The Importance of Beauty

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The Trevi Fountain

“I feel that in the present day, with all the attention bestowed upon the training for the practical purposes of life or for the University examiner, the training of the taste–of the sense of beauty, is apt to be overlooked, or at least underrated, as an influence in the formation of character and in the conduct and brightening of life.”

E H Farnell

Charlotte Mason believed children needed the beauty of fine arts like they needed the oxygen in the air we breathe — not because she wanted them to become snobby adults with aesthetic sensibilities but because humans crave beauty. We encounter so much tragedy and dismay on a daily basis that it’s important to drink in the beautiful whenever we can. At Reedy Creek Community School, we encounter beauty primarily in nature but also in a sweet melody or a lovely painting. And it occurs organically, with little intervention from the teacher. We put them in touch with the great masters, and their souls take in the beauty. Delight twinkles in their eyes when they slow down and appreciate beauty in art. And lesson by lesson, over the course of time, they are able to improve their own artistic skills.

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Caravaggio’s The Calling of Matthew

“…everybody can be brought to a high degree of perfection in the technique of painting. And of course there is no royal road to success. Is it not certain that the best method of conveying an impression to others is to follow the method by which Nature has conveyed it to us? That, stated briefly, is to put the right tone, the right colour, the right size, the right shape in the right place upon the canvas. Adhere to this, and it does not matter much about the instrument we do it with. A pencil or a brush, a broom or the broom-handle, let us take whichever we find most convenient to accomplish the mechanical end of accuracy. And remember! Will you let me repeat it once again? The mere handling of the instrument is a comparatively little thing to learn, indeed the hand may be almost left to take care of itself. It will very soon prove itself quite capable of registering whatever the brain may dictate; that which the fingers may utter will be but idle nonsense if it has not first entered in at the brain. We must learn to see and understand the appearance of things.

If we have not learned to do this we have neglected talents entrusted to us. If we have somewhat learned to do it we have but done our duty to the gift of sense, yet we have the reward of a new medium of communication with our fellows. Even more, for we shall have found a means sensitive to express some part of that beauty, the comtemplation of which awakens unspeakable emotions and indefinable idealities, vague sensations of a rarer spirituality, which is at once an encouragement and a consolation for the efforts of this life.

Francis Bate, Fine Arts in Education

Charlotte Mason principles include the careful practices and disciplines needful to improve skills, both mental and physical. Putting children in touch with rules that govern painting, sculpture, writing, music, and more helps them grow in their ability to express themselves through these mediums.

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Students attempting to paint as Michelangelo painted the Sistene Chapel

“Fortunately the young will readily drink in the beauty of nature without our intervention; but though tender fancy, poetic instinct, and strong emotions all help them to understand the language of their mother nature, they require the revelations of science and of art to interpret her deeper meaning to their ripening intelligence.”

E H Farnell, On the Study of the Beautiful

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