Kids West Building Tour: Featured Selections (English)
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- Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight
(sfx: water lapping against the boats, sounds of men working, shovels scraping, men shouting in the distance)
What’s going on here? (pause)
This painting shows a view of the busy harbor… Location: Tyneside, a town in northeast England. This region was England’s mining and industrial center – in the nineteenth century, and coal was an essential source of power.
On the right side of the painting skilled boatmen, known as “keelmen”, are hard at work – their job was to transport the coal from the mines, up the Tyne river to the harbor. They navigated the shallow river in flat-bottomed boats called “keels.” When they arrived at the harbor, they would shovel the coal from their keel into the large ships docked there.
Can you tell what time of day is it?
(pause)/(sfx: more sounds of keelmen working – from Weinbren film)
The fiery torchlights are clues: The keelmen loaded the ships at night, so that they could depart with the morning tide and take the cargo down the coast to London.
Although this painting describes an industry important to England during the Industrial Revolution, it is not the focus of the composition – the true subject of this painting is light.
A full moon illuminates the cloudy sky and its reflection glitters on the smooth surface of the water. The artist, J.M.W. Turner experimented with painting techniques to convey mood and atmosphere. Looking closely at the surface – can you can see that he painted some areas more thickly than others? —the silvery-white moon and the yellow-orange torch-lights, for example. Turner created a textured surface, and these raised areas literally catch light on the surface of the canvas.
Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in London in 1775 and lived there all his life. He traveled for inspiration and filled sketchbooks with his observations. He was especially interested in nature, weather conditions, and the sea. In 1818, Turner visited the town of Tyneside… but it wasn’t until seventeen years later that he made this oil painting of the place he’d visited.
Back in his London studio, his sketchbooks served as a memory bank for ideas.
Why do you think Turner choose to paint this scene at night?
(sfx: sounds of water, keelmen working again)
- The Marquesa de Pontejos
(sfx: soft patter of little paws, growing louder/closer; bells ringing joining in with the patter, then a yapping bark)
ACTOR: DOG IN A SPANISH ACCENT:
“Hola! Buenos dias! Down here, it’s me, the little pug speaking. Look. This painting is a portrait of my owner, the Marquesa de Pontejos. Isn’t she lovely? My pink collar matches her fancy dress!
The Marquesa de Pontejos was 24 years old when this portrait was painted. She is a wonder of lace, ribbons, and petticoats in her silvery dress and straw hat. And what hair!
The Spanish artist Francisco de Goya painted many royals and their wealthy friends, showing their extravagant fashions.
He must have wanted to make the Marquesa look rosey, because he used a lot of pink. Can you find:
the pink flowers in the folds of her bell-like skirt?
pink satin ribbon around her tiny waist?
her rosy cheeks and lips?
the carnation in her right hand?
Even her pointy high-heeled shoes are pink!
Is the Marquesa taking her dog for a walk in these fancy clothes?
ACTOR: DOG’S BARK:
“Si, si, I hope so…”
Well, she isn’t actually out for a walk. This painting was probably made to celebrate her engagement to be married. The carnation was a symbol of love.
(sfx: a little dog bark)
ACTOR: DOG AGAIN
“She loved me too! And I liked posing for Señor Goya, the painter who made this portrait.”
Francisco de Goya was born in Spain and worked as a portraitist for Spanish royalty and nobility. In fact, he was appointed to several positions as the official painter of the King of Spain and his court. Goya is well known for his many portraits of society, like this one. The Marquesa’s fiancé was the ambassador to Portugal, and his brother was the Prime Minister for King Charles III. I wonder how many aristocratic dogs Goya painted in his lifetime!
(sfx: one quick dog bark)
- Watson and the Shark
(sfx: Splashing/kicking in water.)
ACTOR: (WATSON) CRIES:
ACTOR: MALE BRITISH ADULT
“Grab the rope!”
ACTOR: MALE BRITISH ADULT
“Hurry, hurry, it’s getting closer! Get him in the boat!”
A fourteen-year old boy thrashes in the water as a terrifying shark approaches. The shark draws closer, opening its powerful jaws to attack, revealing sharp, dangerous teeth.
The boy’s mouth and eyes are wide open in fear. He and the shark are just inches away from one another. He reaches his hand up toward his rescuers.
In the boat, just beyond the boy’s reach, sailors are trying to save the boy. Look for…
A man pointing a harpoon (pause)
Men steering the rowboat toward the boy (pause)
A man holding a rope that dangles into the sea (pause)
Two young sailors leaning out of the boat, desperately trying to reach the boy (pause)
An older sailor hanging on to the shirt of his shipmate (pause)
Study the sailors’ faces. How would you describe their expressions?
