Language Through Van Gogh

Unit using Van Gogh’s Starry Night as the central focal point

Unit focuses on language with additional references to 1) History, 2) Art, 3) Science, 4) Music, 5) Writing

Part One:
Draw, paint, or otherwise represent an “impression” of Van Gogh’s ”Starry Night” that is not an exact duplicate. Leave out various elements such as the church, the village, etc.

 

starry night

Part Two:
Let it be highly visible in the classroom so that students become very familiar with your version. While you are “waiting” slowly put up a wall beside it that contains small info blurbs about Van Gogh, the history of the time, the situation that he painted it in, and how the painting was originally received. Then add information about how the modern world has received his works. Include references to the art world, astronomers, and Don McLean. Add a copy of the song’s lyrics. Add further references to how people have been interpreting the painting. Make references to astronomers, religious references to the stars in the sky, the church, and the cypress tree. Add a word wall. Add a “what you are learning” section. Add a further section concerning questions that you expect them to answer. Add a writing component.

Part Three
Ideas for organization:
A section called “To Think About”
This section contains the facts about the painting, its reception, the themes present in both the “impression” one and the original. Mine has the following facts listed:
1) Van Gogh is considered one of the greatest painters of all time.
2) The style of painting is called impressionism. It is not supposed to look like a picture but rather an “impression” of what is seen.
3) The painting on the wall is my “impression” of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”.
4) Van Gogh’s paintings were considered “childlike” by his peers.
5) “Starry Night” was painted in 1889, the year before Van Gogh died.
6) People today continue to try to interpret “Starry Night”.
7) Many discussions and papers have been written about the number of stars in the sky.
8) Astronomers used the positioning of the stars to tell the day that he painted “Starry Night”.
9) Van Gogh painted his “Starry Night” the day after looking out the window at the asylum.
10) The church was a creative element that did not exist in the village he was painting. It was from his hometown, instead.
11) At the time of his death Van Gogh had only sold one painting.
12) Don McLean wrote a song about Van Gogh titled “Vincent”.
13) The song was a major hit. People do not refer to it as “Vincent” but as “Starry, Starry Night”.
14) The cypress tree shows up in other Van Gogh paintings.

Questions asked:
1) How did painting “Starry Night” the day after seeing it change it?
2) When people called his work “childlike” how do you think that made him feel? Why?
3) What is your opinion of the 11 stars in the sky?
4) What is different about the way Van Gogh portrays stars and the way we are taught to do so?
5) Why would Van Gogh call the big brown-black picture a “Cypress Tree” and why have it so strongly portrayed?
6) What themes are seen in this picture?
7) Are these themes or elements in the original?
8) How is this picture similar to Van Gogh’s?
9) How is it different?
10) Why did I choose to not include some things?
11) What would you paint or draw in this style or method if you could? Why did you choose that?
12) If you were to write a song about a piece of art, what would it be? Why?
13) How is impressionism different from a landscape or a portrait?
14) Would you have represented the wind and stars as he did?
15) Is this the way we see a starry night?
16) How were astronomers able to determine the exact time and date?
17) What is the rotation and revolution of celestial bodies?
18) How would revolution and rotation help determine positioning? Dates? Times? Places?

Things that we are learning from this project:
compare, contrast, time, place, identify, data
Astronomical features, interpret, express, perspective, relationships, history
Diversity of application, discuss, write, technique, themes

For further exploration:
1) Ask the students to draw something in the style. When they are done have them explain what they did and why.
2) Ask the students to write words about a piece of art to a popular song to share with the class.
3) Ask the students to write their feelings about Van Gogh and his treatment by his peers. Have them compare it to the way they feel at school. Create a Venn Diagram.

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