Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Artist Series - Van Gogh

Another week of sick children, changes at work, and lots and lots of cleaning up after two little ones.  I am still committed to my weekly alphabetty post!  So far so good:-)

Today's featured artist monster is Vincent Van Gogh.
Vincent Van Gogh was born in Holland in 1853.  Van Gogh is one of the best known post impressionist painters from the late 19th century.  His work continues to receive tremendous success -although he died at 37 virtually unknown.   Most of what is known about Vincent  comes from his relationship and letters to his younger brother and art dealer, Theo.  Much has been written about Van Gogh struggles with mental illness and anxiety - but there is no consensus regarding his diagnosis.

 As an artist, Van Gogh is widely known for his use of earthy tones and distinctive brushwork.  He was influenced by the Japanese woodcuts he collected and the works of artists from Paris.  His subject matter included portraits, wheat fields, and flowers.  For more information about the life of Van Gogh, click here.  
Many feel that Van Gogh ended his own life because his mental illness became such that he could no longer make art in the way that he wanted to.
Here are some of my favorite Van Gogh paintings.
And here is a link to Starry Starry Night by  Don Mclean:-)

Children's Books
The Yellow House was written by Susan Goldman Rubin.  It talks about Paul Gaugin's visit to Van Gogh in 1888.  The book does an excellent job of contrasting the two artists and talking about their complicated relationship.  It does discuss Van Gogh's cutting of his left ear, so it might not be suitable for all children.

 Van Gogh and the Sun Flowers is a book by Laurence Anholt in his series that tells the stories of artists and their friendships with children.  This book has excellent reviews from Amazon- and I think this one is going in the wishlist:-)
 Ideas for next steps
  1. Van Gogh is another artist who used art to help him with emotional overwhelm.  Teaching children about the healing qualities of art is important- and a great coping mechanism.
  2. Self Portriats- Van Gogh did a series of self portraits at different periods of his life.  Have your child draw pictures of themselves.  Use a mirror so that your child begins to understand their own features. 
  3. I did a really fun project with some middle school children where we used finger paint to create our own Starry Starry Night inspired paintings.  Finger paints are often reserved for the very young- and they can sometime create some regressive behaviors in older children (meaning that they will begin to act younger than their age).  But finger paints are also excellent kinesthetic art materials that can  help children get in touch with things that can not be perfect, and that is wonderfully okay!
Happy Art Making!

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