What do you think will happen next?
This is a painting of a true story. In 1749 a young sailor named Brook Watson was swimming in the harbor of Havana, Cuba, when he was attacked by a shark. His shipmates rushed to help him.
The artist decided to depict the scariest moment of the story. The shark had already attacked Watson twice, pulling him underwater and biting off his right foot. Notice that the water in the lower left corner is tinted red with Watson’s blood.
The shark circles around for the third time. The sailors struggle to rescue Watson and kill the shark. To find out if Watson survived and hear the rest of the story, press 1931
The sailors were heroes: Watson did survive the shark attack!
(sfx: trumpets, cheering)
It took him 3 months to recover. Because he lost his foot—his leg was amputated below the knee and he was fitted with a wooden leg.
Watson grew up to be a successful businessman and politician in England. Almost thirty years after the attack, he hired John Singleton Copley to paint his miraculous survival story. Watson hoped it would inspire others to overcome life’s challenges
Copley was an American artist who moved to England during the time of the American Revolution. Because he had never been to Cuba, he studied maps and prints of Havana in order to create an accurate background view of the harbor’s buildings and ships.
Copley had never seen a tiger shark, and he was a little less successful with that depiction. Notice the shark’s oddly shaped nostrils, strange lips and ear. It may not be an entirely accurate portrayal, but it’s still pretty scary!
- Death and the Miser
(sfx: Sound of door creaking open. Then, the sound of coins clanking as they are dropped into the bag. Finally, the slithering noises of the critters and creatures as they scurry around the room.)
What a creepy scene!
A man sits in bed. He has many visitors, some slithering and scurrying about!
Look for…the green-brown demon holding a fiery lantern, who peers down from the top of the bed,
a creature wearing a black hood with white wings, crouched near a low wall,
two grey critters scurrying under a chest,
a rat-faced beast inside the chest, holding a bag of gold
An old man who drops a few coins in
(sfx: sound of coins clanking).
There’s a second moneybag in this scene. Do you see it? A little monster peeps out from under the bed-curtains and tempts the man in bed with a bag of gold. But he isn’t the only one trying to get the man’s attention… An angel is trying to get the man to look up and notice a crucifix in the window.
But something else entirely has caught his attention…
(sfx: Sound of door creaking open)
… the skeleton entering the room, an arrow in its hand. What’s going to happen next?
This painting is called “Death and the Miser” – the skeleton represents “Death” and the man is the “Miser.” He’s on his deathbed.
This painting has a moral: it’s a warning against greed. The miser has a choice between the moneybag offered by the little monster and the pleas of the angel. Do you think the man will choose good or evil before he dies?
This painting was made in the fifteenth-century by an artist called Hieronymous Bosch. It was painted on wood panel. Look at its long, narrow shape. It may have been one panel of a huge painting that decorated an altar. The other panels-- now missing – would have told more of the story.
- Wivenhoe Park, Essex
(sfx: birds chirping, ducks quacking, cows mooing, rippling water)
What a lovely summer day. Let’s sit in the shade, along the bank of this pond, and take in the scenery…
Cows are grazing in the pasture nearby.
Two white swans glide gracefully along the water.
Ducks move across the pond and gather on the far bank under green, leafy elm trees.
Two fishermen lean over the side of their boat, tending to their nets. I wonder what they will catch?
Look up at the blue sky… it’s filled with fluffy clouds.
The artist John Constable loved to cloud watch. He was interested in how the sky affects a scene… how clouds create cool shadows on the landscape, and bright areas where sunlight passes through.
Imagine this painting in motion: the clouds drifting across the sky, shifting patterns of light and dark on the land and lake below.
This is Wivenhoe Park, an estate in England—Did you see the big red brick house in the center, it’s half hidden by trees? The owner, Major General Francis Rebow, asked Constable to paint this picture. It’s his daughter Mary who is driving her donkey cart to the left!
Artist John Constable loved the English countryside where he grew up and was inspired to paint its rivers, cottages, and farms. He often worked outdoors, sketching and painting directly from nature. Constable was most fascinated by weather, and he studied meteorology.
Constable made several sketches of Wivenhoe Park, recording the details of the open and wooded property and the effects of the clouds that floated over it. Imagine if Constable chose to paint this place on a clear, cloudless day. How might the painting look different?
Imagine this scene at sunset—How would it change?
