One of the habits we work on in our homeschooling life is art appreciation, which takes several forms. We listen to music and “imaginate” what might be happening (i.e. “this sounds like something small and fast, scurrying quickly” or “this sounds like a graceful dolphin” or my favorite from my five year old “I’m imaginating green flamingos throwing pumpkins!”). We look at art in books and try to create our own works in similar styles (using an extremely cool book which I highly recommend Art Treasury); and we study an artist each term, following the Ambleside Online curriculum (here’s a link to their artists and composers for the 2012-2013 year). I simply print a copy of each work, put it in a page protector and over breakfast for a few days we look at and comment on each piece. Last year (for first grade and pre-school), we simply viewed and had a brief discussion about each piece. This year I’m stepping it up a notch, and coaxing a narration from my seven year old. I want her to be able to tell me about the piece, and I type while she talks. We’ve done this for one piece so far.
This week’s challenge from my new favorite blog The Daily Post is And now for something completely different. The challenge is to write something out of your comfort zone, to try a different style that you are not as comfortable with. In that spirit, I bring you my own narration about the painting “La Loge” by August Renoir.
For starters, it is very hard for me not to immediately google both Renior and La Loge to find out as much background information as possible. However, since my seven year old can’t do that, I figure I have to play by my own rules for her and simply look at the picture. Painting. I have to remind myself this is a painting (probably very large) and not simply a color copy on 8 1/2 by 11 page. Anyway…back to the picture. Painting.
Now that it is my turn to produce a narration, I sympathize with my daughter when she gives me a blank look; where to start? Well, there are a woman and a man in this painting. They appear to be at the theater (not bird watching as my five year old suggested – too dressed up for that). They each have a pair of opera glasses, his are more obvious than hers. I find it interesting that he is seated behind her and is more reclined. He appears more relaxed, yet he is the one using the glasses. Is he relaxed in an inattentive way, scoping out things other than the stage? Or is he comfortable and soaking in the whole experience? She on the other hand seems less relaxed and I cannot discern if she is focused on the performance, or she is ill at ease. My kids thought she looked sad, and my daughter suggested maybe she was watching Romeo and Juliet (which she just read (a child’s version of) and burst into tears at the end…”I really hate these murder stories!” she sobbed). I don’t know if the couple is actively watching a show or simply waiting for the performance to begin. I’m also assuming they are a couple, but I notice that they are not paying attention to one another.
This is an impressionist piece of art (that much I know); French from the 1870’s (that detail came from the copy I am looking at). What I notice is that if I get too close, the details are blurry. If I back up (or look at it as a large painting, the way it was created) details seem to pop out; that’s when I noticed she also has a pair of opera glasses. She has a pocketbook of sorts in her lap, she has tissues in her left hand , she is wearing lots of pearls. Her eyes seem to be the clearest part of the whole painting while his are obscured by the glasses.
There are not a lot of colors to this piece; browns, black and white. The red of her flower and lips stand out. Her face nearly matches the white of her gown, which has lots of lace and frills. I’m assuming from the browns of the walls and seat (where her hand is resting) that this couple is in a box of some sort. I’m not sure if that was the common way of attending the theater, but they are very dressed up and I’m assuming that they are well-to-do.
The woman is definitely the focus of the work. Her eyes are the thing that is is focus, she is in the forefront. Her expression is mysterious and draws the viewer in. Is she happy? Is she merely reflecting the tenor of the performance or is her gaze indicative of her general emotional state? It would definitely be helpful for me to read some background on Renior, to know when he painted this and what is known about why. Authorial intent is a huge piece of the interpretive puzzle (duh) and I realize how handicapped I am without it. Having said that, it is interesting how much you can understand or at least intelligently speculate with some basic observational skills and a regular level of curiosity. May I never lose that for myself , or squelch it in my kids!