12 Artists who Combine Nature Study and Art History

Using Art History in your Nature Study

One of the best ways to begin an art appreciation practice with your kids is to get out into nature. Explore different settings together... beaches, forests, flower meadows. Look far off into the distance; look carefully at the details of things close up.

This is the foundation for inspiring a sense of wonder, curiosity, and love of beauty.

Let's take a look at 12 artists who created beautiful masterpieces based on their observations in nature. We'll look at art from all around the world, and from prehistoric times to modern day. Hopefully, looking at these with your kids will inspire them to get outside and create some masterpieces of their own.

I have a fun interactive guide to go along with this activity, so be sure to sign up and get access to the printable file.

1. The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai

Invite your kids to look at the way Hokusai uses pattern and repetition to stylize the wave.

Nature study for kids using art history as your guide

2. The Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt

Klimt uses pattern and repetition, too... but in a totally different way.

Nature Study and Art History for kids. Homeschool art lesson.

3. Archaic Greek Black Figure Terra-cotta Lydion with Rooster

Take a look at an animal, and reduce it's shape to a simplified form.

Art History and Nature Study. A unit study for kids.

4. Haystacks Series by Claude Monet

Check out Monet's masterful use of light and shadow

Nature study for kids using art history as your guide

5. Close-up of Leaves in Glacier National Park by Ansel Adams

Look at the texture of things, like the leaves in this Ansel Adams photograph.

Nature study for kids using art history as your guide
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
— Albert Einstein

6. The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

Look up an study the amazing vastness of the sky... in daytime and at night.

Nature study for kids using art history as your guide
It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to, the feeling for the things themselves, for reality is more important than the feeling for pictures.
— Vincent van Gogh

7. The Koninderie Weedah (Rainbow Bower Bird) By C. Dan Purches (Naiura)

This aboriginal Australian art is symbolic, and represents a folk tale you can read here. Maybe your kids could find a symbol in nature and create a story of their own?

Nature study for kids using art history as your guide.

8. Summer: Peasants Going to Market by Peter Paul Rubens

Notice how Rubens uses atmospheric perspective to make the background fade into the distance. Invite your kids to look at a far away vista to see how the land far away gets paler, bluer, and blurrier, while the foreground is vibrant, colorful, and highly detailed.

Summer, Peasants going to Market, Peter Paul Rubens
Great art picks up where nature ends.
— Marc Chagall

9. Cave painting of aurochs, horses, and deer at Lascaux

Look at the beautiful energetic linework in these cave paintings. Invite your kids to try drawing animals or plants using only dynamic and expressive lines that get thinner, thicker, darker, and lighter.

Explore art history along with your nature study. Homeschool art lessons.

10. Oriental poppies by Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe took something seemingly simple – a flower – and brought the viewer so close up to the details, you can almost smell it! Invite your kids to take a REALLY close look at something outside... and then paint it!

Explore art history along with your nature study. Homeschool art lessons.
Nobody sees a flower - really - it is so small it takes time - we haven’t time - and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.
— Georgia O'Keeffe

11. Landscape at Collioure by Henri Matisse

In this landscape, Matisse uses color and his highly expressive strokes to give us an overall sense of this place, rather that a picture perfect painting. His work is spontaneous and intuitive. Perhaps your kids would like to paint a place like this...

Using Nature Study to enhance your art history explorations with kids.

12. Studies of Crabs by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo's studies show us how carefully he looked at his subject. Invite your kids to find something in nature – a small animal or an insect – and sketch it from different angles. Try to capture the way it moves, and the details of its form.

Use nature study to enhance your art history explorations with your kids. Homeschool art ideas.
Nature is the source of all true knowledge. She has her own logic, her own laws, she has no effect without cause nor invention without necessity.
— Leonardo da Vinci

Don't Forget Your Guide

Sign up to get a free printable guide that goes along with this project! Your kids will love it, and it will make getting started, and getting them involved so much easier. The Learning Library even has a full length Artist Guide about Monet and his Haystacks series, so you can download that as well!

If you are interested in learning more about van Gogh's The Starry Night, you can find a fun guide in the shop.

Let's Connect!

Come join our amazing private Facebook group where we show off our kids art, and chat about all our creative endeavors.