- The Voyage of Life: Youth
The Voyage of Life is a group of four paintings by an American artist named Thomas Cole. Together, they show the artist’s vision of the journey through life, from birth to old age.
Let’s begin by looking at the first painting—“Childhood.”
(sfx: instrumental music that evokes springtime, to set mood while they find the work)
Here, a joyful baby rides in a golden boat—its figurehead holding an hourglass, to symbolize time. A guardian angel watches the baby and steers the boat. Gliding out of a dark cave in the side of a mountain, the journey begins on a calm river. The sun rises over a springtime landscape, with blooming flowers and plants. Arms raised, the baby seems excited to enter this beautiful world…
Now, find the second painting in the voyage—“Youth.”
(sfx: instrumental music/triumphal, to set mood while they find the work)
The baby has become a young man. He steers the boat by himself, the guardian angel onshore, waving goodbye. The young man is looking towards the sky at a castle of clouds. He is dreaming about a successful future. Ahead of him, the river winds through a summery landscape. Where will it lead?
To find out, turn to the third painting—“Manhood.”
(sfx: instrumental music/stormy sounds)
Our voyager is older now, and the mood of this scene is different: gloomy and troubled. Dark clouds fill the sky, rain falls. The trees are splintered. The river is surrounded by a bleak, rocky landscape. Now the man no longer steers the boat; instead he kneels, praying. Ahead of him are dangerous rapids, the river whirling and foaming as it leads out to sea. Where is the guardian angel? Will the man survive?
To find out, look at the last painting of the group —“Old Age.”
(sfx: very soft instrumental music/choral)
The man has reached the ocean; it is calm. He is old now, with a grey beard. He has been reunited with his guardian angel. Bright light pierces the storm clouds.
Can you spot more angels in the sky?
This is the last painting in the group. How do you think the story ends?
Thomas Cole was interested in the way paintings of nature could express ideas. Study these four works as a group. Compare the skies, weather, river, and surrounding landscapes. Consider how the forces of nature change from scene to scene, creating a different mood in each one. Think about how they help you understand the path of the voyager.
For Thomas Cole: Which stage of life do you think he felt was the most exciting? Which the most difficult? And, which stage of life the most peaceful?
- Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)
(sfx: waves, seagull crying, boat in water, breaking of the wood, sails flapping)
As the afternoon sun casts shadows on the sail, a fisherman and three boys return from a day at sea.
Do you think it was a good day for a sail? Look carefully for clues that let us know…
Notice the weather – gray clouds have gathered across the blue sky -- a brisk breeze fills the sail and pushes the little boat along choppy waves.
(sfx: breeze/boat through waves)
How would it feel to ride inside this boat? Everyone is leaning to one side to balance the boat as its sail takes the wind. The boys look relaxed, but maybe you should hang on tight!
(sfx: big wave)
Although it’s cloudy, rays of sunshine light the boys’ shoulders and arms. Imagine the cool sea spray splashing on them as their boat cuts through the water.
Did they have a successful day at sea? Look into the bottom of the boat and you’ll see… a bunch of fish! They are bringing in their day’s catch.
The word Gloucester is painted on the stern, or back, of the boat—it’s a fishing village on the coast of Massachusetts where Winslow Homer spent time painting.
Winslow Homer was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Early in his career, he became well known as an illustrator of books and magazines. One of the magazines he worked for sent him to make illustrations of President Lincoln’s inauguration and later, of the Civil War.
Homer traveled to many places and countries during his life, sketching and gathering ideas for his work. He particularly enjoyed creating outdoor scenes of work and play, such as this one. Its title is Breezing Up, and it took Homer three years to finish. He exhibited it in 1876, which was the one hundred year anniversary celebration of the United States.
(sfx: parades, trumpets, celebratory noises)
- The Old Musician
ACTOR: OLD MUSICIAN: (FRENCH ACCENT)
“Bonjour! May I play you a tune? “
(sfx: melancholy solo violin music; French chasson XMA… allowing time to look at painting)
ACTOR: OLD MUSICIAN:
“My name is Jean Lagrene. I was a street musician in Paris, a hundred years ago. I earned my living performing for passers-by. I also worked as a model for artists, like the painter Edouard Manet who made this picture. If not for him, I might have been forgotten… “
Take a closer look at the people who have gathered around the old musician. Find the barefoot girl holding a baby. Beside her are two young boys, one with his arm around the other. A man in a dark cape and top hat watches from behind. And to the far right stands an elderly man with a white beard and long dark top coat.
What a strange group of people to find together in a painting. What could this painting be about?
