Wednesday, September 16, 2015

In Our Book Basket: Rembrandt Resources

Picture study is very simple in our home. I choose an artist for each twelve-week term, and we study six of his paintings. At the moment we don't do a lot of learning about the artist, the focus is just on looking at the picture, becoming familiar with it, and storing it up in our "mind's eye." 
Since we do picture study once a week, this allows two weeks per painting chosen. The first week, we take five or ten minutes and just look at and talk about the picture. Then I put the picture on the wall or on a stand where it can be seen whenever anyone wants to look at it. The second week, we do a proper picture study and look at the painting until we can see it in our minds with our eyes closed. Then SA(7) and I describe it in detail, with occasional input from JJ(5). That's all there is to it right now.

This term, just on a whim, I decided to check if my library had any resources on the artist I chose: Rembrandt van Rijn. When the books came in I popped them into my library basket, intending to look at them more closely later. Later never fully came for me. What can I say? I'm a busy mom. But having them in the basket proved to be rewarding anyway.
JJ(5) discovered one of them, The World of Rembrandt, and pored over it for at least two days. Later, when I pulled out a print of "The Night Watch" for our picture study time, he jumped up with excitement, ran and got the book, and opened it to the same picture. But what surprised me the most was the morning two weeks later. I was reading the Acts 7 story of Stephen to the boys. JJ asked, "Excuse me, may I go get the book with that picture in it?" I gave my permission, expecting him to come back with an illustrated children's Bible or something similar. Instead, he came back with this book, opened to a black and white copy of Rembrandt's 1625 "Stoning of St. Stephen." I was amazed...this book is full of Rembrandt's paintings, most in full colour. Yet JJ recognized the story I was reading instantly and related it to one picture he had looked at long before.

Another worthy resource was Rembrandt: A Biography by Elizabeth Ripley. This was a lovely living book, well-written and engaging. It was completely illustrated with copies of Rembrandt's own paintings, though unfortunately these were all in black and white. (At least my library copy was...) I recommend this book for about age seven and up.

I also stumbled across Hana in the Time of Tulips, a lovely picture book about the tulip craze in Holland during the time of Rembrandt. It only had a brief reference to Rembrandt, but the boys were very excited to recognize his name in the book.

The last book I checked out was for me, not the children. Henri Nouwen's The Return of the Prodigal Son is a book about the spiritual impact Rembrandt's "The Return of the Prodigal Son" had on Nouwen's life. This type of meditation and seeing deep meaning in a painting was completely foreign to my own experience, yet I was moved and instructed by it. Being Protestant myself, I felt uncomfortable with some of his ideas (he is a Catholic priest), but it was well worth reading all the same.