Students will learn the definition of hue and explore Monet’s use of various blue hues in his painting Waterloo Bridge. Students will then create a painting of a famous bridge using various hues of one color.
Intended Age GroupElementary (grades K-5)
Length of LessonTwo 45 minute lessons
Standards AreaVisual Arts
Students will be able to:
- identify and discuss artistic elements in a painting;
- define the art term hue and learn to create different hues of one color;
- identify and conduct research on a famous landmark; and
- create a painting that displays various hues of one color.
- Display Waterloo Bridge and allow students plenty of time to observe the painting. What do they see? Where do they think this painting is set? What does the weather look like? What kind of clothes would they wear in this weather? What time of day might this painting show? What time of year? Have students back up their answers by pointing out visual details in the painting.
- Look at the colors Monet used. What colors do they see? Explain the art term hue. Hue means “color” or “shade.” Monet used various hues, or shades, of blue to create a majority of this painting. Not only are the water and sky blue, but Monet used a darker shade of blue to paint the bridge and boats, and a lighter shade to depict puffs of smoke. How many hues of blue can the students find? Are these things actually blue in real life, or just painted with blue?
- Distribute paper and either watercolors or colored pencils and have the students practice making various hues of one color. If using watercolors, let the students discover how adding more or less water to the paint makes the color either lighter or darker. If using colored pencils, let them discover how the amount of pressure they use changes the shade of the color.
- Explain to the students that in the next lesson they will be painting a bridge using various hues of just one color. Today they will do research on a bridge they want to depict.
- Give students time to look through photographs or images of famous bridges from around the world. You can find photos online by searching “famous bridges around the world”. Some examples: Brooklyn Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, Ponte de Normandie, Roman aqueducts, etc. Have older students write down three fun facts about their bridge from their research.
- Display Waterloo Bridge again and point out other elements besides color, such as repeated shapes and fog. Have the students brainstorm ideas on how they can incorporate shapes, weather, and other elements into their paintings, along with various hues of one color.
- Distribute supplies and invite the students to begin painting their bridges. Remind them that they can only use one color, but they should experiment with various hues of that color. Also encourage them to incorporate repeated shapes.
For younger students, consider having them trace their bridge onto tracing paper, then use crayons to color their bridges. (Be sure to have a variety of hues of each color.)
- Once finished, gather students together to share their creations. Have the students present their painting or drawing and tell the class the name of the bridge, why they chose it, and how many hues they used. Have older students share the three fun facts they researched in the previous lesson.
- Watercolors and paintbrushes or colored pencils
- Drawing paper
- Images of famous bridges from around the world (You can find images online by doing a Google Image search, keywords “famous bridges around the world.”)
- About the Art section on Waterloo Bridge
- One color copy of the painting for every four children, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen
- Visual Arts
- Invent and Discover to Create
- Observe and Learn to Comprehend
- Relate and Connect to Transfer
- Envision and Critique to Reflect
- Language Arts
- Oral Expression and Listening
21st Century Skills
- Critical Thinking & Reasoning
- Information Literacy
About the Art
Who Made It?
The most widely known French Impressionist and leader of that movement, Claude Monet [moe-NAY] was born in Paris and grew up on the Normandy coast. His father was a wholesale grocer, and after his mother died when he was 17, an aunt encouraged him in his efforts to become an artist. With a local reputation as a caricaturist, he attracted the interest of landscape painter Eugene Boudin [boh-DAN], who introduced the young artist to plein-air painting. Plein-air is French for “open air” and refers to paintings created outdoors.
In the 1860s, Monet joined a group of young artists who began to challenge the rules for making good paintings. They had so much trouble getting their work exhibited that they created their own independent exhibition, which yielded only ridicule and a sarcastic label for the group of artists. That label—derived from Monet’s painting, Impression, Sunrise of 1874—stuck, and produced the moniker of “Impressionists” for the group. Impressionists were initially criticized for their unworthy subjects, unrealistic colors, garish color combinations, and loose, seemingly unfinished brushwork.
Like many other Impressionists, Monet had little success in his early years. He most often chose to paint landscapes and leisure activities—everyday activities of modern Paris that were considered to be unworthy subjects for art, compared to the highly respected religious and mythological subjects. With his paintings, Monet strove to capture a fleeting moment by rendering the nuances of light and color. He wanted to depict the feeling or sensation of a scene, rather than the objects within the composition. As public opinion of Impressionism began to turn in the mid-1880s, Monet’s paintings began to sell well, and by the turn of the century, he was one of the world’s wealthiest artists.
What Inspired It?
"I so love London! But I love it only in winter. It’s nice in summer with its parks, but nothing like it is in winter with the fog, for without the fog London wouldn’t be a beautiful city. It’s the fog that gives it its magnificent breadth. Those massive, regular blocks become grandiose within that mysterious cloak." -Monet
The constantly changing light and atmospheric effects of the fog in London inspired Monet to proclaim, “No country could be more extraordinary for a painter.” Painting from the balcony of his suite at the Savoy Hotel on the Thames [tehms] River, Monet could hardly keep up with the shifting conditions. As he worked, he kept all the paintings he’d begun (sometimes dozens) close at hand. As the light changed, he’d switch out the canvas he was working on for another, frantically trying to find the one that best matched what he was currently seeing. He wrote his Paris dealer, “I can’t send you a single canvas, because, for the work I am doing, it is indispensable to have all of them before my eyes.” Monet brought the unfinished canvases back home and spent years reworking them in his studio. He made a total of 41 paintings of Waterloo Bridge.
Like many Impressionists, Monet was drawn to scenes and elements of everyday life, so it’s not surprising that he was interested in the modern parts of London. On the river we see commercial shipping boats. Across the bridge we see the smokestacks of smog-producing factories.
In winter, industrial smokestacks, commercial boats, and chimneys everywhere made great clouds of coal smoke that mixed with mist from the river. The resulting smog was like a veil over the city that changed colors with the light. Most people thought it quite dirty, smelly, and disgusting, but Monet found it wonderful.
While other painters would depict London as a drab, gray, urban space, Monet observed how the fog changed colors depending on the light. Notice the lilac, pink, and pale olive colors in the mists. As Monet explained, “The fog in London assumes all sorts of colors; there are black, brown, yellow, green, purple fogs, and the interest in painting is to get the objects as seen through these fogs.”
Monet’s first layers of paint were very thin, with thicker areas developing as he continued to add many layers and rework the surface.
Although the scene may initially appear very still, notice all the elements suggesting movement: smoke pouring from the smokestacks, clouds, boats, traffic on the bridge, the river.
Monet felt that black had a dulling effect, so instead of black, he used a color’s complement to darken an area. For example, to darken something blue, he would add some orange or red.
Repeated shapes—the circular puffs of smoke from the factories and boats, and the round arches of the Waterloo Bridge—are evidence that Monet was selective in what he included and where he placed it.
When Waterloo Bridge opened in 1817 it acted as a social division. The elegant north side of the Thames River, where the Savoy Hotel was located, was populated with large buildings and public gardens. The south side, in contrast, was the home of industry. The bridge that Monet painted was torn down in 1934 because of unstable foundations and traffic bottlenecks. The new bridge opened in 1945 and remains in use today.