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Vincent Van Gogh
Fourteen Sunflowers in a Vase, 1888
Oil on canvas
National Gallery, London

Level: Primary, Junior, Middle
Grades: K-8 | Age: 5-14 | Written by: Linda Moucha
[Linda is an art educator for Barry Community School District #1 in Barry, Il.]

Students will make pastel pictures of sunflowers in the style of Vincent Van Gogh.

Media: Pastels

Time: One (30-40 minute) class period

Concept: Art History - Pastel technique

Art Element: Shape, Color

After completing this project the student will be acquainted with the following:
  1. Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) was an Impressionist painter who painted in the 1880s in Europe.
  2. Vincent used bright unusual colors to paint portraits, flowers, and landscapes.
  3. Colors seem brighter when drawn on dark or dull paper.
  4. Bright colors and large shapes attract the viewer's attention.
  5. Pastels can be used to create a variety of lines and textural effects.



What You Need:
What You Do:
  1. Read Camille and the Sunflowers to the class. Showing the pictures and pointing out posters/visuals of pictures hung about the room at the appropriate times. Discuss the story and the artist Vincent Van Gogh.

  2. Distribute pastels and paper. Have students write their name on the back of the paper in pencil or crayon. Then roll up long sleeves, as pastels can be messy!

  3. Place paper vertically on the table. First create large bright sunflowers on the top half of the paper, so as not to smear the pastels. Students choose their own favorite colors, as Vincent didn't always use the "correct" colors, either!

  4. After coloring in their own bright sunflowers, have them create a vase below the flowers. This vase may also be colored in. Don't forget to add stems and leaves. Try not to rub arms across the pastels.

  5. Collect finished work. Teacher must use fixative on the work, which is best done outside.
Tip: For fixative, you can substitute hairspray or a mixture of glue and water (50% water - 50% glue) in a spray bottle - always test on small area of picture first, before covering the entire piece!!!

About Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh (born 1853, died 1890) is probably one of the most well known and influential artists of the 19th century. The son of a Dutch pastor, the young Van Gogh worked for picture dealers along with his brother Theo. He also taught in two English schools and in his twenties, became a missionary in the coal mining district of the Barniage in Belgium, where he lived among the miners and shared their hardships.

During his life, Van Gogh lived in various locations including Brussels, The Hague, Antwerp and Drenthe and in his travels, taught himself to draw and paint, in addition to taking the occasional art lesson. He moved to Paris at age 33 to live with his brother Theo (who was working in a gallery), and it was there that he came into contact with the work of the Impressionists.

Where before his work was dark in color with heavy forms and subject matter depicting peasants at work in the fields, in Paris, Van Gogh's paintings began to take on a somewhat Impressionistic feel. Flowers, portraits, self portraits and images of Paris appeared in his work. He went to Arles (later joined by fellow artist Paul Gauguin) at the age of 35 and upon arriving painted landscapes and portraits full of vivid colors and passionate feelings. In the years following 1888, he spent time in an insane asylum and eventually - at the age of 37 - took his own life. It was during the months approaching his death that Van Gogh created some of the most vibrant, expressive paintings known to man. In all, he produced an enormous volume of work - much of which was left in the care of his brother Theo's son.

Recommended Books/Products:
Camille and the Sunflowers : A Story About Vincent Van Gogh
by Laurence Anholt
The story, based on a true-life incident, is beautifully illustrated in full-color, including reproductions of some of van Gogh's paintings.

by Rebecca W. Atwater Briccetti
Page after page of gorgeous photographs profile the sunflower in all its aspects.

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