Van Gogh, by Melissa McQuillan. 1989, Thames and
Hudson, New York. Vincent Van Gogh, by Ernes Raboff. 1988, Harper and Row Junior Books.
Explain that Impressionism is a style of art that is not realistic. Artists did not want their art to look exactly like what they were drawing or painting. They wanted their art to show their feeling toward something. Colors were usually painted in bright colors with wide paint strokes. Drawings were done with graceful, curvy lines. Vincent Van Gogh is the most famous Impressionist. In 1987, a Van Gogh painting called The Irises sold for a record 49 million dollars. Since that time, another of his paintings sold for around 65 million dollars. Believe it or not, Vincent Van Gogh died a poor man. Not many people liked his artwork before he died. Vincent was an artist for only the last 10 years of his life but painted over 1,700 works of art. When Vincent became crazy, he cut off his ear and later killed himself. We will learn more about Vincent today.
We can learn a lot about artists such as Vincent Van Gogh. (Show the picture of the Carpenter) As you can see, Vincent was an average artist when he was a kid and even up until he was 27. This picture shows how he drew hands too big and the man had too small of a head, and the body is off center. For the first two years of this time, he taught himself how to draw. He could have threw up his arms and said, "I can't draw" and given up. Instead, he continued to practice.
Have two volunteer come up and sit at an empty table. Tell them that both students are having trouble drawing. One student will be very discouraged and finally throw his pencil down and say, "I can't draw!" That student will then get up and leave the table. The other student will look at his picture and say, "this needs a lot of work. I'm going to practice and become a better artist." Let the students act this out on their own. Ask all the students which student made the right decision. Explain that Vincent didn't give up and became a successful artist.
Picture of the Carpenter (See above right). 1880 by Vincent Van Gogh. The Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo.
Vincent Van Gogh- Characterization and role play
Print:Starry Night, by Vincent Van Gogh. 1889, The Museum of Modern Art, New York City.
Explain that Vincent's art work is studied a lot by counselors because he became crazy at the end of his life. Many say that his art work was so different because he was crazy. We don't know for sure why Vincent became crazy. Some say it was because he ate his paint and drank his paint thinner. Some say it was because of a disease. Several times during his life, he was put in a mental hospital. The most famous painting done by Vincent was done when he was in a mental hospital one year before he died. It is called The Starry Night.
Show students the print of The Starry Night. Point out the bright swirls of color and the wavy cyprus trees. Tell students that a song was composed about this painting. Don McLean will sing this song called Vincent. When you hear this song, look at the painting and see if you can see the parts that Don is singing about. (play the song)
Ask: Where are the blue and gray colors that Don sang about? (have them come up and point to the painting). Where are the shadows on the hills? Where are the trees and daffodils? (The daffodils are in other paintings Vincent painted) How are we able to see the breeze in this painting? (The swirls in the sky) We heard Don tell how Vincent 'suffered for his sanity.' He also sang that people didn't listen to him, 'perhaps they'll listen now.' Listen to what? Where are the 'swirling clouds in the violet haze? Don sang, 'Weathered faces lined in pain are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand.' Why do you think Vincent would be an expert at knowing how to soothe pain in people? (Because he had a life of pain with his sanity) Don sings of 'when no hope was left inside on that starry, starry night, you took your life as lovers often do.' What does 'took your life' mean? Why do people kill themselves? Why do lovers kill themselves more? Why did Vincent kill himself? Was he a lover? What does Don mean by portraits hung in empty halls? (Vincent was not popular when he was alive and not many people came to see his paintings) Don sings that 'they would not listen, they're not listening still, perhaps they never will.' What is everyone not listening to?
Tell everyone to remain seated and to close their eyes. As they listen, they are use their hands, arms, and the expression on their face to fit what I will read to them. Read to them the following: 'You are Vincent Van Gogh. You have worked real hard to become a better artist and are proud of your paintings. You love going out in the fields to paint your paintings. Picture in your mind that you are painting in a field and the breeze is blowing gently across the wheat. The only sound is the sound of birds chirping and the leaves rustling in the breeze. You smile because it is so peaceful. Suddenly you frown because you realize that you are lonely. There is no one around. You're only true friend is your brother, Theo. You always end up fighting with everyone and they have nothing to do with you. You ask yourself why hardly anyone likes your paintings. You feel sorry for yourself. You cry. You think that there is nothing to live for anymore. (pause) Now open your eyes.'
Ask: Why did Vincent become sad? What made you happy? Why did Vincent think about sad things? If Vincent wouldn't have thought about sad things and killed himself, he would have become very wealthy because people were just beginning to like his art work. If we wait, things will get better. Why is it awful when people take their own lives? Why was it awful when Vincent took his own life? What should we do when we have problems that are too hard to handle?
Now we are going to create our own Starry Night painting. Paint like Vincent did with bright colors and large swirls of paint. Remember to clean your brush when you change colors. Listen to the music as you paint. (Play Vincent over again and have them begin painting.)
Vincent Van Gogh
After clean-up, have students go to their seats. Tell students that they are role playing what they would say to a friend if that friend was very sad and couldn't see anything that was good. What would they say if that friend came to them? Turn to the person next to you and one of you be Vincent Van Gogh and the other be the happy friend. Pretend that you are those people. Now switch places.
Ask: What were some happy things you said to Vincent?