Lesson 1: This is Vincent

This is Vincent 
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Slide 1: Slide

This lesson contains 30 slides, with interactive quizzes, text slides and 1 video.

time-iconLesson duration is: 90 min


  • Easel
  • Cloth for the easel
  • Museum edition ‘The bedroom’
  • Digital Blackboard/screen
  • Internet connection
  • For each student:
  • A pencil (grey)
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Eraser
  • Worksheet for lesson 1
Approximate timings for this lesson:
  • Intro and are you like Vincent 15 minutes
  • True or false 10 minutes
  • Film clip + what are you good at 5 minutes
  • Colour / shape/ line incl. Zoom in assignment 25 minutes
  • Info about bedroom/yellow house/ Roulin family/Arles 5 minutes
  • Written assignment 25 minutes
  • Discuss written assignment 5 minutes
Total 90 minutes.

Items in this lesson

This is Vincent 

Slide 1 - Slide

Introduce yourself and explain that you will be coming to give a number of lessons about Vincent van Gogh. You have even brought one of his paintings with you. It’s not the real thing, but it almost looks like it is.
Don’t reveal at this point which painting you’ve brought. The museum edition is on an easel, with a cloth draped over it.
Explain that you’re going to make something in each lesson:
Lesson 1. A story
Lesson 2. A drawing
Lesson 3. A painting
Lesson 4. A photo
Lesson 5. An exhibition of everything you’ve made

Slide 2 - Slide

Introduce yourself and explain that you will be coming to give a number of lessons about Vincent van Gogh. You have even brought one of his paintings with you. It’s not the real thing, but it almost looks like it is. 
Don’t reveal at this point which painting you’ve brought. The museum edition is on an easel, with a cloth draped over it.
Explain that you’re going to make something in each lesson:
  • Lesson 1. A story
  • Lesson 2. A drawing
  • Lesson 3. A painting
  • Lesson 4. A photo
  • Lesson 5. An exhibition of everything you’ve made

Are you like Vincent?
I don’t know what I want to be yet
I’m stubborn
I like nature
I find it difficult to stick to rules 
I work hard / don’t give up easily 
I fall in love very easily
I like to do things in a new or different way 
One day I’m happy and full of energy, and the next I’m tired and feeling down 
I want to mean something (to others/the world) 
I make my own choices, even if they are not popular 

Slide 3 - Slide

Explain: before we start exploring the life of Vincent, and we discover whether you already know something about him, let’s have a look at Vincent himself, and whether you are like him. I’ve got ten statements. Think for yourself whether you think each one describes you. You don’t need to share your answers. Keep a count of how many times you answer yes. 
Discuss the fact that anyone who often answered ‘yes’ is like Vincent in some ways. 
True of false?

Slide 4 - Slide

Check what the students already know about Vincent van Gogh. Explain that you’re going to show eight slides, each with two statements. One is true and one is false. What do the kids think, and why? First, read out both statements, so they can think for a moment. Then read them again. Anyone who thinks the statement is true should stand. If they think it’s false, they stay seated. This gives you an idea of what the kids already know, and you can gather some basic information. Use the information in this guide to give and explain the right answer for each slide.  
True of false?
Statement 1:
Vincent van Gogh lived from 1853 to 1890
Vincent van Gogh is still alive

Slide 5 - Quiz

The first statement (A) is true. 
Vincent lived over 130 years ago. He only lived to the age of 37. 
True of false?
Statement 2:
Vincent was a Dutch artist who moved to France
Vincent was a French artist

Slide 6 - Quiz

The first statement (A) is true. 
Vincent was Dutch, but he made a lot of his paintings in France. He moved to Paris to get inspiration from French artists. He later moved to the French countryside because he loved painting it. Point out the different places on the map (see next slide).

Slide 7 - Slide

Orange arrow is pointing to The Netherlands
Blue arrow is pointing to  France

Old map: 1843
True of false?
Statement 3:
Vincent painted the Sunflowers, the Potato Eaters and 43 other paintings
Vincent made more than 850 paintings

Slide 8 - Quiz

Statement B is true. 
Vincent made more than 850 paintings in his life. We don’t know exactly how many, because lots of them have been lost. He also painted over some, and he swapped his paintings for other artworks. But he made many many paintings in just 10 years, that is certain. He called himself a ‘painting-locomotive’ (Vincent lived in the age of the steam train). 
True of false?
Statement 4:
This is a photo of Vincent van Gogh .
This is a self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh.

