Celebrate the simple in learning
It's been a few years and a few children ago that we read Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry (yes, the author who wrote the beloved Misty of Chincoteague, another classic worthy of the read). The book introduced us to the Father of American Painting, an artist of whom we were unfamiliar.
Recently, the youngers were introduced to Benjamin and the olders were reacquainted while reading Benjamin West: Gifted Young Painter by Dorothea J. Snow, a biography from the Childhood of Famous Americans series. We were all intrigued, just as we were years ago at our first introduction.
Little known facts we learned:
- Benjamin wrestled with how his God-given talent could possibly be woven with his Quaker faith, giving his family and his church a new perspective to consider.
- Benjamin was creative and industrious, making the best of what he had, from colored clay (insert science study here) to using his cat's fur to make paintbrushes (there is a character lesson of truth telling here but I won't spoil the story).
- Benjamin was a court painter for King George III.
- Benjamin taught famous painters Gilbert Stuart (think famous portrait painter of George Washington) and John Trumbull (think Declaration of Independence)
"We have to find out more!"
Yes, we can. And so can you! Look up these painters in your favorite set of encyclopedia (yes, they still exist), explore Google images, and watch a few You Tube videos.
- Analyzed several paintings from each of the artists, beginning with Benjamin West's mentioned in the COFA biography: William Penn's Treaty with the Indians and The Death of General Wolfe. A discussion ensued regarding how artists depict history in their work and whether or not the history is accurate.
- Learned of the friendship between Benjamin West and Benjamin Franklin and then studied the the significance of Benjamin Franklin Drawing Lighting from the Sky. A great lesson in history and art appreciation.
A good story sparks an interest.
Our little impromptu mini study sparked a new fire.
"Benjamin influenced many artists. Let's find out more about those artists."
- Charles Willson Peale
- Gilbert Stuart
- John Trumbull
- Thomas Sully
- Samuel F. B. Morse
A spark ignites an interest, which in turn lights a new fire.
More to do:
- Differentiate between portrait and self-portrait. Paint or draw your self-portrait.
- Create a time line of the American history occurring at the time Benjamin West and the other painters were painting. What events were taking place? Did the painters have anything in common?
- Talk about other events in American history happening about the same time.
- If you had the opportunity to meet Benjamin West, Gilbert Stuart or John Turnbull, what questions would you ask them about their work or the time in which they lived?
- Learn about the Quaker faith and how it is similar or different from the faith of your family.
- Read Barbara Brenner's The Boy Who Loved to Draw, biography of Benjamin West. If reading more than one book about Benjamin West, discuss how the books are similar or different. Compare facts in each work.
That's the ever giving blessing of learning.