The 1998 Pictures for Schools selection

24th July 1998 at 01:00
Choosing four paintings for children with special needs from the immense range on show in British galleries was no easy task. Chitra Aloysius, her home piled high with catalogues, has spent the past few months travelling to galleries and exhibitions throughout the country. On some of these visits she took an optometrist friend to consider works appropriate for the partially sighted.

She explains her choice as follows:

"The Keepsake", 1898-1901, by Kate Bunce (1856-1927), in Birmingham Museums Art Gallery "This is a very tactile painting. It evokes a strong sense of the silk of the women's dresses - you feel you want to stroke the garments. Exploring art through textile, pattern and printing are all possibilities. Also, it is a painting by a woman directly about emotions, about sadness, and that can also be addressed. As Kate Bunce was inspired to do the painting from one of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's poems, it could be used to encourage more able children to use poems as an inspiration for drawing. The rich Christian symbolism - the rosary and the cross - could be used to look at the religious imagery of other faiths."

"Yachts", 1959, by Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887-1976), in Salford Museum andArt Gallery "This painting is full of light and tranquillity, important for many troubled or disturbed children. It is one of Lowry's few watercolours and might encourage teachers to use watercolour with some pupils.

"Children with learning difficulties often say they cannot draw. They have no confidence because they think they have to produce works that are anatomically correct. Lowry shows that you can create shapes with just a few brushstrokes. I think this gives children who might only be able to make simple marks a sense of achievement.

"Although this painting depicts a happy scene, it also evokes Lowry's own sense of loneliness. The bent, black figure, standing to one side on the far right, invites children to discuss what they feel about this."

"Three Tahitians", 1899, by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), in the National Gallery of Scotland "I had visually impaired children in mind for this painting. It invites teachers to work with bold, powerful forms as well as colours. The bright colour of the background pushes the form forward and the yellow makes a strong visual impact. The picture shows people of different culture and race and it also raises questions about the relationship between the three people. It provides opportunities for talking about relationships, which is crucial to emotional development."

"Nebamun Hunting in the Marshes", Egyptian tomb painting from Thebes, c1325BC, in the British Museum, London "So many areas of the curriculum can be covered by this painting. We can look at the different kinds of wildlife - the many plants, birds, butterflies and fish that are identifiable today - and talk about conservation. We can cover concepts of history and the afterlife.

"We can also cover the sensory curriculum. As part of the work I am doing with this painting, I am producing an ancient Egyptian banquet at Beckton School with figs, dates and breads, with music and oils such as myrrh, frankincense and juniper, which might have been used in those days.

"Hieroglyphics and signs are especially meaningful to children with severe learning difficulties who use Makaton sign language; it gives them a sense of dignity to know that people in the past also used symbols and were respected for it. Intellectually, this is a powerful piece of work. Also, as a fragment, it represents art without boundaries - there are no limits to artistic creativity."

Reproductions of these four paintings are distributed by Sainsbury's 400 stores, each one choosing up to four schools for the gift

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