Grade Level: 9–12
Curriculum Connections: Language Arts
Students will learn the color theory and techniques that guided Claude Monet’s impressionist painting and apply those techniques to the creation of their own works of art.
The Japanese Footbridge, 1899
oil on canvas, 81.3 x 101.6 cm (32 x 40 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Gift of Victoria Nebeker Coberly, in memory of her son John W. Mudd, and Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg
- SMART Board or computer with ability to project two short films
- Water-soluble oil paints (or oil pastels, especially for painting outdoors), colors used in demonstration film
- Cobalt blue
- Cadmium yellow
- Alizarin crimsom
- Ultramarine blue
- Brilliant rose
- Emerald green
- Azurite blue (copper-based)
- Hookers green
- Canvas or canvas paper (any support that can handle a buildup of oil paint) You may want to tape the canvas paper to a drawing board or hard surface.
- Painter’s tape to get a crisp white edge
- Water container
- Rags or paper towels
Imagine yourself standing on this bridge and describe your surroundings. What do you notice—any sounds? What’s the weather like? Do you see any plants or animals?
In 1883, Monet moved to a property in Giverny, France. It was in Normandy, just over the Epte River from the Île-de-France, a favored spot for Parisians’ summer retreats.
Film: Monet’s Water Lily Garden and Japanese Footbridge
In this activity, students will take into consideration their observations from the Guided Practice section to create their own impressionist painting of Monet’s water lily garden. Before they begin, present the film Monet’s Palette and Technique (below) where landscape painter David Dunlop demonstrates the colors and techniques employed by Monet to capture his impression of this pond.
Film: Monet's Palette and Technique
Now project the first film, Monet’s Water Lily Garden and Japanese Footbridge, again—this time on a loop so students can directly observe his landscape as they paint like Monet. They may choose to focus on a few lily pads or a cluster of grasses along the shore or even take a different vantage point of the bridge. Please see the glossary at the end of this lesson for a list of terms and definitions used in this film.
Students will incorporate their observations and David Dunlop’s instruction to create a painting of a favorite local outdoor place: an athletic field at the school, a neighborhood park, their own backyard, or another setting important to them. They can use oil pastels if painting in oils outdoors (en plein air to the French impressionists) is too cumbersome. Once back in the classroom, students will display their works of art to fellow classmates. As a group, students should reflect on what impression each painting leaves by observing brushstrokes, horizon lines, sense of movement, and vantage points (adapt questions from the Guided Practice section to each piece).
(in order of mention)
Simultaneous contrast is the way in which two different colors can affect each other. When placed side by side, one color can change how we perceive the tone and hue of the other color. The colors themselves don't change, but we see them as altered. Simultaneous contrast is most evident when complementary colors are placed side by side.
Successive contrast is the effect created when you look at an object or a color immediately after you have observed an object or color for a prolonged period of time. An after-image is retained by your eye and can alter the color or hue of what you view next or in succession.
Fovial vision is the process of viewing an object directly and often in detail (or the opposite of peripheral vision).
Value is the lightness or darkness of a color.
Subtractive mixing means that one begins with white and ends with black. As one adds color or mixes in more paint, the result gets darker and tends to black.
Cross-hatching is the process of marking or shading with two or more sets of intersecting parallel lines.
Opaque colors are nontransparent and cannot be seen through.
Glazing is a technique of applying a transparent coating to the surface of a painting to modify the color tones.
Perspective in drawing or painting is a way of portraying three dimensions on a flat, two-dimensional surface by suggesting depth or distance.
Complements are two colors on opposite sides of the color wheel, which when placed next to each other make both appear brighter. The complementary color of a primary color (red, blue, and yellow) is the color you get by mixing the other two (red + blue = purple; blue + yellow = green; red + yellow = orange). So the complementary color for red is green, for blue it's orange, and for yellow it's purple.
Analogous color schemes use colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. They usually match well and are often found in nature (ex. blue, blue-green, and green).
Symmetry is achieved in a work of art when elements are given equal weight from an imaginary line in the middle of a piece. For example, think of your eyes in relation to either side of your nose.
Asymmetry occurs when elements are placed unevenly in a work of art but work together to produce harmony overall.
Volume is the amount of space that a figure or object takes up in a painting or drawing.
Gradual transition is the process of blending colors so that they slowly shift from one color or shade to another.
Abrupt transition is the process of blending colors so that they quickly shift from one color or shade to another.
VA:Re8.1HSI Interpret an artwork or collection of works, supported by relevant and sufficient evidence found in the work and various contexts.
VA:Cr2.1HSII Through experimentation, practice, and persistence, demonstrate acquisition of skills and knowledge in a chosen art form.
VA:Re7.1HSII Recognize and describe personal aesthetic and empathetic responses to the natural world and constructed environments.