Artist Edouard Manet was interested in capturing the modern world around him. Regularly walking about Paris, he often used people from everyday life as models for his work. And, his paintings chronicle the changes taking place in the French capital, which, at the time, was being transformed into a grand city with tree-lined boulevards, beautiful buildings, and new restaurants and cafes. But you don’t see any of them here! That’s because Manet is showing the less glamorous side of modern life, painting people from a poor area on the edge of Paris. The old musician plays for passers-by, hoping for money…
(sfx: violin music… sounds of coins dropping)
ACTOR: OLD MUSICIAN:
- The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries
(sfx: clock ticking)
MALE NARRATOR (read in a low voice):
The clock reads 4:13 in the morning.
The candles on the desk have burned almost completely down. Who is this man and why has he been up all night?
ACTOR IN A FRENCH ACCENT, YAWNING:
“Bonjour, I am Napoleon Bonaparte, ruler of France. Welcome to my study.”
What does this portrait tell us about Napoleon? Look closely for clues. Start with his clothing.
Napoleon is wearing the blue, white, and red uniform of a general in the French military. With all of his shiny gold and silver medals, we can tell he has been brave in battle. On the floor behind the left side of the desk, is a half-rolled map used for military plans.
Did you notice Napoleon’s sword resting on the chair?
(sfx: sword being drawn out of a sheath)
But wait! There are more clues that Napoleon is an important ruler. It appears as if he has just pushed back his chair, rumpling the carpet. He has risen from the desk, where he had been sitting and writing with the quill pen that now rests on the edge.
See the rolled paper on the right of the desk with the letters “C O D E?” The artist wanted you to think that Napoleon has been up all night creating the Napoleonic Code, a new system of laws for the people of France.
Napoleon Bonaparte became ruler of France in 1799 and crowned himself Emperor in 1804. This portrait was painted when Napoleon was forty-three years old, by the artist Jacques-Louis David. If you look closely, you might be able to find David’s name in the painting. Look at the bottom left of the picture: David put his name on the map as a way of signing and dating his painting!
David created many images of Napoleon, including portraits and important events during his reign. In fact, Napoleon appointed David to the important position of “First Painter.”
Two years after David made this painting, Napoleon was defeated in battle and overthrown as the ruler.
“I surrender. Vive la France.”
- Ginevra de' Benci [obverse]
ACTOR: GINEVRA SPEAKING, IN ITALIAN ACCENT:
Buon Giorno. My name is Ginevra de’ Benci. I posed for Leonardo da Vinci 500 years ago.
Leonardo was twenty-two when he painted Ginevra. She was about sixteen. Both were living in Florence, Italy. It was Leonardo’s first portrait.
Ginevra is wearing a brown dress with elegant details: blue ribbon lacing, gold edges, and a sheer white blouse fastened with a delicate gold pin. The black scarf draped over her slender shoulders and neck was a fashionable accessory at the time.
Her golden brown hair is parted in the middle and pulled back in a bun. Leonardo used the end of his brush to help create the ringlets around her face.
Look at Ginevra’s porcelain complexion
her pink cheeks
and lips drawn together in a quiet line.
She looks out with brown, almond shaped eyes… but her expression is hard to read. Leonardo himself said:
ACTOR: LEONARDO DA VINCI, ITALIAN ACCENT:
“A face is not well done unless it expresses a state of mind.”
What do you suppose Ginevra might be thinking about? (pause)
ACTOR: GINEVRA SPEAKING, COYLY:
It’s my secret.
Ginevra is shown in an outdoor scene: On the right, small trees line the banks of a pool of water. A town is nestled in the hills under a misty sky. Behind Ginevra’s head is a juniper bush, a large evergreen with sharp, spiky leaves. Ginepro is the Italian word for juniper, so this is a witty pun on Ginevra’s name!
After Leonardo finished this portrait, someone asked him to create a painting on the reverse. Now walk around to look at the back.
ACTOR: GINEVRA SPEAKING, IN ITALIAN ACCENT:
Virtutem Forma Decorat. This is my personal motto written in Latin on the scroll. In English it means Beauty Adorns Virtue.
Ginevra was a poet, and the people who knew her praised her for her intellect and virtuous character. While the front of the painting is a portrait of her appearance, this side is painted with symbols that describe her inner character—This is called an emblematic portrait.
Follow the scroll from the left side where it wraps around a stalk of laurel… to the sprig of juniper in the center… and finally, to its curl around the palm branch on the right. The laurel is meant to represent Ginevra’s intelligence. The juniper identifies her by name, and the palm branch symbolizes her strong moral values.
