What do you see when you look at Vincent van Gogh's painting, "Tree Roots"?
Why do you think people care which work of art was Vincent van Gogh's last painting?
In the article, experts give differing opinions about whether van Gogh painted "Tree Roots" intentionally as a farewell. After reading their opinions and seeing the painting, what do you think? Why?
In the article, the writer said the scene in van Gogh's "Wheatfield With Crows" screams tragedy because of the content, colors and short, quick brushstrokes van Gogh used. Think of another famous painting. How would you describe the mood in it? What evidence in the painting supports your opinion?
- Prior to conducting this activity, collect examples of famous paintings that students are likely to be familiar with such as Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" or Edvard Munch's "The Scream." Display the examples for the class. Invite students to share what they know about each painting.
- Point out that famous paintings like these usually have a story behind them. For example, while much is known about da Vinci, little is known about his famous painting. Experts aren't even sure who the woman in the painting was or who paid da Vinci to paint her portrait. The story of this painting is a great mystery.
- Encourage students to choose their favorite famous painting. Then have them conduct research to learn about the art, the artist and stories behind the famous piece of work. Instruct students to write a paper summarizing what they learned.
- Provide a variety of art supplies. Then give students time to create a reproduction of the artwork. Encourage students to be original, giving it their own personal spin.
CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:
A new analysis shows that half of the canvas held in Amsterdam is painted with pigments that darken with exposure to UV light. Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn more.
People create art for many reasons. Most works belong to one of the three broad categories: practical, cultural or personal. In this lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, students will develop an understanding of each by identifying art in the world around us. They will then use the design process to create a work of art that serves a specific need to people.
Watch this Smithsonian Channel video to learn how experts can now use a high-tech camera and deconstruct the Mona Lisa to reveal Leonardo da Vinci’s process.
Though the Norwegian artist is known for a single image, he was one of the most prolific, innovative and influential figures in modern art. Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn why.
In this Smithsonian History Explorer activity collection, students analyze the work of two very different Mexican American artists, identifying aspects of culture and exploring expressions about Latino experiences in art.
In this lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, students will learn about the life and art of Piet Mondrian, his style influenced by jazz music and his technique using spatial concepts. Students will create a painting in Mondrian’s non-objective style. They will learn that art, music, design and math have connections we may not have thought about.
In this activity from the Smithsonian’s History Explorer, students will learn about the culture of the Native American People of the Great Plains as they create their own buffalo hide paintings using a printable buffalo hide outline. Inspired by the Indians of the Great Plains, they will draw pictures of things that represent important events in their lives and their family’s history, or draw a hide with a geometric design.
Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn why a discovery in a remote part of Indonesia has scholars rethinking the origins of art—and of humanity.
A new handheld tool lets scientists diagnose the chemical reaction behind “art acne”—and learn how it can be prevented. Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn all about it.