Looking Through Our Windows

Lesson Plan

Lesson

Students will examine the artistic characteristics of Autumn Poplars; create a drawing or painting featuring a view from one of the windows in their classroom, school, or home; and then make inferences about the geography, climate, and human activities of their environment and community by comparing artworks.

Intended Age Group

Elementary (grades K-5)

Length of Lesson

One 50 minute lesson

Standards Area

Social Studies

Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • examine the artistic characteristics of Autumn Poplars;
  • make inferences about the geography, climate, and human activities during the time period and place in which Autumn Poplars was created;
  • create a drawing or painting featuring a view from one of the windows in their classroom, school, or home; and
  • make inferences about the geography, climate, and human activities of their environment and community by comparing artworks.

Lesson

  1. Introduce your students to Camille Pissarro by asking them to imagine themselves sitting by a window in their homes. Discuss how it would feel to do this and ask them what kinds of things they would see out the window. Explain that Pissarro painted a painting called Autumn Poplars in which he painted all the things he could see through a window in his home. Share with students that his home was in France and he created this painting in 1894. (If time allows, find France on a globe or map and discuss some aspects of French culture, geography, climate, etc.)
  2. Display Autumn Poplars and invite students to look carefully and share what they observe. Make a list of all the things your students see, and prompt them to look for more and more things and to identify colors, objects, weather features, etc.
  3. Display another painting by Pissarro entitled View from My Window, Eragny-sur-Epte (1888), which shows a wider view of a scene created while looking toward a neighboring village from Pissarro's home at Eragny. You can find the painting here.
  4. Ask the students: What inferences can they make about life in this region of France during the particular period of time when these paintings were created? What do these paintings tell us about the geography and climate of the region?
  5. Invite the students to look out the classroom window and, with a partner, write down everything they see.
  6. As a class, create a master list of all the things you can see outside the classroom window. Then compare and contrast your view with the view shown in Pissarro’s painting. Prompt students by asking them the following questions: What is similar and different? Why is it similar or different? Are you currently in the same or different season as the season shown in Pissarro’s painting? How do you know? What is similar or different about our climates? How do you know?
  7. Distribute painting/drawing paper and art supplies to the students and invite them to paint or draw a picture of the view from one of the windows in their classroom, school, or home. The students might want to focus on and paint one particular part of the scene that they can see from their window, as Pissarro did with Autumn Poplars, or they may want to paint or draw a picture featuring a wider view.
  8. When the students have finished their assignments, display all the drawings or paintings in the classroom. Invite students to walk around the classroom and look at the various scenes. What inferences can they make about their environment and community? What can they tell about the geography and climate in this area? How do these findings compare with life during the time period and culture in which Pissarro created his paintings?
  9. Remind students to give each other and themselves a round of applause for a job well done!

Materials

  • Painting/drawing paper and art supplies—paint, paintbrushes, and colored pencils—for each student
  • Ability to display images from the Internet to the students
  • Map of the world, visible to all students in the classroom
  • About the Art section on Autumn Poplars
  • One color copy of the painting for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen

Standards

CO Standards

  • Social Studies
    • History
      • Understand chronological order of events
      • Ask questions, share information and discuss ideas about the past and present
    • Geography
      • Become familiar with United States geography
      • Become familiar with World geography
      • Recognize similarities and differences about regions and people using geographic tools
      • Understand people and their relationship with geography and their environment
  • Visual Arts
    • Observe and Learn to Comprehend
    • Relate and Connect to Transfer

21st Century Skills

  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking & Reasoning
  • Invention
  • Self-Direction

About the Art

Autumn Poplars

Autumn, Poplars, Éragny (Automne, Peupliers, Éragny)

1894

Camille Pissarro

Who Made It?

Camille Pissarro was born on the island of St. Thomas in the West Indies (Virgin Islands, when the island was still a territory of Denmark), where he spent most of his formative years. Pissarro was an artistic youth and spent much of his time drawing and painting. He moved to Paris in 1855, began his art studies, and joined a group of young painters who later became known as the Impressionists. Impressionist artists used bright colors, painted everyday scenes, and left their brushstrokes broken and visible—techniques that challenged the rules of academic painting at the time. Most Impressionists were not allowed to show their works at the Salon, the official French art exhibition, because of their unconventional approaches to painting. In response to their exclusion, Pissarro organized an exhibition of Impressionist paintings in 1874. A total of eight Impressionist exhibitions were organized after 1874 and Pissarro was the only artist in the group to show his work at all of them. He is considered by many to be the central figure of the Impressionists. In his time, Pissarro saw the Impressionist style move from being unconventional and rejected to favorable and admired.

What Inspired It?

Pissarro painted Autumn Poplars from the window of his country home in the village of Eragny, about an hour northwest of Paris. He loved painting outdoors and even invented an easel on wheels to help him accomplish this. Pissarro was an innovative artist, constantly searching for new means of expression; his style was always evolving. In this painting, Pissarro experimented with color, painting dots of pure, unmixed colors side by side. When viewed from a distance, the colors blend together, creating an image that is very different than what one would see close-up. He began experimenting with this technique after meeting French painter Georges Seurat [sur-AHT], who is known for this style of painting. Pissarro put his own twist on Seurat’s tight, tiny dot technique by using looser brushstrokes that appear more like dabs of paint.

Pissarro and the Impressionists had liberated themselves from the constraints of subject matter, composition, and style. Impressionists were breaking boundaries and exploring new ways to depict the world through painting. In light of their work, new possibilities opened up—among them what colors to use, what subjects to portray, and even how to paint them. Pissarro explored and experimented with these new possibilities throughout his career.

Details

Subject Matter
Subject Matter

Pissarro, like most Impressionists, was interested in scenes from ordinary life and the effects of light. In this painting, there are no people, just several poplar trees in their rich autumn colors. Don’t miss the grazing cows in the background between the trees.

Color, Light, and Shadow
Color, Light, and Shadow

Many different colors can be seen in this painting: yellow, green, pink, red, black, and blue. Light shines from behind the trees, causing shadows to be cast, which were painted in a darker green, across the grass. Leaves that have fallen off the smaller tree in the foreground dot the green grass.

Brushstrokes
Brushstrokes

If you look closely at this painting, it’s easy to see thousands of small dots or dabs of paint. When viewed from a distance, the colors begin to blend into one another, creating a more recognizable image.

Funding for lesson plans provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.