Slide 9 - Quiz

Both are true. The photo shows Vincent at 19, when he did not yet know he would become a painter. He had put on his best clothes for a photograph that was going to be a gift for his father. In the self-portrait Vincent is a grown man. He painted himself looking in the mirror. Do the kids think the person in the photo and the self-portrait look the same? Unfortunately, there are no photo portraits of Vincent as an adult. 
True of false?
Statement 5:
Vincent was already producing amazing paintings when he was 12
Vincent had to practise a lot to become a good painter

Slide 10 - Quiz

Statement B is true. 
Vincent practised a lot to become a good painter. He had a hard time with perspective and proportions, for example. He made lots of studies so he could master these things. He also looked at a lot of art by other people, and read about art, teaching himself more and more. He developed a quick, rhythmic style of painting. He wrote that he had painted Wheatfield with Crows in an hour and a half, but it had taken him ten years to be able to do that. 

See quote on the next slide.
'I keep on making what I can't do yet in order to learn to be able to do it.'
Vincent wrote:

Slide 11 - Slide

This item has no instructions

True of false?
Statement 6:
We do not know what Vincent was trying to say in his paintings
Vincent wrote hundreds of letters about his art

Slide 12 - Quiz

Statement B is true. 

Vincent sometimes wrote two letters a day, most of them to his brother Theo. A lot of his letters have survived and they have been published. A lot of what we know about Vincent van Gogh comes from his letters. 
True of false?
Statement 7:
Vincent got money from his brother Theo to buy painting stuff
Vincent was a poor artist

Slide 13 - Quiz

Statement A is true. 

Lots of people think that Vincent was a poor artist. Actually, he had plenty of money, he just spent it rather quickly! He mainly bought lots and lots of painting stuff, but he also had to pay his rent. Vincent didn’t earn any money himself. He got it from his brother Theo, who tried to sell Vincent’s paintings in exchange. Theo continued to send Vincent money for ten years to help him make his living as a painter. 
True of false?
Statement 8:
Vincent did not become famous until after his death
Vincent sold some paintings before they were finished because they were so popular

Slide 14 - Quiz

If only the second statement were true! Unfortunately, Vincent only sold one painting during his life: The Red Vineyard (see next slide).

Statement A is true. 
Title: The Red Vineyard
Date: 1888
Collection:  Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow.

Slide 15 - Slide

After answering the true/false questions, the kids know quite a lot about Van Gogh. Tell them that you’re now going to watch a film clip in which will they will find out more about him.

Slide 16 - Video

Film clip: My Story, duration: 4:51 min
What are you good at? 

Slide 17 - Slide

The film ends with the question ‘what are you good at?’. 
Ask the kids what they are good at. Ask them some more questions about it.
Was it difficult to learn? Did you have to do loads of practising like Vincent, or were you good at it straightaway? Is it fun to learn something, or is it only fun once you can do it? Have you ever had the feeling that you were born to do something? Like dancing or football, for example?
And if the kids can’t think of anything they’re good at, ask them what they would like to be good at. And what is ‘good’ anyway?
Make a link to the museum edition of The Bedroom. Vincent was really pleased with the painting you’re about to show. He made several versions of it.

The Bedroom 

Slide 18 - Slide

Now reveal the museum edition (maybe get one of the kids to help). Does anyone know this painting? 
Explain that the painting you’ve brought along was made with a 3D printer. First the real painting was scanned. Then this print was made from the scan. All the lumps of paint in the original are also in this fake version.

In the following slides, you and the kids will investigate the colours, shapes and lines in the painting (VTR: colour shape line)
Invite the children to come and feel the painting in small groups. They can run their open hand over the lumps of paint. Where are the thickest lumps? Mention that you’re not usually allowed to do this in a museum, as it would damage the painting. Unfortunately, Vincent is no longer around to make a new one.
What colours do you see?  

Slide 19 - Slide

Look for the reds, blues, greens and yellows in the painting. Are there any other colours? Did Vincent also use black and white? 

Slide 20 - Slide

Explain that the colours we see in the painting now are not the same as the colours Vincent used. Most of the red paint he used was not light-resistant, and it gradually faded out of the image. That’s why the purple wall is now light blue. The floor was also much redder.
Which colours do the kids like best? The original colours, or the colours as they are now?
What shapes do you see?   

