blow bubbles—all things we and our children can identify with.

In Saying Grace, a mother is putting a meal on the table for her 2 children, who look like they’ve just stopped their play. Notice the drum hanging on the front chair. Chardin’s colors are warm and inviting—muted reds, warm browns, and a rich teal blue.

Saying Grace, Jean-Simeon Chardin, 1744, The Hermitage, public domain

Apparently the mother has just asked the smaller child to say grace, and she gazes lovingly at the child’s hands folded in prayer.

Activities to Help You and Your Children further explore Saying Grace

Before doing any other activities, ask children to tell what’s going on in the paintings and what tells them that. Enhance their observational and verbal skills by rephrasing words and adding new vocabulary. Here are some things to notice:

  • What do they think the small pot and pan in the foreground are? (Probably the pot holds coals from a stove or fireplace to warm people’s feet, and the long-handled pan carries the live coals to and from.
  • Encourage children to see how the reds on the smaller child’s skirt and hat are repeated on the chairs and inside the foot warmer. That catches our attention and moves our eyes around the painting.
  • What do they think about the little chair the child is sitting in? How will the child reach the table to eat?

Further Exploration:

This genre painting is so true to its 1700s time period in France, that you and your children may be interested to learn and discuss some of the following:

  1. Did they notice the very pointy shoes the mother’s wearing?
  2. Children may also be interested to know that the small child in the foreground may be a boy. From the 1500s to the early 1900s, little boys usually wore skirts just like girls. This made potty training easier, as pants of that time often had rather intricate fastenings (zippers weren’t invented until the late 1800s and only came into use in men’s and children’s clothing in the 1920s and 30s). So for a long time boys wore dresses until somewhere between 2 and 8. When they reached the age to wear pants, there might be a celebration of this milestone in growing up.
  3. Certain styles of hats, belts, less lace, darker colors, etc. all help art historians decide if a young child is a girl or boy. But since clothes were expensive to make or buy, parents would often hand down clothes as needed, despite style, so it’s hard to be sure.
  4. Children may enjoy looking at a couple other of Chardin’s  paintings of children  here and here
  5. Older children may enjoy researching clothing styles through the centuries. Here are a few questions to get them thinking:
  • How often were pointy shoes in style?
  • When and why did men begin wearing pants.
  • What are some other names for pants?
  • When was the zipper invented and when did it first get used in clothes?
  • What about buttons and pockets?

Before You Go

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpieces for you whole family!

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

Molly’s wearing her French beret and posing with a pumpkin in honor of Thanksgiving and Chardin’s work. She and I hope you enjoyed this peek into the ordinary life of 18th-century France, and will come back next time for a Devotion based on Chardin’s painting, Saying Grace.