Ever Ancient Ever New: Art History, Appreciation, Theory, and Practice consists of two courses for teaching art history, art appreciation, art theory, and work with art media. Level 1 is ideal for fifth and sixth graders but also works for students up through ninth grade. Level 2 is recommended for grades six through nine, but can also be used with older students who have minimal knowledge of art history. Level 1 should be completed before starting Level 2 even though the second course briefly reviews some of the art history, theory, and skills from the first level.
Although the publisher recommends these courses for fifth graders through high school, I enjoyed reading them as an adult. Some art theory and a few art projects in Level 1 might be too simplistic for older students who have already studied art, but many are not. Level 2 will definitely challenge older students, even adults.
Courses concentrate heavily, but not exclusively, upon religious art. In Level 1, 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 units 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 11th centuries A.D. While paintings are the most prevalent art form studied, sculpture and architecture are included as well.
Level 2 begins with the Italian Renaissance (about 1490 A.D.) in the first unit and continues up through modern times with units on the Northern Renaissance, Reformation, and Counter-Reformation; the Dutch Golden Age; Catholic Baroque Art; Neoclassicism and Romanticism; Realism, Impressionism, and Modern Art; and American Art.
Because of the course's emphasis on religious art and religion's impact upon art, the unit on the Northern Renaissance, Reformation, and Counter-Reformation discusses topics such as the Reformation's influence on art. The fourth unit focuses entirely on the development of Catholic Baroque art, teaching about artists such as Rubens, van Dyck, Velazquez, and Murillo. Within the discussion of modern art, there's an extensive architecture study on Antoni Gaudí's intriguing Sagrada Família church in Barcelona, Spain that combines both Gothic and modern styles.
The gorgeous, full-color textbooks run 364 and 422 pages (Levels 1 and 2 respectively). In both books, each unit is divided into a number of chapters. Each chapter 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 instruction covers the broad scope of art history, including major historical events and their influence, representative media and styles for each period, major artworks, and artists. Topics are selectively chosen to represent key developments and artworks 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 artworks 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 in the previous sections into a hands-on project. Projects involve drawing, painting, working with tooling foil, and sculpting with aluminum foil in Level 1, while Level 2 teaches more sophisticated drawing (e.g. drawing the Divine Mercy image, portraits, and horses), applying advanced art theory, and working with pastels and acrylic paints. Students learn to imitate techniques and styles of famous artists to some extent.
There might be more than one section for one of the four areas within one chapter, and in rare instances, one section is omitted. For example, in Chapter 8 of Level 1 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. Two Picture Studies focus on two mosaics to illustrate the different eras. Art History sections might be added or omitted. For example, Level 2 skips the art history section in Chapter 26 since that chapter is a continuation with additional examples of realism, the topic introduced in Chapter 25. On the other hand, Chapter 19 has more Art History sections than do other chapters. This lengthy 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 the Architecture Study, 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.
Each student will also need the companion Art Pad book for each course that that will be used for most of the hands-on art activities. The Art Pads include templates printed on special 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, for Level 1 you will need some household items such as paper towels, pencils, tape, scissors, aluminum foil, salt, school glue, 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 Level 2 doesn't require foil, jewels, or watercolors, students will need good drawing pencils and acrylic paints along with other supplies such as those used in Level 1. Even though the rest of the course requires no preparation time, art projects often will take some time to gather resources.
The courses are written for a Catholic audience, but Level 1, in particular, 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 Level 1 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 artworks 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 textbooks each feature brief Art History Timelines and a Glossary of Terms for reference, but they do not have indexes.
While there are no formal tests, each book has a four-page quiz at the back, and answers are provided a few pages later. The author suggests that those who want to quiz students consider using terms from the glossary. An oral or written quiz on those terms every few weeks might be appropriate.
Overall, the quality of the courses is remarkable. Excellent content, beautiful presentation, and practical design all make these top-notch art courses.