Miss Katie's Art Class

Summer School Art Class: Week #3

Posted on: July 24, 2011

This week the 4th and 5th grade students have been looking at the work of the Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890). Vincent had an interest in art from an early age, but didn’t decide to devote himself to art until he was 20. During his short life, he created over 2,000 pieces, of which 900 are paintings. The paintings that we looked at and used to inspire us for this lesson were Van Gogh’s Sunflower paintings which the artist painted during the last few years of his life, while living in Arles, France.

Vincent Van Gogh, Self Portrait, 1889

Vincent wrote to his brother Theo in August of 1888:

“I am hard at it, painting with the enthusiasm of a Marseillais eating bouillabaisse, which won’t surprise when you know what I’m at is the painting of some sunflowers. If I carry out this idea there will be a dozen panels. So the whole thing will be a symphony in blue and yellow. I am working at it every morning from sunrise on, for the flowers fade so quickly. I am now on the fourth picture of sunflowers. This fourth one is a bunch of 14 flowers…it gives singular effect.”

Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers, 1888

Instead of using paint for a picture, I had students create a sunflower in ceramic clay. I had not used this lesson before and have been excited about getting to try it out in my own class room, with my own students! One of the fantastic art teachers (Thank you Rebecca M!) that I work with shared this lesson with me during an Art Teacher Lesson Share last school year.

If you would like to learn more about Vincent Van Gogh, I found a great kid-friendly website page about him. It’s through the Kids Konnect website.

The kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade students created paper collages inspired by the French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954). Like Van Gogh, Matisse became an artist a little later in his life, but once he did, he never looked back!

Henri Matisse, Self Portrait 1918

Henri Matisse, Portrait of Madame Matisse (The Green Line), 1905

Henri’s was given some art supplies to use while he was recovering from an appendicitis in 1889. He soon decided that he wanted to be an artists. While studying art, he was shown the work of Vincent Van Gogh, and it changed the way he used color in his own work forever. The above portrait of Madame Matisse caused quite a stir in the French art world at the time. Henri used bright, vibrant colors, regardless of whether the were correct or not. For this, he and some of his fellow artists were called “Fauves” which means ‘wild beasts’ in French!

As Henri grew older, he had a harder and harder time standing at an easel to paint, but he was an artist, and he found a way to work. In the late 1940’s, Henri began working on large paper ‘Cut-Outs’. He would have his assistants paint paper for him, and he would cut it out and arrange it into painted paper collages.

Henri drawing with scissors!

Henri Matisse, The Knife Thrower (from the book 'Jazz'), paper collage, 1947

Henri Matisse, Panel with Mask, Gouache and Cut Paper, 1947

Henri Matisse, Beasts of the Sea, Paper Collage on Canvas, 1950


We looked at Henri’s later collage and ‘Cut-Out” work to inspire us for our project. We also talked about organic and freeform shapes, overlapping, composition and color usage. The students had a lot of fun, especially cutting out the freeform shapes! “It looks like a dog!” — “NO! It looks like a #1!” — “You’re crazy! It’s a shark!” to be followed by “It’s a man walking down the street!” I love to hear students use their imaginations!


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