Lesson 2: Mental health of Vincent

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Slide 1: Tekstslide
Primary EducationSecondary Education

In deze les zitten 13 slides, met tekstslides en 1 video.


Digital Blackboard/screen
Internet connection

For each student:
A pencil (grey)
Pencil sharpener
coloured pencils
a sheet of paper

Approximate timings for this lesson:
5 minutes              Introduction of the lesson
15 minutes             Blind drawing assignment
20 minutes            Mental health of Van Gogh
45 minutes            Visual journal
5 minutes               End of the lesson

Total 90 minutes

Onderdelen in deze les


Slide 1 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies

Title: Self-Portrait as a Painter
Date: 1887-1888
Collection: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Slide 2 - Tekstslide

You are now going to give the second lesson about Vincent van Gogh. Start by asking what the kids remember about the last lesson.

They already saw Undergrowth last time, of course, but did they really look closely? Let's start with a little warming-up excercise.

Divide the students into pairs. One in each pair should sit with their back to the screen, and the other should have a good view of it. They have to be able to confer with each other. Once everyone is in position, move on to the next slide.

Title: Undergrowth
Date: 1889
Collection: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Slide 3 - Tekstslide

We’re going to do some ‘blind drawing’. The students with their backs to the screen are going to draw what their partner describes to them. Will they manage to reproduce the painting?

After 5 minutes of drawing, discuss:
Was it difficult? What was difficult?
Could you more or less remember what the painting looked like?
Did you see or discover any new things about the painting?

Explain: Do the students remember where this painting was made? Briefly remind them that Van Gogh was in an institution when he painted this, because he was unwell. Let’s discover more about Vincent van Gogh and how he was at the time.

Vincent sent lots of letters to his family and friends. He wrote most of them (more than 600) to Theo, his younger brother and best friend. He wrote quite openly to him about the things that concerned him, like family, money, love and art. And also about his physical and mental health. Thanks to those letters, we know a lot about Vincent, and about the good and bad times in his life. 

Slide 4 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies

I well knew that one could break one’s arms and legs before, and that then afterwards that could get better but I didn’t know that one could break one’s brain and that afterwards that got better too. 
Vincent wrote:

Slide 5 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies

In December 1888 Vincent and his friend, the artist Paul Gauguin, were living at the Yellow House in Arles (South of France). They were not a great combination, and there was a lot of tension between them. After one argument Vincent became so upset that he cut off his ear. Just before this, he had probably been working too hard and not taking good care of himself. 
Title: Yellow House
Date: 1888
Collection: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Slide 6 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies

The crises kept coming, so Vincent voluntarily admitted himself to an institution in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. He was treated by doctors, who tried to calm him. There were no psychiatrists yet in those days. Vincent received a number of treatments, including ‘hydrotherapy’, which involved switching between cold and hot baths. He would sometimes have to sit in them for hours.
Title: Undergrowth
Date: 1889
Collection: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Slide 7 - Tekstslide

Vincent van Gogh, Garden of the Asylum, 1889
Drawing and painting
Vincent stayed at the institution for nearly a year. When he was very ill he didn’t paint, but at other times he was very productive. He made about 150 paintings there, two of which you can see here. Vincent had an extra room which he used as a studio (see ‘Window in the Studio’). ‘Wheatfield with a Reaper’ is actually the view from his bedroom. 
Title: Wheatfield with a Reaper
Date: 1889
Collection: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Slide 8 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies

Painting emotion
Vincent didn’t just paint what he saw. He tried to put feeling into his work, through the way he used the brush, and by combining colours to create harmony or contrast. This gave his paintings an emotional layer. 
Title: Undergrowth
Date: 1889
Collection: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Slide 9 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies

Title: The White Orchard
Date: 1888
Collection: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Title: Wheatfield with Crows
Date: 1890
Collection: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Title: The Bedroom
Date: 1888
Collection: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Slide 10 - Tekstslide

Vincent often wrote about his paintings in his letters. He sometimes described the feeling a painting gave him. Can you guess which quote goes with which painting?

1. ‘looking at the painting should rest the mind’
2. 'en ik wilde [...] maken van een kolossale vrolijkheid'
‘and I wanted to do [...] of tremendous gaiety.’
3. ‘I made a point of trying to express sadness, extreme loneliness’

Discuss their choices. Why do they link these quotes with a particular painting? What role does colour play?

Slide 11 - Video

Seven minute meditation.

Before we continue with making our own artwork, we're going to meditate. We’re going to use meditation to discover more about the feeling that goes with Undergrowth. Do you know what that is? Have you ever done it before?

Make space for the students to lie on the floor. If it’s not clean, or it’s too cold, ask them to sit in a comfortable position.

After the meditation, ask the students to remain lying or sitting quietly for a moment.

Explain: during the meditation you might have noticed how you felt at some point. Maybe you felt calm or agitated, or you felt tired or wanted to laugh. Anything really. Take time to think about how you felt at that moment. In the meantime, I’m going to hand out the paper you will be painting on in a moment. Write what feeling you experienced on the back of the paper.
What was the best moment today? 
What do you really want?
What is on your mind today?

Slide 12 - Tekstslide

We have learned that Van Gogh shows emotions in his artwork, amongst others by choosing colour. We’re going to make a piece of art that shows how we feel, a ‘visual journal’ of today. That’s a kind of diary, without any words. It’s a drawing of how you feel.

1. Take a sheet of A4 and draw yourself in the middle. You can just draw your outline, or your face. Think about how you want to draw yourself, and in what position. Makes sure it shows how you feel.

2. How do you feel today? Look on the back of your paper where you wrote the emotions down and go through the questions on the slide. Let the students write the answers down for themselves. Explain that the students are going to draw how they feel. For inspiration they can use their answers. 

3. Make a drawing of how you feel today around your portrait. This can be one big drawing or several little ones.  Choose colours which fit the emotions like Van Gogh did! Discuss with the students: Which colour would they choose with the emotion happy? or frustrated?

4. Finished?
Discuss the artworks. You might like to use the following questions. NB: there are no right or wrong answers here.
  • Does the artwork shows your emotions?
  • Did you enjoy making the artworks? 

Title: Self-Portrait as a Painter
Date: 1887-1888
Collection: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Slide 13 - Tekstslide

Explain: In the next lesson we’re going to explore nature. It’s important that we bring some natural things, some flowers and leaves, from home. We’re going to work with them next lesson.

Keep everything you’ve made during this lesson, even the sketches that are not finished, or which you think are not so good. In lesson three we’ll look back!