A School for Boys and Girls Jan Steel

Ten Great Education Themed Paintings

Now that it is the middle of September, people of all ages begin to think seriously about education. In that vein, here are ten works to help you get in the learning mood or at least have a few laughs along the way. We start off with Norman Rockwell’s Spirit of Education, The Music Lesson by Johannes Vermeer, Panel 58 by Jacob Lawrence, London Visitors by James Tissot, The Dance Class by Edgar Degas, The Red School House by Winslow Homer, A School for Boys and Girls by Jan Steel, The Problem We All Live With by Norman Rockwell, The School of Athens by Raphael, and finally The Music Lesson by Henri Mattisse.

1. The Spirit of Education

Spirit of Education by Norman Rockwell
The Spirit of Education by Norman Rockwell

For almost five decades Norman Rockwell defined Americana in his covers for the Saturday Evening Post. To kick off today’s theme here is, “The Spirit of Education,” from 1934.

2. The Music Lesson

The Music Lesson by Johannes Vermeer
The Music Lesson by Johannes Vermeer

With temperatures cooling and another school year beginning, it’s clear that fall is on its way again. Follow along as we explore how this season has inspired artists from different times and places. Enjoy art from Hudson River School’s  William Trost Richards, 

 Experts debate if Johannes Vermeer’s “The Music Lesson,” 1662-1665, is intended to show a music lesson, or a more intimate moment. This is actually the artist’s studio. He has placed objects around the room to elevate its status. Some pieces he owned, like the ebony mirror that shows the young woman’s face, and the foot of the artist’s easel. A few pieces he did not, like the virginal, and the marble floor.

3. America’s Great Migration by Jacob Lawrence

Panel 58 by Jacob Lawrence

In 1941, Jacob Lawrence created a 60 panel series that chronicled America’s Great Migration. Each panel of “The Migration Series” highlighted the changes, and challenges African Americans found as they moved north to find industrial jobs after World War I. “Panel No. 58” addressed how children had greater access to education in the North.

4. London Visitors

London Visitors by James Tissot
London Visitors by James Tissot

James Tissot’s 1874 “London Visitors” features school age guides waiting to help tourists at the National Gallery of Art, in London. The guides wear uniforms from the nearby Christ’s Hospital School. The school was founded to give less fortunate students access to education.

5. The Dance Class

The Dance Class Edgar Degas
The Dance Class Edgar Degas

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas is well known for his ballet paintings. “The Dance Class” focuses on a lesson led by Paris dancer, and choreographer, Jules Perrot. Degas was actually friends with Perrot. The painting is based in nostalgia. When Degas painted it (1873 to 1876) Perrot had been away from the Paris Opéra for almost 3 decades.

6. The Red School House

The Red School House by Winslow Homer
The Red School House by Winslow Homer

In the early 1870s, American artist Winslow Homer painted a series of works that focused on the ubiquitous one room school house. “The Red School House,” is from 1873. In it we see a young teacher heading home from work under an incandescent evening sky.

7. A School for Boys and Girls

A School for Boys and Girls Jan Steel
A School for Boys and Girls Jan Steel

This chaotic look at a classroom is called “The School for Boys and Girls” (1670). It is by the artist Jan Steen. Items strewn round the room have actual meanings, many point to proverbs and Dutch sayings. For instance, the boy handing glasses to the owl probably would remind viewers of the saying, “What use are glasses or light if the owl does not want to see.”

8. The Problem We All Live With.

The Problem we All Live With Norman Rockwell Look Magazine
The Problem we All Live With Norman Rockwell Look Magazine

 In 1963, Norman Rockwell left the Saturday Evening Post and began painting for LOOK Magazine. His new covers focused on societal issues, and current events. In 1964, he revisited Ruby Bridges famous 1960 walk to her first day of school in, “The Problem We All Live With.” 

9. “The School of Athens

The School of Athens, Raphael
The School of Athens b

Finally, found on the walls of the Vatican Museum, in the Raphael Rooms, “The School of Athens.” Raphael painted this massive fresco between 1509 and 1511. The artist pays homage to Aristotle, Plato and a host of Greek philosophers, mathematicians, and more. Raphael used friends, fellow artists, and people of note to stand in for the ancients. You can even find the Raphael on the far right side of the fresco.

10. Henri Matisse - The Music Lesson

Henri Matisse - The Music Lesson

There is an astonishing wealth of information, and history contained in some of these paintings. If one of them intrigues you, take a cue from today’s list and learn more. You won’t regret it.

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Kristin Johnson

I love art, and writing. One is deeply personal, the other helped me get my BA in journalism from IU. I am passionate about storytelling. My greatest professional compliment came from a business owner who said, “Your profile piece captured everything I believe about my business.”
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