Imagine that you could have Leonardo paint your portrait. Think of the facial expression, clothing, and words or phrase you would ask him to use to capture what makes you unique.
You’re now face to face with Rembrandt van Rijn -- one of the most famous artists in history. Here he is fifty-three years old, wearing an artist’s cap and brown painter’s jacket.
How would you describe his expression?
Serious? Worried? Wise? Gentle? Tired? Sad? Proud?
Strong light spotlights his face… drawing our attention to his deep-set eyes, wrinkled cheeks, and furrowed brow. To create his scruffy, grey hair, Rembrandt used the end of his paintbrush handle to draw curls into wet paint.
Why is the face so important? Rembrandt used the physical appearance to reflect what was going on inside—his feelings and mood.
What might he be thinking about?
Rembrandt made nearly 100 portraits of himself. He showed himself both young and old, with different facial expressions, dressed in fancy clothes and theatrical costumes, and in plain and fancy garments. In a way, he was his favorite model – he could experiment with different painting techniques and capture different moods and expressions.
Imagine you could ask Rembrandt one question. What would it be?
Look closely at this self-portrait. What clues tell us about the subject? Start with his clothing. This man wear’s a blue painter’s smock over his white shirt. And do you see that he holds several paintbrushes while gripping a palette covered with blobs of yellow, blue, green, and pink paint? You are looking at Vincent van Gogh, painting himself as an artist.
Van Gogh is known for his unique style of painting with energetic brushstrokes. He made each brushstroke visible as opposed to blending or smoothing them together. Look for the short, squiggly lines that make up his beard and hair.
…the longer, rhythmic strokes on his clothing.
…and the flame-like strokes of paint around his head that seem to make the whole background pulse!
Van Gogh was also known for using intense colors. He said:
ACTOR: VAN GOGH:
“Instead of trying to reproduce what I have before my eyes, I use color … to express myself forcibly.”
Which colors did Van Gogh use most in this painting?
Notice the blue background and blue smock. Van Gogh also used blue to outline the paintbrushes, the palette in his hand, and the edge of his nose. He also used a lot of green,
especially in his hair, beard, and skin.
At the time he made this painting, Van Gogh was recuperating from a mental breakdown. What clues in the painting tell us how he might be feeling?
Vincent van Gogh was born in Holland, but spent much of his life working in France. When he painted this self-portrait he was living in a region of southern France. Van Gogh had become ill and was feeling very sad when he made this self-portrait. He believed that making art would help his health improve.
Van Gogh’s career as an artist lasted only ten years. He died not long after he made this painting. But, just as he appears in this self-portrait, Van Gogh was a very sensitive and thoughtful painter who was passionate about art. He said:
ACTOR: VAN GOGH:
“Portraits excite me to the depth of my soul. They make me feel the infinite more than anything else.”
Imagine making your own self-portrait. What colors would you use to express yourself?
- Daniel in the Lions' Den
(sfx: variety of lion sounds, including lion snarl, moan, and roar.)
Yikes! Don’t get too close… look what happened to others who were in this cave!
(sfx: more lion roars)
The fear factor is high because these lions look so real. The artist, Peter Paul Rubens, studied them at a zoo, watching their movements, and learning their habits and expressions. He made detailed drawings to prepare for this painting.
When Rubens returned to his studio, he painted life-size lions on this huge canvas.
Some of the lions stare out of the painting—it’s as if they can see you.
Others are asleep in the den.
Some sit with their paws folded or their tails wrapped around them.
Some stand and watch, their bodies tense.
Some pace and prowl, swishing their tails.
Some growl, baring their sharp and dangerous teeth.
There are 10 lions in this painting. Can you find them all?
The man trapped in the lions’ den is Daniel. Look at the expression on his face: How might he be feeling?
Do you think he will survive these hungry lions?
Daniel was a Hebrew man who worked for the Persian King Darius more than two thousand years ago. Darius thought that Daniel was terrific and kept giving him better and better jobs. That made other powerful people jealous, so they set him up. They passed a law that said no one could pray to any god, but only to the king. Daniel, who was very religious, kept praying to God the way he always had. So the jealous counselors claimed he was breaking the law, threw him into a cave full of lions, and rolled a stone over the entrance. King Darius lay awake all night, and in the morning, rushed out to see what happened…
Rubens has painted the moment on the following morning, when the stone sealing the entrance to the den was rolled away and the morning light streamed into the dark cave. Miraculously, Daniel had survived the night!
How do you think Daniel felt when the stone was rolled away in the morning?
(sfx: light shinning)