Ever Ancient Ever New Level 1 is the first course in a new series for teaching art history, art appreciation, art theory, and work with art media. The publisher recommends it as ideal for fifth grade but also for students up through eighth grade.
The course concentrates heavily but not exclusively upon religious art. The first of six units covers ancient art from cave art up through Roman art, so the art studied through these periods predates Christianity. The remaining five chapters reflect the largely religious nature of art up through the Renaissance, although other art is included such as Celtic, Viking, and Anglo Saxon art (from the 3rd through the 10th centuries A.D.) as well as a study of the Bayeux Tapestry (c. 1080 A.D. from England).
This is an unusually sophisticated and thorough course. The gorgeous, full-color textbook runs 364 pages. Each student will also need the companion Art Pad that will be used for most of the hands-on art activities.
Each of the 35 chapters in the book includes four sections titled: Art History, Picture Study, Art Theory, and Let’s Do Art! The four sections always “interact” with one another.
Art History sections cover the broad scope of art history, including historical events and their influence, representative media and styles for each period, major art works, and artists. The scope isn’t as broad as higher level art history texts. Instead, topics are selectively chosen to represent key developments and works in a chronological fashion, looking only at western civilization.
Picture Study sections sometimes shift to Sculpture Study, Ceramics Study, Architecture Study, or Stained Glass Study, but all of these are examinations of particular art works from the period or topic under study. Art Theory sections each teach about one or more elements of art such as color, form, value, texture as well as methods of composition. Art appreciation is developed within all three of these sections. Let’s Do Art! at the end of each chapter transfers the art theory taught into a hands-on project. Projects involve drawing, painting, working with tooling foil, and sculpting with aluminum foil.
There might be more than one segment for each of the four areas within one chapter. For example, in Chapter 8 on “The Art of Mosaics,” Art History refers back to the mosaics of the Greeks and Romans then shifts up to the mosaics of early Christians as exemplified in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (c. 430 A.D.). Two Picture Studies focus on two interior mosaics within that mausoleum. Art Theory addresses the color wheel and complementary and contrasting colors. Let’s Do Art! has students create an “Ice Cream Cone Color Wheel” as they learn to mix various colors to create additional colors. Chapter 19, a lengthier chapter on Romanesque Architecture, begins with a section on art history, “The Age of Cathedrals.” Next is an Architecture Study (rather than a Picture Study) of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Another Art History section on Medieval Portals follows next, focusing on the portals of this same cathedral. Yet another Art History section teaches about Romanesque Sculpture, featuring examples from Santiago Cathedral as well as one from The Abbey of Santo Domingo in Spain from the same era. There are certainly more Art History sections in this chapter than most with still another on Cathedral Floor Plans, again using Santiago Cathedral as the example. Art Theory then addresses the topic of symmetry using cathedral floor plans as the prime example while also identifying symmetry to varying extents in butterflies, faces, frogs, and other objects in the natural world. Let’s Do Art! presents a project that incorporates bilateral symmetry, positive and negative space, and color contrasts.
The Art Pad includes templates printed on particular types of paper for some of the projects as well as templates on regular paper. This is also where you find the instructions for each project. As far as art supplies, you will need some household items such as paper towels, pencils, tape, scissors, aluminum foil, salt, school glue, permanent black markers, colored markers, and crayons. You will also need some sheets of colored cardstock, colored pencils, liquid watercolor paints, a painter’s palette, various types of paint brushes, a sketchbook or pad of drawing paper, a metallic gold marker, tooling foil, tacky glue, watercolor paper, and a small package of craft jewels. (You can find the complete list in the Art Pad.) While the rest of the course requires no preparation time, art projects often will take some time to gather resources.
The course is written for a Catholic audience, but it might be equally appealing to Orthodox Christians, especially because of its extensive study of Byzantine art and icons. While there is much here that would appeal to all Christians, occasional references bring up points of division within Christianity such as on page 118 in the Picture Study of The Book of Kells where it describes the imagery: “The hosts and grape vines represent the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ. By connecting the symbol of the peacock with the Eucharist, the artist shows us that when Christ gives to us His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, He gives us a share in His eternal life.”
Many parents are concerned about the treatment of nudity in art history courses. I very much appreciate the approach taken in this course. A few nude art works are included, but only strategic sections are visible. For example, a section title is positioned over the mid-section of Adam in Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” in the Sistine Chapel, and images of Michelangelo’s statue of David focus on sections rather than showing the entire statue.
The book has a brief Art History Timeline plus a Glossary of Terms for reference, but it is missing an index.
While there are no formal tests for this book, there is a four-page pictorial quiz at the back of the book. Answers are provided two pages later. The author suggests that those who want to quiz students consider using terms from the glossary which are in a bold face when first used in the text. An oral or written quiz on those terms every few weeks might be appropriate in some situations.
While the publisher recommends this course for fifth graders, I enjoyed working through it even as an adult. Some art theory and a few art projects might be too simplistic for older students, but many are not. Overall, the quality of the course is remarkable. So much so that I think it well worth using Ever Ancient Ever New with students up through high school.