Vincent's collection

Do you have a collection?
(En wat verzamel je dan?)
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Slide 1: Slide
Art and designEnglishPrimary EducationLower Secondary (Key Stage 3)

This lesson contains 15 slides, with text slides.

time-iconLesson duration is: 45 min


After a brief introduction to Vincent's collection of prints, the class will write museum-style labels for objects they have collected.


General learning objectives
- The class will learn more about one particular source of inspiration for Vincent's work.
- The students will write brief texts about objects that they have collected.
Materials required 
 - One copy per student of the worksheet 'My collection'.
Optional variations
Use objects (or photographs of objects) from the students' collections to put on an exhibition in the classroom or a central place in the school. The students can use a word processor to turn the final texts on their worksheets into professional-looking museum labels. You can have a few students investigate what fonts and sizes are most effective, and then the class can make a group decision. A consistent style for the labels will help to make the exhibition look like a unified whole.


Items in this lesson

Do you have a collection?
(En wat verzamel je dan?)

Slide 1 - Slide

Hand out the worksheets and tell the class that this lesson is about collecting. Ask them to answer the first three questions (5 minutes). Afterwards, several students can read their answers, and you can have a brief class discussion. Then go on to the next slide. (If there are students who don't have collections, you can ask them to pick something they'd like to collect.)
Vincent's collection
Vincents verzameling

Slide 2 - Slide

Explain that the class is going to look at a collection made by a famous Dutch artist. His name is on the board: Vincent. Does anyone know who that could be?
Vincent's collection
Vincents verzameling

Slide 3 - Slide

This is Vincent: Vincent van Gogh.
(Self-Portrait as a Painter, 1887-1888)

Vincent's collection

Slide 4 - Slide

Tell the class: Vincent van Gogh collected all kinds of things: birds' nests, owl pellets, books... But together with his brother Theo, he also had another kind of collection. You can see one item from that collection on the board.

Slide 5 - Slide

Question: What is this exactly? Who can tell me what we are looking at?
> This is a Japanese print (by the artist Utagawa Hiroshige, printed in 1857).
Question: How can you tell that this picture was made in Japan?
> You can see small human figures in Japanese dress, Japanese characters, and a blossoming tree.
'Theo and I have hundreds of these Japanese prints.'
Vincent aan zijn zus Willemien, 

ca. 30 maart 1888

Slide 6 - Slide

Tell the class: Vincent and Theo were fascinated with Japanese prints. Vincent even said they made him 'much happier and more cheerful'. On the board, you can see what he wrote to his sister Willemien about the collection around 30 March 1888.

Slide 7 - Slide

Tell the class: Vincent van Gogh's collection of Japanese prints is kept at the Van Gogh Museum. It includes more than 80 prints by Utagawa Hiroshige, the artist who made the print of the blossoming tree.

Slide 8 - Link

If you have enough time, you can use the link to look at a few of the 84 prints by Utagawa Hiroshige in detail.

Slide 9 - Slide

Tell the class: You can see that Japanese prints were very important to Vincent, because he painted copies of some of them. Have a look at this painting. Do you recognize the print we saw earlier?

Flowering Plum Orchard (after Hiroshige), 1887

Slide 10 - Slide

In this portrait that Vincent made of a friend, he used Japanese prints in the background.

Portrait of Père Tanguy, 1887 – Musée Rodin, Paris

Slide 11 - Slide

And if you look closely, you can see Japanese prints on the wall of this café. Vincent knew the owner, and she gave him permission to exhibit his collection there.

In the Café: Agostina Segatori in Le Tambourin, 1887

Slide 12 - Slide

So we know that Vincent was eager to show his collection to other people. But very few of Vincent and Theo's prints are now on display in the Van Gogh Museum. Question: Why do you think the prints are not all on display there?
> Art works on paper are sensitive to light. They change colour and fade much faster than paintings. (Think about what happens to coloured paper when you leave it in the sun.) > At the same time, there's not enough room. The museum needs most of its space for Vincent's own paintings.

Slide 13 - Slide

Question: Can you see in this slide how the museum tells visitors about Vincent and Theo's print collection?
> A label next to the painting gives an explanation. Underneath the text is a reproduction of the Japanese print that Vincent used as a model.  (In the Van Gogh Museum, a gallery text is about 60 words long. The text is printed on the label twice: once in Dutch and once in English.) 
Writing a label in 10 minutes
(En wat verzamel je dan?)

Slide 14 - Slide

You can tell the students that it's now time for them to write about their own collections. Point out assignment 4 on the worksheet. Question: Imagine that you could put your favourite item from your collection on display in a museum. What would you like to tell people about it? Usually, you have more to say than will fit on a label. Think about what's most important to you and write that down. Make sure to use no more than 60 words. (10 minutes)
Writing a label in 10 minutes
  • Think about what is most important to say. Write that down.
  • Make sure to use no more than 60 words.
  • Keep an eye on the time.
  • When you're done, check what you've written carefully. Does everything look good? Is the spelling correct?

Good luck!

Slide 15 - Slide

Briefly discuss the tips on the board before you have the class do the assignment. You can finish off the lesson by having some students read their labels aloud.