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Advanced ELL Activities

Use the following artworks and activities to build your students' comprehension, speaking, and writing skills.

Shown from about the waist up, a woman with smooth, pale skin sits in a chair facing our right in front of a canvas on an easel in this vertical portrait. She leans onto her right elbow, which rests on the seat back. She turns her face to look at us, lips slightly parted. Her dress has a black bodice and a deep rose-pink skirt and sleeves. She wears a translucent white cap over her hair, which has been tightly pulled back. A stiff, white, plate-like ruff encircles her neck and reaches to her shoulders. She holds a paintbrush in her right hand and clutches about twenty brushes, a wooden paint palette, and a rag in her left hand, at the bottom right of the canvas. The painting behind her shows a man wearing robin's egg-blue and playing a violin.

Judith Leyster, Self-Portrait, c. 1630, oil on canvas, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss, 1949.6.1

Reading Comprehension Activity: Read information about the life of artist Judith Leyster. What facts about her life interest you most? Explain why. How can you relate what you know about her life now with her expression in this self-portrait? 

A light-skinned man and woman and a collie dog are outside a white house at the edge of a pale peach field of grass in this horizontal painting. Taking up a bit more than the top right quadrant of the composition, the house is white with pale blue shadows. Near the back, left corner of the house, the door has two tall, inset frosted glass panels and a shallow roof supported with scrolling, carved corbels. The door is flanked by a bay window on the left and a single window on the right. A shadowy grove of blue-green trees grows to the left of the house with one branch reaching toward the bay window. The woman faces us and stands between the bay window and door with downcast eyes and folded arms. Her blond hair is pulled or brushed back, and she wears a snug fitting, calf-length teal-blue dress. The man sits on the doorstep so his knees are angled to our left. His near arm drapes over his left knee and his far hand reaches toward the dog, his fingers and thumb touching. He has short blond hair and a ruddy face, and he wears a white t-shirt and olive-green pants. The dog stands in the middle of the field with its body angled to our right, its pointed ears and tail pricked up as it swivels its head to look to our left. It has an auburn-brown coat with white belly, chest, and tip of the tail. There are a few areas of spearmint green in the otherwise peach-colored grass, which is tall enough to brush the belly of the dog. The artist signed the lower right, “EDWARD HOPPER.”

Edward Hopper, Cape Cod Evening, 1939, oil on canvas, John Hay Whitney Collection, 1982.76.6

Listening Comprehension/Speaking ActivityWatch a video about the life of American artist Edward Hopper. Write down five interesting facts about Hopper from the video and share with a partner. Compare your choices.

A young boy with pink and tan-colored skin stands next to a seated woman with an ashen white face, and both look out at us in this vertical portrait painting. The scene is created with broad areas of mottled color in rust and coral red, pale pink, lilac purple, ivory white, and shades of tawny brown. The eyes of both people are heavily outlined with large, dark pupils. To our right, the woman’s pale, oval face is surrounded by a muted, mint-green cloth that covers her hair and wraps across her neck. Her eyes are outlined with charcoal gray, and her heavy lids shaded under arched brows with smoky, plum purple. She has a straight nose, and her burgundy-red lips are closed in a straight line. Her long, rose-pink dress is lavender purple below the knee, and is scrubbed with darker pink strokes across her lap. Her sleeves are tan on the upper arms and cream white on the forearm, over two blush-pink forms that represent her hands resting on her thighs. Along the top of her shoulders, her dress is terracotta red. A rectangular, fog-gray form behind her could be a chair or a half-wall, the top edge of which is higher to our right of her head. To our left, the boy has dark brown, short hair over putty pink, protruding ears. The area between his eyelid and arched brow is filled in with chocolate brown, giving his staring eyes a hooded look. His jawline, chin, and lips are outlined with dark brown. His khaki-brown, knee-length coat has pale, rose-pink sleeves and a black collar. An area of pale, ice blue could be a kerchief or high-collared shirt, and he wears fawn-brown pants. One of his slippers is coffee brown and the other, closer to the woman, is slate gray. He holds a loosely painted, pale, turquoise-blue object in one hand at his waist. The pair are situated against a background painted in areas of coral, ruby, crimson, and wine red. Two vertical, concrete-gray strips behind the boy and woman could be columns. The floor along the bottom edge of the painting is pale pink.

Arshile Gorky, The Artist and His Mother, c. 1926-c. 1942, oil on canvas, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 1979.13.1

Reading Comprehension/Writing Activity: Read about the life of artist Arshile Gorky on the National Gallery of Art website. After reading his biography, select three facts about it that you find interesting. Write a paragraph and share it with a partner.