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This art lesson deals with Vincent van Gogh






Description of Class:

This lesson is for a fifth grade art class consisting of 9 and 10 year old children. Students have done paintings with various types of paint, but have not used oil paints previously. However, in the previous class session they were allowed to experiment with oil paints. The class has also done some background studying on Vincent van Gogh and his works. They have also done color mixing with other paints.


“The Lost Works of Vincent van Gogh”


Students will be able to demonstrate knowledge about the life and works of Vincent van Gogh. They will also become aquainted with the use of oil paints and will be able to better identify with real artists by using their medium.

Teacher Aims:

1. To present the methods of using oil paint and demonstrate their use.

2. To challenge students with the complexities of oil paints and to understand the

benefits of using oil paint as well.

3. To instill a knowledge of a famous artist’s life, works, and methods.

4. To be able to relate to a major artist.

Student Aims:

1. To be able to demonstrate how to use oil paints by creating an oil painting.

2. To explore the benefits of oil paints and understand their complexities.

3. To describe the life of Vincent van Gogh, his works, and his methods.

4. To discover the talent, time, dedication, and hardships it takes to become a

major artist.

References, Resources, Visual Aids, Examples:

As many prints of Vincent van Gogh’s work as possible as well as books with collections of his work and biographies. Enough images of his work need to be provided for the children to gain an understanding of his work. A local artist who is proficient in using oil paints could demonstrate the positive and negative aspects of using oil paints and provide some tips on using oil paints.

Materials and Preparation:

Oil Canvases if funds allow (manila paper if not)

Oil Paints (in primary and secondary colors)

Various Paintbrushes

Muffin Tins for paint and for mixing paints


First, the teacher will discuss the methods of using oil paint and will demonstrate how to use it. Next, the teacher will give a short lecture on the life of Vincent van Gogh and his works and methods. During the lecture (or afterwards if time allows so that distractions will be avoided) prints of van Gogh’s work will be passed around for the class to study. After seeing the his work students will be asked to imagine a painting of van Gogh’s that has never been seen. One that is distinct from his other paintings, yet maintains the same style and subject matter.

Problem Statement:

Students will attempt to create an oil painting resembling van Gogh’s work; his subject matter and style.


Keep in mind that oil paint and thinner are toxic and should not be used without ventilation. Also, remember that oil paint can take weeks to dry.


1. While supplies are being distributed, students will be thinking about Vincent

van Gogh’s painting style and choosing subject matter to depict in their


2. Newspaper should be laid down under all work areas to make cleanup easier

and pennies should be worn to keep the students clean.

3. Paint will be put in muffin tins and all mixing will be done in these tins as well.

4. Students should be cautioned against using too broad of a palette due to time

constraints and lack of a unity of composition that is difficult to achieve with

too many colors.

5. If available, canvases will be provided for students to work on.

6. To make the painting similar to van Gogh’s, the paint can be applied thickly and

long brushstrokes will also help.

Students Reconstruct Problem in Their Own Words:

Ask students the following:

1. What are some of van Gogh’s subject items for his paintings? What can you

use for a subject that would be similar? (Trees, flowers, night scenes, scenery,


2. How are his paintings distinct from others? How is his style different?

3. If you found a previously unseen Vincent van Gogh painting, what might it

look like?

Transition to Work Period:

After lecture, demonstration, and description of oil painting techniques, oil paint will be distributed in muffin tins to the students, as will canvases, pennies, paintbrushes, and newspaper.

Work Period:

Students that are having trouble getting started may be given tips on subject matter to choose from. For example show students how van Gogh painted flowers, trees, and scenery. Students may choose from different flowers, trees, scenes, etc. The teacher may prompt their imagination by asking them to imagine what it would be like to find a Vincent van Gogh painting that may be worth thousands, even millions of dollars. What would that painting look like?

Medial Summary:

Teacher may need to warn against copying van Gogh’s paintings, or against using the exact same subject matter. The teacher may also need to keep students focused on their work when they begin playing with the new oil paints.

Final Work Period:

After work is finished, students will be instructed to clean out their brushes and return all materials to their proper locations. Paintings need to be placed in a safe place to dry for a relatively long period of time since oil paints dry slowly. It is very likely that this lesson would take two days. The first day would consist of the instruction: lecture, demonstration, and the studying of van Gogh’s work. The second day would consist of their painting, while the time between should be used to come up with subject matter for their painting.

Discussion and Evaluation:

After paintings have dried (during the next class meeting), each student will discuss their painting to the class and describe how their painting is similar to van Gogh’s work. They should discuss their choice of subject matter, their style, and the methods they used to achieve a likeness to Vincent van Gogh’s paintings. If the teacher feels it is necessary, a short quiz may be given over common aspects of van Gogh’s life, works, and methods.

Relation to Life:

Students try to imagine the impact of finding a Vincent van Gogh painting. What would happen to it? What would it be worth? Where would it be kept? Teacher will also generate a discussion of where his paintings are now, what they are worth, and the class will reflect upon van Gogh’s life.

Ideas for Further Work:

Look at other oil paintings and describe how they differ from Vincent van Gogh’s oil paintings. In addition, comparing oil paintings to paintings done with different media would be another activity. If possible, a field trip could be taken to a museum that houses a van Gogh painting so that students can see what they really look like with their true texture and relief.


Oil Paint




Exhibition Wall Text:

Work will be displayed on a wall with a title above as “The Lost Works of Vincent van Gogh.” A paper will be posted describing the paintings as work that the students felt Vincent van Gogh may have painted, but they have not been discovered yet.

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