History of Art: Creation to Contemporary is an art history, appreciation, and activity course for students in grades two through six. The course teaches about representative artwork from 32 art movements. Lessons are presented in chronological order with a focus on western culture and Christianity rather than the entire world. The goal is to give students a framework for understanding the different art movements in relation to their historical and cultural settings along with an introduction to selected artworks and artists. The 32 identified art movements in this course are sometimes historical or cultural periods (e.g., prehistoric, Greek, Byzantine, and Celtic) and sometimes more closely associated with a recognized art movement (e.g., Golden Dutch Age, American realism, impressionism, and cubism). Christian art is featured frequently, even showing up in the lesson on pop art.
The course consists of a set of 32, full-color flashcards and a workbook, both available as printed products are as ebooks viewable on VitalSource). Both items work together although the flashcards can be used on their own. Music and lyrics for “The Great Art Hist’ry Song” are at the back of the workbook. This song, sung to the tune of “Ode to Joy,” encapsulates all 32 art movements into four verses and should be used as a reinforcement and memory aid. As with many other classical courses, the goal is to teach students the grammar of art—basic information, vocabulary, and a framework upon which they can build in later years.
History of Art dovetails with Veritas Press’s history program, using similar color-coded strips at the tops of the flashcards and workbook pages to show the period of history. Veritas Press’s history courses for grades two through six each use a different set of 32 illustrated flashcards that highlight key people and events that form the backbone of the historical period studied each year. So there are five sets of history flashcards. History of Art has only one set of 32 flashcards covering the entire span of history. You can spread the study of art history over the five years it takes to cover the history. In the History of Art workbook, the introductory page for each art movement has a list of the corresponding history flashcards (with dates) for the time period, and the art card(s) are listed among the history cards to show where they fit chronologically. This makes it easy to pull in the art history cards (and lessons) over the five-year study of history. On the other hand, History of Art works fine as a stand-alone, one-year course.
The History of Art workbook and flashcards complement one another. The flashcards each have two images of artworks plus information about the two featured images as well as the time period, culture, religious influences, or actual movement which they represent.
The workbook has more than 300 pages, but you will probably want to remove the 32 pages with quizzes, the nine-page answer key, and the nine pages with cards for two games. In the workbook, each of the 32 lessons begins with an introduction. This includes the list of history and art cards that I mentioned earlier, a few vocabulary words with definitions, and images of one or two artworks—works not included on the flashcards. Every lesson has one or two worksheet pages with questions for students to answer with complete sentences. The answers can be found on either the flashcards or the introduction page for the lesson. You can use these questions for either written or oral responses, and there is space for children to write their answers in the workbook.
After this, the content of the lessons varies. There will always be at least one of four options: a hands-on art activity, an art study, a reading, or an “Artist of Faith” biographical sketch. Art activities vary in complexity from coloring a picture with a vase of flowers to making egg tempera paint to use on a drawing of an angel. Art studies are images and information to read about particular works of art. Readings are usually about topics such as perspective or the symbols used in paintings of various saints, but they sometimes address more narrow topics such as the reading “Warhol and Wyeth.” The two-page articles about Artists of Faith feature biographies of historical artists or interviews with contemporary artists along with images of some of their works of art. Some of the reading material is labeled for older students, so you won’t use all of the course content with younger children.
Every third lesson includes review. Often, the review asks students to identify works of art from the flashcards with the title, artist, date, and art movement. Weekly quizzes generally repeat questions from the worksheets.
A few other activities are included within the course. I mentioned the workbook pages with cards for two games, the Curator Game and Art Memory Game. There are also some great suggestions for a field trip to an art museum on page 224. Two activity pages follow. One is a form for a student report on a particular artwork that they find interesting. The other is for an Art Auction Game where students secretly write down four artworks in the museum they would buy at an art auction (assuming money is no problem) then compare their selections with others after the field trip.
History of Art can be easily adapted for different ages, perhaps even including students younger and older than the target audience of second through sixth grade. Many parents are concerned about nudity in art, and a few nude images are included here. However, they are carefully selected and presented to be less revealing than in other art history courses.
Christian content shows up throughout the course, including in the interview question asked of contemporary artists, “How does faith work itself out in your art?” While there are a couple of minor instances where a Protestant perspective is evident, such as in the reading about Albrecht Durer that reveals his sympathy for Martin Luther, the course is suitable for Catholic and Orthodox students as well.
Veritas Press sells the flashcards and workbook individually, but you might want to get their Art History 2-6: You Teach Kit that includes both items plus a PDF book with scripted lesson plans written for homeschooling parents.
While some classical approaches to teaching art in the elementary grades rely primarily on images and memorization, History of Art fleshes out lessons with interesting information that help students think about art movements and their relation to history, and it adds activities that make the learning fun.