Art Education – Object Drawing

FROM MEMORY

Arranged are several objects drawn from memory by Form I pupils. These drawings are very much reduced in size. When they were made, the object in each case had been studied in the same way as in the lesson on the Teddy bear in Form I, Junior Grade.

FROM THE MODEL

After the Christmas holidays, young pupils are always anxious to show what Santa Claus brought them and, as toys make most interesting models, each may be allowed to bring his favourite toy. Where stands for these are not provided, the toys may be arranged on tables or on the teacher’s desk for those in the front seats, and on boards placed across the aisles for the others, so that each pupil has a good view of at least one. The boards should be placed in every other aisle from desk to desk, one at the front of the aisle and one half-way down. They should have a cleat tacked under one edge to overcome the slant of the desks and provide a level surface for the object to rest upon.

Before commencing his sketch, each pupil should decide how much space his drawing will require and, as he draws, he should compare his drawing with the toy to see if he is making a truthful representation of it. The toys on page 56 were drawn in this way with black crayons by Form I pupils.

Great delight is taken in this exercise if the toys are drawn with white chalk and coloured crayons and the best ones cut out and pasted to a Christmas tree which has been pinned up somewhere in the room. The Christmas tree is easily made by folding a large piece of green paper in half and cutting both sides of the tree at once. Teachers sometimes pin these pictured toys to a branch of real evergreen tree, but the result is less incongruous when both tree and toys are cut from paper.

PICTURE STUDY

WOMAN CHURNING—MILLET

The preparation for this lesson depends on the size of the reproduction avail-able. In the present case we will suppose that a print 7″ by 10 in size has been put up where the pupils have had an opportunity to study it individually.

THE ARTIST

When the hour for the lesson has arrived, the teacher, standing before the class, says : ” You have been trying to find out all you can about this picture; before you tell me what the artist has managed to tell you we shall have a little talk about him. I shall write his name on the black-board, Jean François Millet. Although he died before you were born, it is not long ago, and many people who knew him are still alive. He was born in 1314 and died in 1875. How long ago is that, and how old was he when he died? His father and mother were peasants, day labourers we could call them. They lived at a little place called Gruchy in France and worked together in the fields. We can imagine the little Jean going to the fields with his parents, watching them work, trying to help, carrying a drink to them sometimes when the sun was hot, falling asleep under the shade of a tree or a hedge when he was weary.

These scenes of his childhood must have made a great impression on him, for afterwards he painted many pictures of labourers sowing, reaping, gleaning, working in the fields. When he was still a boy, he would take a piece of charcoal from the stove and with it draw, on the whitewashed outer wall of the cottage, pictures of trees and orchards and of peasants at work or plodding to and from the fields.

It is not hard to fancy these friendly neighbours pausing on their homeward way to look at the sketches made by the young Jean, wondering at his cleverness, sometimes discovering a likeness and saying : ` There is Jacques to the life’, or ` Who could doubt that that is Marie’s shoulder and head?’

His father and mother were anxious that he should study to be an artist and by and by, when he was twenty-three years old, he was sent to Paris.

His long light hair fell loosely about his broad shoulders and, no doubt, his clothes were coarse and home-made, for his fellow students called him ` The man of the woods’. Here is a print of his own portrait painted by himself and we can see what a kind face he had.

He did not stay many years in Paris. He longed for the peasant life he knew so well, for the men and women who worked in the fields, toiling for their families, generous to their neighbours, and happy in their homes. He went to Barbizon, took a house with three rooms, and there with his wife and little family he lived, very poor part of the time, but happy to be once more where he could see the simple, kindly peasants at their work, and there most of the pictures that brought him fame were painted.”

THE PICTURE

” You have seen the title beneath this picture. What did Millet call it? How many of you have seen a churn? Was it like this? In what way is this different ?”

In some such way the teacher proceeds to draw from the pupils all that they have discovered in the picture. When their ideas concerning it are exhausted, he should question them somewhat after the following fashion :

“How do we know that the artist wished us to look at the woman first? Sometimes, in your pictures, you make the things the story is about, very small. Is that what Millet did in this picture?

Is the woman tall or short? By what in the picture can we measure her height? Did the Artist wish us to think she was happy or unhappy in her work?”

Thus the teacher questions here and points out there, until the pupils realize how different from their own homes is this interior, with its solid, queer-handled churn, made perhaps by this woman’s great-grandfather, its stone flags, and its one window placed high in the wall, as we can tell by the short shadow cast by the churn.

” How trim and how suitably dressed for her work is the woman ! Notice her big apron, her sleeves rolled high, the spotless white of the garment that shows at the neck of her dress, the tidy cap under which every stray hair is carefully tucked. How different she looks with her simple dress and her wooden shoes from the women we are accustomed to see working !

It is morning, for the space between the house and the shed is still in shadow, but the sun shines on the sheep that we can see through the shed window grazing in the meadow. In the shed, too, we can just distinguish some one milking a cow.

As we look into the picture it seems to grow lighter and, in the dark corner behind the woman, we begin to discover jars and crocks on the shelves.

As the artist sketched the room the top shelf was even with his eyes; for we – can see its edge only, though we can see the top of the one below it. A broom, not at all like the one we use, stands by the shelves, and a towel hangs at the door. Perhaps there is a basin on a bench just outside the door and the men coming from work pause to wash their hands and faces, then reach in for the towel to dry them.

Why does the woman smile? Does she hear all the lovely Slimmer sounds that come floating in through the open door? Is she amused at Pussy? Do you think Pussy knows the butter is coming? Can she see the three hens at the door, the boldest pausing, with head to one side and one foot raised, to see how far she dare go? Is the woman waiting for the best moment to stamp her foot with its wooden shoe, to send the frightened hens scurrying out of sight?”

Some one in the class thinks that the light, round article hanging high on the wall near the doorway is a baby’s muslin cap, and that somewhere out of sight the owner sleeps in a wooden cradle, lulled by the regular splashing of the churn dash; and the same little maid who discovered the supposed cap thinks that the mother smiles because the butter is coming while baby still sleeps, and that she is happy because there will be time for an hour with baby before father’s early dinner must be prepared.

Whatever it is that brings that smile to her lips, Millet has made us feel that she is happy in her work ; and looking at her we seem to hear the soft swish of the cream in the churn, the purr of the cat, and the drowsy croon of the hens, all mingling with the sounds that float in from the meadows to make the glad music of Summer.