Slide 21 - Slide

Discover the many angular shapes in the painting. Have the kids point out a number of squares and rectangles, or point them out yourself. For example: the paintings on the walls, the mirror, the rectangular window with the square pains, the back wall, the drawer in the nightstand, the panels in the door, the door itself, the pillows.
Some squares are drawn in the perspective of the room. For example: the paintings on the side wall, the seats on the chairs.
Point out a number of shapes that are rounded, or irregular: the wash basin, the towel, the hat on the coat rack, the curved bedhead.
What shapes are not in the painting? Vincent didn’t paint any shadows under the furniture. He got the idea from Japanese prints (see hotspot). Japanese artists also often left out the shadows. By doing this, Vincent kept the painting simple and calm.
What lines do you see?  

Slide 22 - Slide

Discover the lines that define the painting. Vincent used thick outlines around the furniture. Look for example at the thick black line along the bottom of the bed, or the lines around the nightstand and chairs. Vincent used green lines to indicate the floorboards. Simple lines define the panels in the door. He also used diagonal lines to show how the mirror and his paintings were hung on the wall. 

Slide 23 - Slide

Show Vincent’s pen and ink drawing of his bedroom. He made the same picture using different materials. Can the kids spot any new lines in it?
There are more lines in the floor. Vincent also put horizontal stripes on the mirror, the back wall and the windows. He put slightly curved stripes on the wash basin to emphasise its rounded shape. On the blanket, too, the stripes curve over the side of the bed.
Assignment: zoom in  

Slide 24 - Slide

Give the following assignment:
Get your worksheet.
Make a square using your thumbs and index fingers and look through it at the sketch of The Bedroom on the screen. Choose a little bit of the drawing (like a bit of the floor or bed cover) and try to draw what you see in the first square. Try to follow the stripes as well as you can.
Choose an entirely different bit of the drawing and do the same again.
Discuss: What have you discovered?
In this drawing Vincent used short stripes that continue on one after another, are placed above/below/beside one another, or at right angles. This gives the drawing rhythm.

'Seeing this painting must give peace to the head, or rather, to the imagination.'
Vincent wrote:

Slide 25 - Slide

Vincent wanted to make a painting that makes you calm. He wrote about it in a letter to Theo. Do the kids think he managed it? Who gets a completely different feeling from this painting? That’s quite possible, because art is always very personal. 
The Roulin Family

Slide 26 - Slide

You’re now going to tell the class more about Vincent van Gogh’s The Bedroom. Ask the kids to listen carefully, because the information will be useful later for their written assignment.
Vincent van Gogh’s bedroom was in the yellow house in Arles, France (in the painting on the slide). It was on the first floor, behind the green shutters. Vincent used the ground floor as his studio.
In the distance you can see a steam train. When he had to go on a long journey, Vincent usually went by train.
Vincent also painted the little café you can see. He sometimes ate there with Joseph Roulin, the postman who was also his friend.
Vincent often saw the Roulin family in Arles. He asked them to model for his paintings (see hotspot).

Slide 27 - Slide

Point out the portraits of Camille and Joseph Roulin. Joseph Roulin was a postman, and he must have handled lots of letters from Van Gogh. Camille was his son. Vincent van Gogh also painted his famous Sunflowers at the yellow house. He went out with all his painting stuff for long walks, and painted outdoors. Sometimes he finished the painting at home. 
Assignment: Write a story to go with The Bedroom

Slide 28 - Slide

Get your worksheet.
Tell the kids that they are going to write a story to go with Van Gogh’s painting The Bedroom. It doesn’t have to be true, they can make everything up if they want. They can use the information about the yellow house, the train, the letters, the Roulin family etc., but they don’t have to. It can also be about something like a cat sneaking into the bedroom.
The kids should write a short story with a clear beginning, middle and end. They can choose from three options:
- What you see in the painting is the beginning of the story
- What you see in the painting is the middle of the story
- What you see in the painting is the end of the story
First make a mind map, with all your ideas for the story. Write down individual words. Then think of the story.

Finished? Make a little drawing to go with it!

Slide 29 - Slide

Tell the kids: Vincent also told stories in his letters. He often did a little sketch too. When you’re done, decorate your story with one or more little sketches.

Discuss the stories. Who wants to read theirs out?
Who is your story for? 

Slide 30 - Slide

Tell the kids: Vincent shared his stories in letters to his brother Theo. Theo was vary important to Vincent, because he supported him and believed in his art. Who would you like to share your story with? What do they mean to you?