Objectives: To focus on and gain an understanding of how the elements of color and perspective can be used in a painting. To examine how Van Gogh employs them in his painting, The Night Café, to express mood and feelings.
Materials: A large print of Van Gogh's The Night Café, notebook paper, pencils.
1. Begin by having the class sit around the large Van Gogh print. Refer to the posted time-line to indicate the year (1888) in which it was painted. Encourage their careful examination through the use of such questions (taken from Section IV of this unit) as:
1. Look at the painting. Now close your eyes. Which person in this painting do you remember the most? Why?
2. Name three activities that are happening in this picture.
3. How does this painting make you feel?
4. How does the artist, Van Gogh, make our eyes move around the painting?
5. What kind of place is he painting?
6. Are there any people looking at us?
2. Introduce the element of color by saying that artists use color to express their feelings and create a particular mood in a painting. Elicit from the students which colors could be called warm colors and which ones could be called cool colors. After listing them, ask them how they feel when they look at the colors that Van Gogh has used. Point out the thick brushstrokes he uses and explain that they are typical of his style. You may want to add that yellow was his favorite color and he used it a lot. Have the students imagine how they would feel if their classroom were painted in dark red or yellow or light green or blue.
3. Introduce the element of perspective by explaining that this painting is actually flat so how does the artist show that the draped doorway on the back wall is farther away. Help them to actually use their fingers to trace the diagonal lines (impressing on them that in a museum this is not allowed because it would ruin the painting) on the floorboards and billiard table. Next they can trace an imaginary diagonal that starts at the heads of the figures sitting by the right wall all the way to the draped passageway and also the one that starts at the head of the man sitting by the left wall, past the heads of the couple and on to the same passageway. Explain that we call this element perspective and that artists use it to show the distance in a painting, that is, to make some things look farther away than others.
4. End with a 10-15 minute reflection time when the students write about how this painting makes them feel and why.