Learning About Perspective and Belgian Landscapes at Boston College

Last fall the McMullen Museum at Boston College hosted a beautiful exhibit of illuminated manuscripts and had a wonderful class for children where they got to make manuscripts of their own. Bella, Sophie, Ben, and I loved that class and the opportunity to grind pigments and paint with homemade inks. So when I got an email from them telling me about a new series of art classes this fall, I was quite excited.

This fall’s exhibit is one of Belgian landscapes. And today’s class was about perspective. First there was a short presentation about how artists create a sense of depth. We looked at a slideshow and discussed various works. We talked about overlapping and use of size, closer objects are bigger and further objects are smaller. And then we talked about atmospheric perspective, using details and color to distinguish the foreground, mid-ground, and background.And we also looked at single point and two point perspective.

Then we went to the gallery and looked at a handful of pictures. The children made observations about the paintings and drawings, really getting to look closely at them and get a chance to use the vocabulary they’d just learned to describe what they see.

Then back to the classroom where the children were guided through making simple pictures using one point perspective and then another picture using two point perspective, and finally a third using atmospheric perspective. For the third they got to use charcoal and chalk, which was messy and fun.

Poor Sophie got overwhelmed doing the first picture. She was a bit confused about the directions early on and the pacing was such that she never was able to recover. She got more and more frustrated and gave up. And then was too upset to even try to do the other pictures either. But Bella and Ben both had a great time and really got into it.

After the class we went back to the gallery to take a longer look at pictures that had caught our eyes but we hadn’t been able to linger over. We poked into one room the class hadn’t even entered. We found quite a few pictures to enjoy and examine. And the children were also taken with the large projections of video images of Belgian landscapes.

As we left the museum they were all chattering about the works, the class, and the ideas. Even Sophie had a lot to say, not only about the works in the gallery, but about the drawing techniques as well. I’m hoping this week will afford lots of opportunities to put some of what we learned into practice. Anthony was sad that he’d not been able to go, being below the official cut off age. Though there were children there who looked much younger than he is. Next time, I’ll definitely include him in the class.

I am very much looking forward to seeing what new classes might be offered in the spring. The McMullen really seems to be a first rate little museum with a very strong educational bent. As is appropriate with a museum associated with a college. And it’s very fun for me to be able to revisit Boston College, where I spent two lovely years getting my MA. One of these days, I want to take the kids all over campus. But that’s a pretty big walking tour by itself.

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