9th June 2000 at 01:00
LOOKING AT ART SERIES: People, Animals, Landscape, Built Environment. By Chris Dunn. Hodder amp; Stoughton, pound;7.99 each

These workbooks for 11 to 14-year-olds have great visual appeal. The colour is good, the images large and clear, and the illustrations excellent. What is surprising, however, is that Hodder allows any series to be published, especially for an educational market, with such shoddy editing. Time and again there are annoying errors: artists' names are misspelt or their dates are incorrect, punctuation is lax and there are elementary grammatical errors. Another complaint is the lack of contents or index, hampering easy access for busy teachers. The inner front cover repeats, almost exactly, the outer one. Chris Dunn has not been well supported here.

The books provide a range of different activities. There are ideas for practical work but also suggestions for related discussion, written work, research, computer-based study and critical evaluation.

Dunn takes a strong line throughout on the importance of planning and the use of sketchbooks and study sheets. Some of the activities suggest a level of philosophical abstraction beyond the scope of many key stage 3 classes. For example: "Discussion point. If you had never seen an elephant, would you be able to describe one?" The illustrations act largely as flashes of inspiration - in no sense is this an art historical approach. My own reaction to the images was often very different to Dunn's suggested interpretation and occasionally, I felt, rightly so. On Manet's Dejeuner sur l'herbe: "What shocked ... was the way the woman looks so challengingly out of the picture. The modern (for its time) dress of the men also caused offence." I always thought the lady's nudity had something to do with it.


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