Students will use the painting Childhood Idyll to explore flute music, body language, and posture.
Intended Age GroupEarly childhood (ages 3-5)
Length of LessonOne 30 minute lesson
Standards AreaVisual Arts
Students will be able to:
- listen attentively and interact with flute music; and
- imitate the poses in the painting, and any other poses the teacher suggests, with a partner.
1. Warm-up: Listen to early flute music (samples found here) and allow students to dance and move freely.
2. Ask the students: Do you like dancing to flute music? How do you want to dance when you hear flute music?
3. Show students the painting Childhood Idyll and have them talk about what they see. Discussion questions could include:
- What is the girl on the left doing? What kind of instrument is she playing?
- Look at the two girls: Do you think they are friends? Sisters?
4. Look at the painting again and ask students: Do the girls look relaxed? Are they having fun? What makes you think so?
5. In pairs, have students mimic the girls’ postures. Could the students have fun in these postures? Could they play games or just chat with friends?
6. While the students are still paired up, suggest different emotions and/or scenarios they can act out with each other. Some examples:
- How do siblings or friends sit when they are angry at each other? How do they sit after they’ve made up?
- When they are sharing something?
- When they are watching television?
- Eating dinner?
- Playing a card game or another game?
7. Take digital photographs of the pairs of students as they make each pose. Look at the different poses together as a class to see how each pair acted out the emotions or scenarios.
- Music samples of early flute music, such as the samples found here.
- Digital camera and a way of displaying the photos
- About the Art section on Childhood Idyll
- 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
- Language Arts
- Oral Expression and Listening
21st Century Skills
- Critical Thinking & Reasoning
- Information Literacy
About the Art
Who Made It?
Born in La Rochelle, France, William-Adolphe Bouguereau [BOO-guhr-oh] is often thought of as the typical French academic painter. After many years of studying, painting, and teaching in France and Italy, Bouguereau rose to prominence as the most famous French painter of his day. His combination of realism and idealism attracted many admirers. He cast many of his compositions in “ideal” ways, with figures based in part on classical statues as models. As one of the key supporters of the Salon (the official exhibition of contemporary art in Paris), Bouguereau showed his work there regularly for several decades. Although he lived during a time when artists were exploring new ways of painting, he never strayed from the conservative, academic style of painting he learned during his formative years. The response to his works was mixed: some found his work impressive for his technical skill, while others thought that the subjects were sappy and old-fashioned. Regardless, he is thought of as the European artist who set the academic standard for painting in the 1800s.
What Inspired It?
An idyll is a poem, prose piece, or event depicting a rural and tranquil scene, usually in idealized terms. The girls in this painting are images of idyllic innocence. Bouguereau probably created this painting during one of his frequent trips to La Rochelle, modeling it after local peasant children. Childhood Idyll reflects the classicism of academic painting in the late 1800s, which referred back to the art of ancient Greece and Rome. Bouguereau made his paintings look timeless: instead of portraying the girls in the latest fashions, he paints them wearing peasant-type clothing that could belong to several different centuries. Bouguereau’s painting process was long and painstaking; this painting is the result of months of dedicated research, sketching, and careful planning.
The artist’s brushwork is virtually invisible. The figures are painted with thin layers of paint and almost no texture, leaving a smooth, glossy finish. There are only a few spots where you can see big fanned brushstrokes in the clouds, and short, wispy brushstrokes in the shrubs.
The perception of depth in nature can be enhanced with the use of atmospheric haze. This effect is achieved by using less focus and dull, blue hues for distant objects. The haze in this painting represents cloudiness, but can also indicate humidity, rain, snow, or smoke.
Foreshortening is a technique artists use to create an illusion of depth, either by pushing an object forward or sending it back into space. Look at how much larger the older girl’s feet are compared to her head, for example. The difference in scale between the two anatomical parts suggests that the feet are closer to the viewer than her head.
Composition is the arrangement of elements in a painting. The three main elements in this painting are the girls, the background, and the foreground grasses and shrubs. Bouguereau places his subjects in a space that’s rather like a stage. The two girls are seated center stage, facing the audience at a comfortable distance. The flat landscape and empty sky create a sense of expansiveness, dividing the background into two distinct spaces—the top and the bottom. Although one has the impression that this artwork was painted out of doors, it was actually a very planned and deliberate composition that the artist worked out in his studio.
Bouguereau gives his painting a rosy glow by using pinks and flesh tones to warm the otherwise cool whites and blues. Even the ground seems reddish. Bouguereau adds white and gray to his colors to give the work its soft, pastel effect.
Except for the dark outlines of the girls’ heads against the light sky, there are no strong lines in the painting. Boundaries are merely implied by subtle color shifts. Soft edges and interwoven colors allow our eyes to flow freely across the painting.
The sunlight in this painting is diffused through the overcast sky, softening and muting the colors.