Potato eaters in colour

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Slide 1: Tekstslide
Art and designPrimary Education

In deze les zitten 10 slides, met tekstslides.

time-iconLesduur is: 60 min


Each student will make a 'colour version' of one of Vincent's most famous paintings, 'The Potato Eaters'.


General learning objectives
- The students will learn about one of Vincent van Gogh's lesser-known works.
- Then they can use one of Van Gogh's ideas as inspiration for their own works of visual art.

- Before class begins, make sure all the materials are in place.

Materials required
- Sturdy drawing paper (for example, A3)
- Pencils
- Soft oil pastels in a variety of colours (don't use grease/wax pencils).
Optional variations
1. Instead of colour versions of The Potato Eaters, you could have the students make their own versions of Millet's print The Thresher. In that case, end the lesson with slide 5.
2. Instead of oil pastels, you could use poster paint or acrylic paint.

Background information
In 1889, Vincent van Gogh had himself admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. He could go on drawing and painting there, but when he wasn't doing well, he wasn't allowed to go outside (or else he chose not to). When he was still allowed to paint, he would copy the works of other artists. Sometimes his only knowledge of these works came from the 'pictures' that he collected: black-and-white prints. He had to imagine the colours.

Onderdelen in deze les

Slide 1 - Tekstslide

Tell the class: This man may look dangerous, but he's not. He's just hard at work. This is a thresher, and his stick is called a flail. He uses it to beat the grains out of their husks. These days we have machines for that, but it used to be done by hand. Question: Does anyone know who made this painting?
The Thresher (after Millet), 1890

Slide 2 - Tekstslide

Tell the class: When Vincent van Gogh made that painting, he used this as his model: a print of a drawing by the French artist Millet (pronounced 'mee-YEH'). This print is black and white. Can you see that there are no other colours in it?
"It’s not copying pure and simple that one would be doing. It is rather translating into another language, the one of colours."

Slide 3 - Tekstslide

Tell the class: Vincent wanted to make a painting based on that black-and-white model, so he had to imagine the colours himself. Here's what he said about that in a letter to his brother Theo.

Slide 4 - Tekstslide

Question: What do you think? Did Vincent do a good job of 'translating' this print? What do you think of the colours he chose? And how well did he copy the print?
Now you try it

Slide 5 - Tekstslide

Tell the class: In a moment, you can try making your own 'translation into colour'. But we'll use a different model.

Slide 6 - Tekstslide

Tell the class: The model for our 'translation into colour' will be a famous art work by Vincent himself. The colours are quite dark.
Question: Does anyone know what this painting is called?
The Potato Eaters, 1885

Slide 7 - Tekstslide

Tell the class: This is a print that Vincent made of a drawing based on his painting. By sending copies of this print along with his letters, he could easily show other people what he was working on.
Question: How is this print different from the painting?  > The print is black and white. > It is also a mirror image of the painting. That's a result of the printing process. Think of a rubber stamp, which works the same way. 


Slide 8 - Tekstslide

Tell the class: If you reverse the image, you can see how Vincent's original drawing looked. Later in his career, when he used much more colour in his paintings, he wrote that he would like to make a new version of The Potato Eaters. But he never did. How might that painting have looked, if Vincent had found the time to make it?

Slide 9 - Tekstslide

Now have the class use the reversed print to make a colour version of Vincent's famous painting. First, they can draw outlines in pencil. Then, they can colour in the drawing with oil pastels.
How did it go?

Slide 10 - Tekstslide

At the end of the lesson, look at the results together. Was this activity hard or easy? Are the students happy with what they made? You can display the paintings in a prominent place in the classroom or somewhere else in the school.