Tuesday, January 24, 2012

VIP: Very Important Painting - Starry Night (2012)

Teaching the story of Vincent Van Gogh and the creation of Starry Night is, to me, one of the greatest moments of the year.  We have studied this painting in many different ways in my room.  The book Visiting Vincent Van Gogh is a great introduction for younger students.  It discusses his town, his house, his friends, as well as an age appropriate description of his illness.  We discuss the beauty of the night sky, and how Van Gogh found it especially wonderful that night, one of his first nights outside after a long hospital stay, with twinkling stars, a swirling breeze, and a cozy little village all tucked in under a glowing moon.
Van Gogh's masterpiece

First graders created their own interpretations of the Starry Night, including many of the artistic elements found in the original landscape - a sense of space created by overlapping, and a feeling of movement made by swirling brushstrokes.  In years past, our landscapes were created with crayon resist - the details of the picture were colored with wax crayon and the papers were covered in midnight purple tempera and wiped down, as seen here. 

Last year's resist method

This year, we tried a mixed media approach similar to one I'd seen over at For the Love of Art.  Oil pastels make bright moons and stars, we painted our background and middleground, and finally collaged the cypress tree and village on to the foreground.  We enjoyed the music of Beethoven's Moonlight during our creative time.  Enjoy!


  1. Very creative and artistic students! I wonder how I can link this into a reading lesson where I'm trying to have my (second graders)learn to visualize.... This weekend a family member who visited the art museum in New York city posted a picture of Van Gogh's Starry Night. Any suggestions?

    1. I think this is a fantastic painting for visualization! Before you show it to them, describe it to them and have them come up with their own drawing. Maybe explain the story of how Van Gogh had been in the hospital and the sky was especially beautiful that night. After that, compare the real painting to what they visualized and compare. Playing Beethovens moonlight would certainly add to the atmosphere - good luck!


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