I would love to fill my home with original masterpieces for the children to study, but it isn't possible. The art budget at our house doesn't even have room for cheap reproductions. But I have found an inexpensive way to introduce my children to great works of art.
Using your computer, you can download famous paintings and save them to your wallpaper. (See CGFA- A Virtual Art Museum for example.) Then every time your children sit down at the computer they are introduced to great art. Change the wallpaper every week. Or get wild and change it everyday. Feature the same artist (or era or subject matter) for several weeks in a row. Make sure to point out the name of the artist and the name of the picture.
Another idea is to print a painting on your color printer. Have the children cut out the picture and put it on a magnet sheet (from the craft store). Now you have fancy kitchen magnets. Every time the kids go to the fridge for a drink or snack, they are introduced to great art. Or have the printouts laminated - my littles like to carry them around like trading cards.
Kids love getting mail. Ask Grandma and Grandpa to send art postcards Ask out-of-town family members or friends to do the same. Not only will your children be introduced to great art, they are reminded of their loved ones.
Some exercises to do with your Internet or postcard art:
Play Concentration - you need two of each work to do this. Turn the cards upside down on a table and have the children take turns looking for matches, turning over just two cards at a time.
Groupings - have the children group together works of art by artist, era, or subject matter.
Recreate by Memory - show a child a masterpiece for a few minutes and then take it away. Then they are to try to draw the picture from memory using their crayons, colored pencils, or markers. (A twist on CM's narration.)
Develop Descriptive Abilities - Have your child choose a work of art, without showing you. They are then to describe the art in such a way that you can reproduce it on a piece of paper with only their verbal instructions. This is a favorite exercise at my house. Try it. I guarantee you'll get a laugh out of the first several tries!
Look for Symbolism Used in Art - I tried but could not find a dictionary of Christian art symbolism on the Internet, but you can look for books such as Signs and Symbols in Christian Art by George Wells Ferguson (Oxford University Press) at the library.
I'm sure that if you put your mind to it, you could come up with more ideas.
The children in Charlotte Mason's schools had Picture Study every term from age 6 upwards. Between the age of 6 and 15 a child had studied reproductions of pictures by some thirty of the world's famous artists. Why Picture Study? In order that children may be put in touch with the contribution that each famous artist has made to the world's store of all that is beautiful and worthwhile. Just as Literature introduces us to the thought of the greatest writers, so Picture Study opens the gates to the ideas of the famous artists.
-- Karen Andreola
For more on teaching art appreciation through real books see my book, For the Love of Literature: Teaching Core Subjects with Literature.