The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Picture Talk

by A. P. Whittall.
Volume 17, 1906, pg. 494

Subject : Picture Talk.

Class II. (grades 4-6)


I. To stimulate the children's appreciation of art.

II. To make them more familiar with Durer, one of the great masters.

III. To give them some idea of Durer's style.

IV. To cultivate the habits of observation and attention by letting them study the picture, "St. Jerome in the Desert," (online here) for themselves.


Step I. Ask the children what artist's pictures they are studying this term.

Step II. Give them a short account of Durer's life, mentioning the century, but avoiding dates. Though this account be necessarily brief, introduce a few interesting details so that the children may gain some ideas.

Step III. Show some pictures, telling the children to notice how, very different from each other they are.

Step IV. Give them a picture of "St. Jerome in the Desert," and tell them to look at it carefully.

Step V. After they have studied it well, draw from them all the points of the picture.

Step VI. Tell them that St. Jerome is beating his breast with a stone. Point out the crucifix at which he is gazing.

step VII. Help them to see the extremes of light and shade. Point out that the desert in the picture is not like our idea of a desert, and ask why not.

Step VIII. Tell the children that St. Jerome is always represented with a lion, as, when he went into the desert to escape from the world, he is said to have tamed the lions.

Step IX. Ask them to draw, in a few simple lines, what they have noticed in the picture they have been studying, and let them tell the meaning of the lines they have drawn.

Parents' Review Vol. 17 (1906) p. 498, 499
Subject: Picture Talk.

Group: Art. Class III. (grade 7-8) Time: 25 minutes.

By F. W. Young.


I. To help the girls to appreciate art.

II. To increase their power of observation.

III. To give special interest in the works of Albrecht Durer.


Step I. Give a short Iife of Albrecht Durer, noticing his characteristic style.

Step II. Show the girls a reproduction of "Melancholia." (online here) Let them look at it carefully for a few minutes, and, after removing the picture, ask them to describe what they saw.

Step III. Draw from the girls as far as possible the symbolical meaning of the picture. The woman sitting down looking into the untold distance, probably typifies the insufficiency of mortals to attain to heavenly wisdom and penetrate Nature's secrets.

The objects surrounding her infer her great desire for knowledge. Scientific instruments of all kinds lie scattered around her; in her hand she holds a pair of compasses; a sphere lies on the ground before her; a plane, a saw, a pair of tongs lie at her feet, a crucible is being heated at a little distance. These are all legitimate instruments of knowledge, but there are others which speak of magic and superstition. The astrological table in which the rows of figures, whichever way they are added up, amount to thirty-four, probably had some mystical signification.

A huge block, cut at curious angles, stands before her; this is probably not ordinary stone, as is often thought, but a rock of crystal made use of by wizards in foretelling events. Into the depths of this crystal the woman has probably long been gazing, but these illegal instruments have failed to satisfy her longing for knowledge.

The winged child, sitting by her side, may represent the human soul, or, possibly, the god of love, who receives no response from "Melancholia."

The landscape adds to the weird and solemn effect of the picture. The light which falls on the sea and shore is neither that of the sun, nor the moon, but of some great comet burning in solitary glow in the sky, betokening disaster and woe. The rainbow, contrary to science, is probably placed there to give more effect. The bat holds a scroll on which is written "Melancholia I."; the artist may have intended to design a series of pictures on the Four Temperaments.

Step IV. Let one pupil draw the chief lines of the picture on the blackboard, and the others the details, such as the bell, the astrological table, the keys, compasses and rainbow.

Step V. Show other reproductions of Durer's works.

Proofread by Leslie Noelani Laurio, July 2008