The Artist’s Garden

Possible Classroom Concepts: Language Arts – Hobbies (Gardening), Writing (Journal)

Social Studies – Late 19th and Early 20th Century European and U.S. History, People Around the World (France)

Science – Plants (Flowers)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – French and American Impressionists

Journaling, Art Careers (Magazine Illustrators)


I’d been mulling over what my next post should be about, when I received a text and the above picture from my daughter. She had just visited “The Artist’s Garden” exhibit at the Chrysler Art Museum in Norfolk, VA. At first, I was just very jealous, as Norfolk is a four hour drive from where I live.  I didn’t see how I was going to be able to see the show before it closes on September 6th. So, I did the next best thing! I went for a virtual tour on my computer. The more I read, the more I realized that the garden exhibit  was a perfect subject for a late August blog post.  And, why not get it in before all our beautiful blossoms begin to fade all around us.

This exhibit is mainly about American Impressionists and their paintings of American gardens, but the story begins with French Impressionism in the late 19th century and European gardens. American artists went to Europe to hone their skills. Some became enchanted by the modern painters of the time, the Impressionists, who painted “en plein air” (outdoors) with newly invented tubes of paint. Some Americans painted in an artist’s colony near Monet’s gardens in Giverny. You can find a short and sweet explanation about Monet and his gardens here:


You could read or sumarize and show pictures from the delightful children’s book, Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjorkand ( It’s kind of long, thus the summary. The illustrations and photos are beautiful.) You can find a short summary video about Linnea here:

One of Monet’s other gardens is highlighted in the following video appropriate for primary aged students. They can even learn a bit of French. Go to Monet’s The Artist’s Garden at Vétheuil here:

A Giverny garden art lesson plan can be found here:

You can learn more about American Impressionists in France by reading the picture book, Charlotte in Giverny by Joan MacPhail Knight. This lovely little picture book is a fictional account written from the point of view of an American Impressionist’s daughter in the form of a journal. She plants a garden and also learns a bit of French.

The American Impressionist returned to a homeland with cities that looked like this:


“The Hovel and the Skyscraper” by Frederick Childe Hassam

As a result, two things occured at the turn of the century. One, many upper middle class families began to move a short train ride away from these cities to what we now call the suburbs. Second, people (mainly women) influenced by magazines of the time began the hobby of gardening. This came to be known as the Garden Movement. The American Impressionists, used to the gardens of Europe, went out into the suburbs and countryside in search of flowers to paint. Some painters and/or their wives grew gardens of their own to paint. For two more decades, they painted these gardens. See examples of their work and more about the exhibit here:


Childe Hassam’s “Celia Thaxter in Her Garden”

One of the best known of the American Impressionists is Childe Hassam. I talked about him in my Grand Ole Flag post which can be found here:

It just so happens that he is also famous for his garden paintings. Read about his paintings of Celia Thaxter’s garden here:

Check out Thaxter’s gardens at this interactive site:

So, I see two classroom uses for this post. First, it might be a great ice breaker lesson for the beginning of the school year. Talk about gardening as an American hobby in the beginning of the twentieth century and then have students share their hobbies. Students can illustrate their hobby. Or If you’ve read Charlotte in Giverny, discuss journaling characteristics and ask students to create an entry/entries about their favorite hobby/hobbies. Second, use this post in a plant unit. If you intend to plant a flower to coincide with a science unit, introduce the garden paintings along with that unit. If you can think of other uses please share them with me. I’d love to hear them.  If you click on the title of this post and scroll down to the bottom, there is a comment section there. Hope you’ll visit again soon!

From The Pet’s Point Of View

Possible Classroom Concepts: Pets

Language Arts: Literature and Writing – Point of View

Possible Art Room Concepts: Art History – Henri Matisse and Gustav Klimt

For the past three blog posts, I’ve been covering pets in the art world. Today, we’re going to allow the artist’s pets show us around their world. First let’s follow Raoudi, the dog, as he gives us tour of Henri Matisse’s studio. If you read my last post you’ll remember, Matisse also painted “The Goldfish, 1912”.

Next, follow Katze, the cat, through Gustave Klimt’s world in this picture book

Klimt and His Cat by Berenice Capatti

Nude Alert! This book has some nudes in it’s illustrations and in the examples of Klimt’s work at the end of the book. Klimt uses  assorted pattern in his model’s clothing. You could cover the nude areas with patterned paper doll like clothing, simply not show those pages or show the following youtube video instead. This instructor has cropped out any nudes.

After sharing one of the previous posts, how about prompting your students to write a biography from their pet’s point of view. What would their pets say?

Variety of Pets

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Pets – Different Kinds of Pets, Pet History

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Goya, Henri Matisse, Frida Kahlo and a few more

Portraits, Still Lifes, Pattern, Variety, Repetition

Dogs and cats are not the only pets in existence. Brainstorm different kinds of pets with your students. They might suggest birds, fish, mice, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, snakes, rats, lizards, rabbits, ferrets, turtles, and hermit crabs. Birds and fish have been depicted by artists, the others, not so much. In the interest of “keeping it simple”, I’m going to talk about one famous pet bird painting and one famous pet goldfish painting.


