Analyzing an Art Masterpiece

1 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


TSWBAT select and analyze a masterpiece painting and write a short biography of the artist.

Big Idea

Who is the artist who caught my eye and tell me about that painting!

Warm Up

15 minutes

When it makes sense, I like to sneak in lessons that involve art and music.  It's a disgrace how often our Arts programs are under budgetary assault.  This indicates to the students that such subjects are expendable, so I attempt to counterbalance by teaching lessons that incorporate the Arts into the regular classroom. In this lesson the students will be using W.5.1 as they support their point of view about art work and then W.5.7 using at least two sources of information to write a biography about an artist whose work they've studied.

The lesson today will give the students an opportunity to appreciate artwork through analyzing it (Writing Prompt using Art). I give the students a double sided worksheet that contains pictures of two different pieces of art.  On one side is a photograph of an original petroglyph- definitely familiar to students in the Southwest, and on the other a picture of the painting, The Starry Night over the Rhone by Vincent Van Gogh. These are from a teaching resource called, 101 Picture Prompts to Spark Super Writing from Scholastic, and have prompts written at the top of each page. The majority of the class chose to use the picture and prompt called "A Starry Night" rather than than the petroglyph photograph (Students writing about the art).

Petroglyph Prompt: What do you think this petroglyph shows? What does it tell us about life long ago? Student Example: Rock Art

"The Starry Night Over the Rhone" Prompt: Why do you think so many artists paint things in nature? What part of nature would you like to paint? Why?

Student Example The Starry Night Over the Rhone and

Student Example The Starry Night Over the Rhone and

Student Example "The Starry Night Over the Rhone"

Also included in the book are Real-Life photos and Political Cartoons, but my purpose is for the kids to focus on art. After the picture prompts, I display the painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware on the Smart Board. Using it with the "Appreciating a Masterpiece" worksheet, I introduce some of the questions they'll use when working independently. The next activity is to analyze a painting of their choice at the library. 


30 minutes

Once the kids complete the writing prompts and go over Washington Crossing the Delaware, we head down to the library for our main activity.  (I called ahead to let the librarian know we'd be in the Art section, and I hoped not too many of those books had been checked out.) When we arrive I'm thrilled to see she actually pulled a bunch from the shelves and placed them on the table (Collection of Art Books).  Although I value the ability of locating a book on the shelf, this was a gift of time. In addition, all of the kids would have been crowding into the same area if the books weren't removed ahead of time.  My advice with this type of activity is to definitely request that books be pulled from the shelves ahead of time.

I call the groups up by tables to select an art book and their first task is to find a painting that "speaks to them" in that they really like it or don't like it, for some reason (Appreciating the Art!) I expect there to be some jeers, etc. but no one makes a sound.  They select books and head off to different areas of the library to look through them (The Boys Table ). A few kids go straight to the computers to find paintings, (Research on Computer and Book) which is fine, but I reiterate that they also need to use a book as a source (Abstract Art Appreciation).

The students use the worksheet "Appreciating a Masterpiece" to analyze the artwork they select (Using the questions to study the painting) and to obtain information about their artist (Artist Biography Research).  They aren't writing an entire report about their artist, but instead a short biography. They're required to use two different resources for this information, which is convenient because they're right in the library with plenty of reference materials available.

kizoa slideshow- unmute in bottom left - clicking on slideshow takes you to




15 minutes

This was a great way to spend our weekly library time.  The kids had a good time with this in a way that's different from some of the other assignments.  Although they were all responsible for their own painting and analysis, not to mention the biography, it didn't appear to be a chore.  The last time I did something similar with art, it was during our "Boston Massacre" lesson.  They had to put the famous painting by Paul Revere into quadrants and answer questions.  That, also, was an activity they liked.  Art needs to have more of a presence in the regular classroom, and I keep that at the front of my mind.

I evaluate for evidence of W.5.1, supporting their point of view with reasons and information.  I'm not familiar with each piece of art they've reviewed, so I depend on how they've written their answers as an indication of understanding.

As mentioned before, this was during our library block, and we didn't have time to read any of the analysis or biographies that day.  I plan to revisit as the time presents itself.

Student Example "Appreciating a Masterpiece"

Student Example "Appreciating a Masterpiece"