Goya’s “Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga”

First, “Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga” is probably the most well known pet bird painting. You see a magpie on a string and some finches in a bird cage. Read more about Goya, this portrait and some other pet paintings here:

Second, Henri Matisse’s “Goldfish 1912” is the best known of nine or so goldfish themed paintings he created. You can find information about the painting in the first two sections of this post:

and here:

 The influences of Japanese art on Matisse and his contemporaries are mentioned in the blog posts above. Look at the following screen art. This is the first time I’ve seen this. I was astonished! There are several similarities to Matisse’s “Golfish 1912”. How many can your students find?


Sō Shizan”s “Flowers and Goldfish”

You can find a really nice goldfish still life art lesson here:

I have to admit, that before investigating for this blog post, I didn’t know anything about the history of goldfish. Did you know that they were the first domesticated animal ever? That they originated in China? (Just one of the many things originating in China. Awwwww, but that’s for a future post.) If you are interested in learning more goldfish history and looking at more goldfish paintings check out the following post. ( Nude Alert! Pick and choose which paintings you wish to share with students. There are a couple of nudes in this post!)

I am dubbing the following painting as the one with the “Biggest Variety of Pets in One Work”:

Jonathan Eastman Johnson. Girl and pets, 1856

Jonathan Eastman Johnson, “Girl and Pets”


I’m dubbing Frida Kahlo as the “Artist With the Most Pets”. Due to injuries sustained in a bus accident, Kahlo was unable to conceive children. As a result, she collected a variety of pets. She painted 55 self portraits containing her pets. Read this FTI (For Teacher Information only) post for more about Frida and her pets:

See examples of her pet portraits and photos of Frida with her pets in the following set of slides (You may wish to crop out the cigarette in the parrot portrait. Also, you might not want to share the deer portrait with younger students. It’s rather graphic.)

Did you note Kahlo’s pet monkeys? She’s not the only famous person with a pet monkey. Pop singer, Michael Jackson also owned a pet monkey named Bubbles. Contemporary Pop artist, Jeff Koons, created a giant ceramic sculpture of Michael Jackson and Bubbles. Read more about it in this interactive post:

You may want to have your students create a self portrait with their pet/pets or dream pet. You can find a guide to human face proportions here:

A video and step by step charts for drawing many pets from basic shapes can be found in this video:

and here:

You could use the following lesson as a basis for a portrait with pets:

I certainly learned some new things from this post. Hope you found some things you can use in your pet unit! See you next time for my last post about pets.

Artist’s Cats

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies: Pets (Specifically Cats), Adopting Pets

Language Arts: Literature – Historical Fiction, Writing To Persaude

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Paul Klee

Pet Portraits, Abstraction, Commercial Art ( Product Packaging)

In my last post I talked about artist’s dogs as muses. So, today let’s travel to a post with artists and their cats.

Just as dogs inspired and became muses in works of art, so did cats. If you read my last post, you’ll see some repeat artists. Two artists not only loved their dogs, specifically their dachshunds, but also loved their cats. And it just so happens that there are historical fiction picture books written about them. Picasso is one such artist. This book entitled, Picasso and Minou by P.I. Maltbie is set during his Blue and Rose Periods. As you well know, historical fiction has some historical information and some fiction in it. Maltbie tells the reader which parts are true and which are fictional at the end of this book. Andy Warhol is the other artist who has a cat loving tall tale written about him. Uncle Andy’s Cats is a delightful story written  and illustrated by his nephew, James Warhola. Yes, Andy was originally a Warhola and changed his last name to Warhol later in life. Just as the old Dragnet television series  quote goes (I’m really dating myself here!) ,“Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” The events in this story are true but it’s not quite the way they all happened. 

“Woman and Cat 1900” is a chalk drawing by Pablo Picasso in his Blue Period and can be found below. The cat may very well be Minou.

Information about Picasso’s Blue and Rose Periods along with the circus family mentioned in the story can be found here:

A later Picasso cat work can be found here:

Some examples of images from Andy Warhol’s cat book can be found here:

The last two sites I’ve mentioned include artwork that is not quite realistic. We can tell they are cats, but they’re shapes or colors may not be quite accurate. When artists do this, it is called abstraction. Another cat loving artist is Paul Klee. See his abstract cat portrait here:

A nice description Klee and this painting can be found here:

Cat and Bird

There is also a picture book about Klee and this painting. It is entitled The Cat and the Bird: A Children’s Book Inspired by Paul Klee by Géraldine Elschner. You might use this book as an inspiration for one of the following two lessons:

Why not combine parts of these two lessons? Use the bio from the first lesson? Brainstorm with students what other things a cat might be thinking about. (a goldfish, a dish of milk, a mouse, a ball of yarn) Students could also brainstorm their own pet’s or a desired pet’s thoughts. Using geometric shapes, have students create an abstract pet portrait in the style of the second lesson. Lastly, Students would add the pet’s desire in the forehead area of their pet.

To find some intermediate aged pet activities look here: