Art supervisors in the public schools assign picture-study work in each grade, recommending the study of certain pictures by well-known masters. As Supervisor of Drawing I found that the children enjoyed this work but that the teachers felt incompetent to conduct the lessons as they lacked time to look up the subject and to gather adequate material. Recourse to a great many books was necessary and often while much information could usually be found about the artist, very little was available about his pictures.
Hence I began collecting information about the pictures and preparing the lessons for the teachers just as I would give them myself to pupils of their grade.
My plan does not include many pictures during the year, as this is to be only a part of the art work and is not intended to take the place of drawing.
The lessons in this grade may be used for the usual drawing period of from twenty to thirty minutes, and have been successfully given in that time. However, the most satisfactory way of using the books is as supplementary readers, thus permitting each child to study the pictures and read the stories himself.
Flora L. Carpenter
Questions to arouse interest. Of what is this a picture? What are the three women doing in the field? What have they in their hands? Of what use are their aprons? Why do you think their work is hard? Why do you think they are used to it? How are they dressed? What story is told in the background? What do you suppose the man on horseback is doing? What can you see beyond the people? What time of the year is it? Is it a dark or a sunshiny day? Why do you think so? What time of day do you think it is? What country? Why do you think so? What do you like best about this picture?
Original Picture: The Louvre (lōō′vr’), Paris.
Artist: Jean François Millet (mē′lē′)
Birthplace: Gruchy, France.
Dates: Born, 1814; died, 1875.
The story of the picture. In this picture Millet takes us out into the country, to the wheat fields. The reapers have passed over the field, cutting down the wheat with a small sickle. Although we cannot see them in the act of cutting, we know they used a sickle in those days by other pictures Millet has painted. There is one called “The Reaper” which represents a man grasping the tall stalks of wheat with one hand and cutting them close to the ground with a small sickle.
Years later reapers used a “cradle,” which is a frame of wood with a long, sharp blade or knife fastened to a handle similar to a scythe handle. This frame caught the stalks of wheat as they were cut. Then by a swing of the arm they were laid in an even row. Then the rows were raked into bundles and the wheat tied into sheaves. All this was done by hand. Now we do it easily with a machine called a reaper, which cuts the wheat, binds it in a sheaf, and then throws off the bundles.
The man you see on horseback, in the distance at the right, is the overseer of this field. His sharp eyes have discovered that many stalks of wheat have been left on the ground, and so he has sent the women to gather them that there may be no waste.
In the background of the picture we see other women at the same task, and men busily piling the wheat from the wagon into high stacks. Farther back, and partly hidden behind the wheat stacks, we see several cottages which may be the homes of the peasants or barns in which to store the grain.
We should judge by the shadows that it is late in the afternoon and all are hurrying to finish their task. Our attention is held by the three stooping figures of the women gleaning or gathering the wheat. They have caught up the corners of their aprons and tied them in a tight knot at the back, making a sort of bag in which to place the broken heads of wheat, while their hands are filled with the stalks. The three women seem absorbed in their task. How very tiresome it would be to stoop in such a fashion for any length of time! No wonder the woman at the right straightens up for a moment to rest her back. The other two are stooping to pick up the grain. One of them holds her left hand behind her back. If you take this position yourself, you will understand how natural it is to balance yourself with the left arm as she does. The women’s caps are drawn so far down that we can see but little of their faces in the shadow. But the coarse clothes, bent backs, and hands roughened with toil represent the typical French peasant women of the artist’s time.
Millet tells us in a letter to a friend: “I want the people I represent to look as if they belonged to their station, and as if their imaginations could not conceive of their ever being anything else.” How truly he has accomplished this in our picture! The women seem to be working cheerfully without complaint or regret. They do not ask for sympathy but attend strictly to their work.
With so many other laborers in the field, and considering their task, we scarcely dare think of the miserably small pay they must receive for their labor. We wonder how they can live. And yet they have a certain wholesome, thrifty appearance—their clothes, although coarse, are not ragged; they look well and strong, and they work with an energy which would imply a certain satisfaction in their task well done.
There are no lingering looks toward the sun—their clock—or toward the distant homes, or even toward the other laborers whose tasks seem nearer completion. They are resigned. But even at best their life must be hard, and whether they ask it or not, they stir our sympathies even as they did those of the people of France when the picture was finally placed on exhibition in Paris.
The peasants of France were especially wretched after the French Revolution, and this picture appeared just at a time when people needed to be reminded of this condition of affairs. But many preferred not to be reminded, and they so resented Millet’s efforts to better the life of the French peasant that they were bitter against him for many years.
Millet was the son of a French peasant and worked out in the fields himself, so he knew all about the hardships, poverty, and wretchedness, and painted the truth as he saw it.
In the original painting there is a suggestion of red and blue in the dresses of the women, a blue-gray sky, and over it all the sun shining dimly. The coarse dresses of the women were no doubt woven by them during the winter days when there was no farm work to do.
Millet tells us that one of his earliest remembrances is of being wakened early in the morning by the hum of the spinning wheel and the voices of his mother and aunts as they spun the thread of flax ready to weave into cloth.
Notice the arrangement of the three women in the picture. They are not in a straight row, or one right behind the other, or even scattered about in the picture. Two are near each other, while the third is just a little to one side; in this way the center of interest is made more pleasing to the eye. If we make an outline sketch of these three figures we will be surprised at the number of curved lines it requires.
The sky line is very high in this picture, so the earth space is large enough to contain the figures of the three women. In this way they seem to be bound closer to the earth. We feel their lowliness, and the burden of the life they lead in their narrow surroundings.
Yet, although we feel all these things when looking at this picture of work, it is a picture of work done simply and good-naturedly and as if it were only a part of the daily task, a sort of habit of life.
Questions to help the pupil understand the picture. How was wheat cut in Millet’s day? How is it cut now? Of what use is a reaper? What are the three women in the picture doing? Who sent them? Why? Where do they put the broken heads of wheat? the stalks? Why do you think this must be hard work? Which one is resting her back? Why does one of the others hold her left hand behind her? How are these three women dressed? How do peasants usually get material for their clothes? Whom can you see in the background? What are they doing? What can you see behind them? What time of day do you think it is? How can you tell by the length of the shadows? To what part of the picture is our attention drawn? What makes you think these women are working cheerfully? that they are thrifty? What reasons have they to be discontented? to be contented? Why do you feel sorry for them? How did the people of France feel when this picture was exhibited? What had made the French peasants very wretched at this time? Why did the people resent Millet’s calling their attention to this? How did Millet happen to know so much about the peasants and their life? What colors did he use in this picture? What can you say about the arrangement of the three women in this picture? Why is this a good arrangement? How are we made to feel the lowliness of these peasants? Why is this picture called “The Gleaners”?
To the Teacher:
Subjects for Compositions
The Story Told in This Picture.
The Lives of the French Peasants.
Comparison of Labor in Those Days and at the Present Time.
Millet’s Paintings—Subjects and Purpose.
Reasons Why I Would Consider This Picture a Masterpiece.
Life of the Artist.
The story of the artist. In the little country village of Gruchy, France, dwelt a family of peasants who tilled the land and lived by the sweat of their brows. There were the grandmother, father, mother, and eight children. The eldest son was Jean François Millet, the artist who painted this picture. His mother worked out in the fields with the father, even as the women in this picture are working, so little Jean François was brought up by his grandmother, who was also his godmother. It was she who named him Jean for his father and François after the good Saint Francis. She was a deeply religious woman, and almost the only pictures Millet saw in his boyhood were those in the Bible, which he copied again and again, drawing them upon the stone walls with white chalk. This pleased the grandmother, and she encouraged him all she could.
When Millet was six years old he was sent to school. At twelve he began to study Latin with a priest in the village who was very fond of him and taught him for the pleasure of it. From this time on his studies were frequently interrupted by his work on the farm, for as eldest son he was the one the father relied upon most.
The elder Millet had a keen appreciation of the beauty in nature and often, as they worked, he would call his son’s attention to the beauties around them. He would say, “Look at that tree—how large and beautiful! It is as beautiful as a flower,” or “See, that house half buried by the field is good; it seems to me that it ought to be drawn that way.” Then sometimes he would try to model a figure from a piece of clay or cut an animal or plant from wood. So it was not much wonder that the son, too, tried to draw animals, the barn, the garden, and various objects around him.
When he was eighteen years old he drew his first great picture. As he was coming home from church he met an old man whose back was bent over a cane as he walked slowly along. Something about the bent figure appealed to Millet so strongly that he had a great desire to draw a portrait of him. So, taking some charcoal from his pocket, he drew on a stone wall a picture of the old man. People passing by recognized the old man in Millet’s picture and were much pleased.
His father, too, was delighted, for he had once wished to be an artist himself. He now resolved that his son should have a chance. A family council was held and all agreed that Millet must be sent to some good artist to study. So the father took him to an artist (Mouchel) in Cherbourg to whom he showed some of Millet’s drawings. At first the artist would not believe the boy had drawn them, but, finally convinced, he was very glad to have this talented boy for his pupil.
Millet had studied with him only two months when his father died, and he was obliged to return home to take his father’s place on the farm as best he could. But the people of the village, who were much interested in his paintings, resolved to help him. So they raised money to send him back to Cherbourg to study, and finally to the great city of Paris. There he studied under Delaroche, a fashionable painter of that day. The other students could not understand Millet, for, peasant that he was, he rarely spoke, allowing others to make all the advances and answering scarcely a word. However, if they went too far he could use his fists to such good advantage that they soon left him quite alone. He was always known among them as “the man of the woods.”
They soon found out that he could draw and paint, too, and his work received much praise. Still his pictures did not sell, and Millet’s life in Paris was a continuous struggle with poverty.
One of the reasons that his pictures did not sell was because he chose his models from the lower classes and represented them in their humble daily tasks. His critics urged him to paint, instead, some beautiful girl or fine-looking man from the village or city. To this he replied: “Beauty does not dwell in the face; it radiates forth from the whole figure and appears in the suitableness of the action to the subject. Your pretty peasants would be ill suited for picking up wood, for gleaning in the fields of August, for drawing water from a well. Beauty is expression.”
In spite of the fact that he could barely earn a living in Paris, Millet remained there many years. He was married and his children were born there. Finally he left Paris with his wife and children and settled at Barbizon, a small village in France, where he spent the rest of his life. Many descriptions have been written and many pictures painted of the modest white stone cottage in which Millet’s last years were spent.
It was not until these last few years of his life that Millet ceased to be wretchedly poor, for then his pictures were at last appreciated and he received the profit and honor that were his due.
He died at Barbizon, January 20, 1875.
The world of to-day has forgotten most of the popular artists of that time, and their pretty models, but Millet’s peasants live on. Once little valued, now the great truths which they represent have made them almost priceless.
Questions about the artist. What is the artist’s full name? Tell about his home life. Who took care of Millet when he was a child? What did his mother do? Who named him, and why? What pictures did he study? When was he sent to school? What did he study with the priest? Why were his studies interrupted so often? How did his father help him with his drawing? Tell about the old man with the cane. Who recognized his portrait? What happened because of his success? Why did the artist think Millet could not have painted the pictures? Why did Millet remain so short a time with this artist? What did the people in the village do for him? Why was it the students in Paris could not understand Millet? What name did the students give him? Why did his pictures not sell? What did the critics say about them? What else did Millet paint? Where did he finally make his home? When did he receive recognition?
Questions to arouse interest. What does this picture represent? In what country would you expect to find such a scene? What do the clouds suggest to you? Notice the water and the sails of the boat. Does the water appear smooth or rough? Why do you think the little sailboat you see is not the only one in the harbor? Why do you think the arms of the mill are not moving very rapidly? How is the land protected from the water? Whom can you see on the land? Where do they seem to be going? What can you see beyond the clump of bushes? Notice the man who is standing near the railing of the mill. What does he seem to be watching? Where does the light come from? What is the center of interest in this picture?
Original Picture: Buckingham Palace, London, England.
Artist: Jacob Van Ruysdael (rois′däl).
Birthplace: Haarlem, Holland.
Dates: Born, 1628; died, 1682.
The story of the picture. We know at once that the scene of this picture must be in Holland. We could tell by the picturesque windmill for which that country has become famous, even if we did not know that the artist, Ruysdael, lived there all his life.
When we look at this picture, representing a scene at the mouth of a Dutch river, it is hard for us to realize that all of this little country is lower than the ocean, and would be flooded if it were not for the great dikes. These dikes are thick walls of stone and earth built near the shore, so high that the water of the North Sea cannot wash over them, and so wide across the top that they make excellent carriage roads. It is wonderful to think how men, by their skill and perseverance, have been able to preserve this country from the sea.
We are told that when Caesar first reached this part of Europe he found the few inhabitants living in wretched little huts built upon hills of sand which had been left after a flood. They lived upon fish, which they caught in nets made from grasses or rushes, and were miserably poor. So much of the land was under water that it was hard to tell whether it was land or sea.
These few natives, however, began to fill in the spaces between the sand hills with earth and stone, building rude dikes or embankments to keep out the water. Very often the sea broke through, flooding the land again, but the people only built stronger dikes each time, until now at last they have the present mighty safeguards.
The longest dike is in North Holland, and is called “The Great Dike.” It is six miles long and from twelve to fifteen feet thick. The sea beats against it with great force, but the sturdy Hollander watches its angry foam in safety. The dike is carefully guarded everywhere, for if the water should find a weak or unprotected spot in it, terrible indeed would be the result.
The North Sea is Holland’s greatest foe, yet it has sometimes proved a friend, for when sorely pressed in battle the Dutch have flooded their land, thus forcing their enemies to flee for safety. They have done this by removing small sections from the dikes, though it meant the loss of their homes and cultivated fields. It is said that windmills, too, may be used in flooding certain low portions of land in case an enemy attempts to take possession.
The windmill has played an important part in building up this country, for it has been used not only for grinding corn, crushing linseed, sawing timber, and cutting tobacco, but to drain the land and make it habitable.
Sometimes great lakes have been drained by water pumps set in motion by these windmills, and what is to-day some of the most fertile land in the country has been secured in this way. To be sure, it takes several years to accomplish such an undertaking as this, but the patience and perseverance of the Hollander are equal to far greater tasks than that.
It is interesting to know how the people build houses in this land. They cannot build them as we do, because the earth is so soft and yielding that the houses would sink in it. First, they dig out two or three feet of earth, and, as they expect, this opening immediately fills with water. Then they drive piles or stakes deep into the ground with a powerful steam hammer. These are placed close together in lines to support the walls of the house. Heavy oak boards are nailed upon them and the brick foundation is then started just as we build ours. The back and front of the house are not completed until after the roof is finished, for it is necessary to allow a free circulation of air through the house to dry it. Even then Dutch houses seem very damp to those who are not natives. The kitchen is usually built in the front part of the house instead of the back. The buildings we see in this picture, even the windmill itself, must have been built in just this way.
The calm and peace of this landscape are more impressive when we think of the great ocean outside the dike, pounding away in its ceaseless effort to claim its own. The picture seems to tell us something of the great effort, constant guard, and persistent struggle we must make if we would secure peace and contentment in our lives.
But in all lives must come some stormy days. In our picture we can see the clouds gathering, feel the warning stillness in the air, and know that the storm will break soon. The strange calm keeps the water still and lifeless, the sails of the boat hang flat and unruffled, the trees are without motion, and the great arms of the windmill wait to catch the first faint breeze.
The three women on their way to church or home must hasten, for these storms come quickly, as the man who stands guard at the railing of the mill well knows. There is a feeling of expectancy in this picture. As we watch the great clouds and the strange light in the sky, we are conscious of a great stillness all around, and we expect at any moment to feel the rush and roar of the oncoming winds. There is something alarming in the suspense.
We begin to feel the vastness of sky and water around us and how very little and unimportant we are in the midst of it all. We wonder that we have ventured so much.
The great simplicity of this landscape is also typical of the people of Holland. The early Hollanders were remarkable for their simplicity, but as they prospered there was a tendency toward extravagance and display which caused much remonstrance from the clergy and more thoughtful citizens.
The story is told of an old Dutch merchant who, having made a fortune in trade, decided to spend the rest of his life in his country home some distance away. Before leaving his friends he invited them all to dine with him. Upon arriving, the guests were amazed to find themselves seated at a large table covered with a blue cloth, and set with wooden plates, spoons, and tumblers. Two old seamen served them with herring, fresh, salted, or dried. The second course was salt beef and greens.
The guests, of course, were much disappointed and scarcely tasted this poor fare. They supposed the meal was ended when the blue cloth was removed, but no, it was replaced by one of the finest linen, the old sailors disappeared, and a number of servants in fine liveries appeared, serving a banquet which excelled even their highest expectations.
Then the host spoke to them: “Such, gentlemen, has been the progress of our Republic. We began with short frugality, by means of which we became wealthy; and we end with luxury, which will beget poverty. We should, therefore, be satisfied with our beef and greens, that we may not have to return to our herrings.”
Unlike many pictures which seem to be made up of a majority of either curved or straight lines, this picture contains a great variety of lines. We find the straight line in the masts and sails of the boats, the walls and spires of the church, the main walls of the windmill, the posts of the breakwater, and the three little figures in white; the horizontal lines in the horizon, roofs, hull of the boat, and in the breakwater. The rolling clouds, round masses of the tree tops, and the balcony railing give us the curved lines, while we cannot fail to notice the oblique lines of the arms of the mill and the grasses near the river bank.
Questions to help the pupil understand the picture. What does this picture represent? How is Holland protected from the ocean? What are dikes? How are they used? What kind of a place was Holland when Caesar first entered it? What did the people do? How did they happen to build the first dike? What is the longest dike called? What would happen if the dike should give way? From what sea does it protect the people? How has the sea proved their friend? at what expense to them? Of what use are the windmills? How do they build houses in Holland? Why are the cellars full of water? Why are the houses damp? Which room is usually in the front of the house? How is the windmill in this picture built? What makes you think a storm is approaching? How does the water look? the sails? the trees? the windmill? What feeling does this picture give you—one of peace, expectancy, suspense, anxiety, or pleasure? Why is it typical of the people of Holland? Tell about the early Hollanders; the Dutch merchant and the banquet. What advice did the merchant give the Hollanders? What can you say about the composition of this picture? Of what kinds of lines is it made up? Where do you find the different kinds of lines?
The story of the artist. Jacob Van Ruysdael was born at Haarlem, Holland, in 1628. Although he was one of the greatest of the Dutch landscape painters, very little is known of his life. When he was only twelve years old he painted a picture in which he showed so much talent that his father consented to his giving up the study of medicine, for which he had been preparing. Ruysdael’s elder brother was probably his first teacher in painting. Later he went to Amsterdam to study, but his great desire was to be out in the country, where he could be alone with nature. His pictures are usually of landscapes, including a glimpse of the sea and land, with vast sky spaces overhead. In color, a rich, warm green predominates. It was always very difficult for him to draw people, so he usually had some other artist paint his figures for him.
Although his paintings are extremely valuable now, he could not sell them then, and he was so poor he was obliged at last to go to the almshouse, where he died in 1682.
People at that time were not interested in an ordinary landscape such as they saw every day. They thought Ruysdael was wasting his time painting such common things. Other artists painted pictures of people and of interesting events, real or imaginary, in brilliant colors and style. Ruysdael painted pictures in which the landscape and not the people was the center of interest. He was one of the very first artists with enough appreciation for the beauty of nature to use it as the subject for his paintings.
From what we read of Ruysdael’s life, it must have been a rather lonely one. Of a dreamy, thoughtful nature, he spent much of his time wandering alone by the seashore, among the sand dunes, and through the open country. These are the scenes he painted again and again. He loved to study the same scene in different lights, with different cloud effects, at different times and seasons; and so we find twenty pictures of a certain scene called “View of Haarlem from the Hill of Overveen.”
Few men have shown a more thorough knowledge of trees, the trunks, their branches, and the character of their leaves. In his earlier work this knowledge caused him to put too many details into his pictures, making them somewhat stiff. But he soon overcame this difficulty and began to put into his landscapes a peace and tranquility that rests the eye. But since his paintings still remained unpopular he tried a change of subjects, painting pictures of mountain scenery and rocky waterfalls.
It is generally believed that the artist Hobbema was Ruysdael’s friend and pupil. If this is true, the two must have spent many happy days together painting the quiet landscapes they loved so well. Neither of them ever traveled out of Holland.
So much alike was the work of these two artists that at one time long after their death, Hobbema’s name was removed from his paintings and that of Ruysdael placed in its stead in order to sell them. Later every effort was made to correct these errors. Some critics declared that every rocky landscape must be by Ruysdael, and every peaceful scene of cottages, high trees, and waterfalls must be by Hobbema, and so doubtless many mistakes were made. But it was not until after Ruysdael’s death that people awoke to his greatness and genius. Fabulous sums have been paid for many of his pictures and they hang in the best galleries of Europe.
Famous paintings by Ruysdael are: “Landscape with Waterfall,” “The Tempest,” “The Swamp in the Wood,” “The Jewish Cemetery,” “Landscape with Ruins,” “Shore at Scheveningen,” “Oak Wood,” and “Agitated Sea.”
Questions about the artist. Who painted this picture? Where did he live? How did he rank? Tell what you can of his life. What subjects did he usually choose for his paintings? What color usually predominates? What did he find difficult to draw? Where did he pass the last days of his life? Why could he not sell his pictures? How did they differ from those of other artists? What artist studied with him? Of what value are Ruysdael’s paintings to-day?
PILGRIMS GOING TO CHURCH
Questions to arouse interest. Who are these people? What country does this represent? Why were they called Pilgrims, and why did they leave England? Where are they going in this picture? Why do the men carry guns? Where might foes be lurking? What time of the year is it? what time of day?
Original Picture: Lenox Gallery, New York.
Artist: George Henry Boughton (bô´tȯn).
Birthplace: Norwich, England.
Dates: Born, 1834; died, 1905.
The story of the picture. We have read many stories about the lives of our forefathers in America, but perhaps we realize more clearly just what that life must have been when we look at this picture, “Pilgrims Going to Church.” It makes us realize why the Pilgrims came to this country and willingly endured such terrible hardships,—that they might go to their own church and worship according to their own conscience.
It was a brave and sturdy people who, although loyal in all else, defied the king when he would take away their freedom of worship. Little wonder there was much excitement when people of all ranks and conditions in England began to sell their homes and possessions, preparing to leave for a land almost unknown and full of danger.
The king tried to prevent their leaving, even putting some of them in prison. But our forefathers were not of the kind who are easily discouraged or defeated; and one day the little band which had collected on the shores of the great ocean said good-by to their sorrowing friends and were rowed to the little ship, the Mayflower, which was to carry them safely to the new land. We have read much of the perils of that journey, and how, in spite of accidents on shipboard and equinoctial storms, they finally arrived off Cape Cod one cold and wintry morning in December. They sent out parties to search the shores for a favorable place to build their homes, and on Monday, December 21, 1620, disembarked on the sandy beach, landing a few at a time on that greenish granite rock called Plymouth Rock. This famous rock is still to be seen, an object of veneration.
Arrived on this dreary, frozen land, the Pilgrims began to work with a will, cutting down the pine trees, building their rude houses, and trying in all ways to establish here a permanent home. Their religion was not forgotten. In fact, it is said that the party sent out to find this location landed there on the Sabbath day, and as they would not labor on that day, they did not cut wood for a fire, but walked back and forth all day and night to keep from freezing to death.
In our picture we see them in this dreary land in the midst of winter. Their rude, snow-covered homes were so roughly built that the cold winds whistled through them, and their provisions were so scant that they were often thankful for a meal of fish and a cup of water.
To-day is Sunday. They are on their way to church. They have realized their ideal—freedom of worship. Even the fact that they must go armed, keeping a careful watch for their treacherous foe, the Indian, cannot take away the comfort of that thought.
When they first landed, they found all the shore deserted except for a few empty wigwams which seemed not to have been inhabited for a long time. Later the Pilgrims were told that there had been a dreadful plague among the Indians at this very place, and all the survivors had fled.
At first the few Indians whom they saw were friendly, but later they began to resent the presence of these white people, whose number was constantly increasing and who seized upon their lands and fields as if they were the rightful owners. They began to plunder and burn the homes of the settlers, and all sense of security was gone.
But the common danger held the brave band closer together, making their religious freedom seem more precious. In this picture, guards are stationed at the front, center, and end of each group of people. The minister, the women, and the children are thus surrounded and protected.
Our chief attention is for the central figures—the minister, his wife, and the child. It is interesting to study the expressions on the faces of this stanch little band. We observe the light on the heads and faces of the Pilgrims and on the sides of the trees, and the absence of shadows on the snow. This tells us that the sun must be high in the sky.
This group of Pilgrims is only a part of those who will assemble in the little church just over the hill. We catch a glimpse of the first man in the next group.
Notice the quaint hats and collars which the men and women wear. The artist was very particular to show us the Pilgrims’ peculiar style of dress.
Questions to help the pupil understand the picture. Who were our forefathers in America? Why were they so called? Why did they come to America? What kind of people were they? What did they know of America before they came? Who tried to prevent their coming? Upon what boat did they sail? Tell about the journey. Why was it so dangerous? When did they reach America? Upon what did they land? What has become of this rock? What did the Pilgrims do as soon as they arrived? Tell about the party sent out to find a permanent location. Why could they not build a fire? What time of year is represented in this picture? Where are the people going? How many churches did they have? Why do they carry guns? Who occupied this land before the Pilgrims came? Why did the Indians leave? Why did they dislike the Pilgrims? What effect did this danger have upon the Pilgrims? To which members of the group in the picture is our attention directed? How is this accomplished? What makes you think the sun is shining? What time of day is it? What makes you think there are more people coming? How are these Pilgrims dressed?
To the Teacher: Let the pupils illustrate the various scenes in the story with charcoal on manila paper.
The story of the artist. George Henry Boughton was born in a little village near Norwich, England. His father was a farmer. But the farm he possessed was so small that he found it difficult to provide for his large family. So he decided to sail to America where there were better opportunities for farming. The long voyage was taken the year following George’s birth.
The family settled near Albany, New York, and there George Boughton was raised and educated. It was decided that he should be trained for a business career and so he was sent to a commercial school. But the young artist had other plans in his head. At school he began to show great skill in drawing, gained, as he said afterwards, “by drawing every mortal thing that came under my notice.” While he was still in school, Boughton’s father and mother died and he was left to the care of his older brothers and sisters. They regarded his efforts in art with little favor and offered him no encouragement.
But George Boughton would not be discouraged. Drawing and painting had more attraction for him than even the sports that are dear to every boy’s heart. He has himself told the story of how he once went into a store to buy hooks and a line to use on a fishing trip to a neighboring creek, and how he came out with a set of oil colors and paint brushes instead. The picture he painted at that time was the beginning of his success. When he was nineteen years old he sold enough of his sketches to pay his way to London. He spent a few months in London and then went on a long trip through England, Scotland, and Ireland, making sketches of the scenes that appealed to him.
With these he returned to New York, where they were quickly sold. A few years later, with the help of a millionaire patron who bought the artist’s pictures in advance, Boughton went to Paris. After a year in Paris he went to London again, finally making his home there. Then, of course, his studio in New York City was given up, but, though he lived in England, his art remained distinctly American.
He was especially interested in the history and literature of our country and has been called “the interpreter of New England life in the seventeenth century.”
Besides painting, Mr. Boughton wrote stories for magazines, illustrating his own stories.
In 1879 Mr. Boughton was elected Associate of the Royal Academy in London, and in 1896 he became a member of the Academy with all the honors and privileges of that position.
Among his most noted pictures are the “Return of the Mayflower,” “Pilgrim Exiles,” and “The Scarlet Letter.”
Questions about the artist. Who painted this picture? Where was he born? What was it decided that he should become? Tell the story of the fishing tackle. What did he do with the money he received for his first pictures? What did he do in England? Who helped him to go to Paris? Where did he settle down? What part of the United States interested him most? What kind of pictures did he paint? What has he been called? What is meant by that? Why might he be considered an American artist? What could he do besides paint?
THE CHILD HANDEL
Questions to arouse interest. Where are these people? At whom are they looking? Why do you think it is night? Upon what has the boy been playing? What does the man carry in his hand? Why do they look so surprised? Does the boy look frightened, anxious, or pleased? How is he dressed? How is the man dressed? the woman? What can you see hanging from her belt? Who is behind her? Where do you think they have come from? Why do you suppose they dressed so fully? What can you see scattered upon the floor? What do you like best about this picture?
Artist: Margaret Isabel Dicksee.
Birthplace: London, England.
Dates: Born, 1858; died, 1903.
The story of the picture. It is midnight; the small boy Handel has forgotten everything in the world as he plays upon the old harpsichord hidden in the dark old garret. He feels safe, for he has taken all precautions—first, by going to bed at the regular time; then, by feigning sleep until all the household was wrapped in slumber. Ah! how long the time seemed, and how impatiently he went over and over again in his mind the beautiful melody he had been composing all day as he worked or played.
But no one must know. He had not even dared hum, lest he should be suspected, for his father had forbidden him the use of the harpsichord, the only musical instrument the family possessed. Humming a tune was something to be frowned at because this small boy loved music so dearly that, if permitted, he would neglect all else to sing or play upon the old harpsichord.
The father had long ago planned that his son should become a lawyer, and he wished to educate him for that profession. But the boy did not apply himself to his lessons, and was at the foot of the class. After much discussion, it was decided that the harpsichord must be banished to the garret and the boy forbidden to touch it until he had mastered his other studies.
Then it was that Handel began to pay those nightly visits to the garret where, with closed windows and doors, he played half the night or until the first hint of dawn told him he must hurry back to his bed. No wonder his mother found it hard to get him up in the morning, and that he began to look pale and delicate.
On this one night he had so completely lost himself in his music that he used the swell at its greatest volume, fairly flooding the garret room with his happy music. Faint sounds had crept down through the garret floor; now they grew loud, now soft and weird, as if the house were haunted. Finally the whole family was awakened, but no one could explain the source of those mysterious sounds. It could not be the wind, for all was still and quiet outside; but whatever it was, they could not sleep until it stopped.
Now all were up and dressed, but no one thought of the boy as the father lighted the great lantern and led the way in search of the ghost or spirit which had so disturbed them. Still the sounds continued, growing fainter, then stronger again, but always seeming to come from the top of the house. So they climbed up the steep and narrow stairs to the garret,—first the father, carrying the lantern, then the mother, who had hurriedly caught up her bag and bunch of keys; the elder brother, and the grandmother and grandfather came last of all. Even when they reached the garret door they did not suspect the boy, for they thought him safe in bed; only a ghost would play in a dark garret at that time of night.
Handel did not need a light, for he knew his keys by heart; his very finger tips were full of the music which had been singing in his head all day long.
Can you not imagine the father swinging the door open and quickly flashing the lantern about until the light rested upon the frail, ghostlike little figure at the harpsichord? They must have been startled, indeed, but not half so much as poor Handel, who felt his last chance of happiness slipping from him.
How very real to us the artist has made it! We seem to be in the big garret ourselves, looking first toward the small boy at the quaint old instrument and then at those who have discovered him. The harpsichord looks something like our grand piano, and was used for many years before the piano was invented. There sits Handel in his night clothes and cap, looking pathetically first at his father, then at his mother, while his sensitive face twitches with anxiety. He had been so intent on his playing that he had not heard their approach, had had no warning, and now it was too late.
And will they punish him? We do not know whether they did in any way except to keep the garret door locked, but that was punishment enough for poor Handel. We do know it was not until he was nine years old that his father reluctantly consented to Handel’s studying music, and then it came about by accident.
One of the great days in Handel’s life was the day his father went to visit his older son (Handel’s half-brother), who held a position under the Duke of Weissenfels. Handel was then only seven years old and had been refused permission to go, but when, many miles from home, the father discovered the tired but determined boy following on foot, he was finally taken. One Sunday, at the close of the service in the court chapel, the boy was permitted to try the great organ. The duke, who had remained in the chapel, heard the playing and immediately inquired who the musician was. “Little Handel from Halle” was the reply.
Becoming interested, the duke soon had the story of the boy’s secret playing, and it was through his talk with the father that Handel was at last placed under a skilled instructor and given every chance to cultivate his great talent.
Soon he was without a rival on the organ and the harpsichord. From the first he wrote his own music, and before long was composing great oratorios such as the famous “Messiah.”
In the picture the artist has centered our interest and attention upon the small boy in several ways: by his position, the light, the inclination of the other figures toward him. At whatever part of the picture we glance, our eyes are almost immediately drawn back to the boy musician. The childish figure, sensitive face, and startled, appealing glance arouse our sympathy and interest.
Questions to help the pupil understand the picture. Where is this boy? What is his name? Why is he in the attic? Why did he not play the harpsichord during the day? What precautions did he take before coming to the garret? Why was he discovered? What warning did he have? Who found him? Why was Handel so anxious? How was he punished? Why was it not good for him to spend his nights or days in this way? When was he permitted to study music? How did this happen? What had his father wanted him to study? How did Handel succeed with his music? Upon what is our attention centered in this picture? By what means is this accomplished? What appeal does this picture make to you? Does it arouse your sympathy and admiration, or does it give you a feeling of disappointment?
The story of the artist. Margaret Isabel Dicksee was the daughter of a noted English artist, Thomas Francis Dicksee. Her parents lived in a section of London where many successful artists and art students had their quarters. Thus Margaret Dicksee’s very earliest memories were associated with pictures and painters, and she had doubtless absorbed all the rudiments of drawing and color long before she began her A B C’s.
Her brother Frank, five years older than Margaret, was already well started on the road to fame in art when the little Margaret first began to trace the queer figures that children draw. No doubt it was he who first guided her hand, scarce strong enough yet to hold the crayon firmly. But Margaret made rapid progress, for the desire to draw and paint the things she saw about her was part of her nature. Soon brother and sister were students together at the same art classes.
The children’s uncle, too, was an artist, as well as their cousin, Herbert Dicksee. In after years Herbert became a noted etcher and made engravings of his cousins’ pictures.
What a happy life these three children must have lived. Conditions for them were as favorable as they had been unfavorable for their father and uncle. Margaret’s father had often told her how he and his brother John, Margaret’s uncle, had got out of bed at the first gray streak of dawn so that they could have time to draw and paint before school. Their parents would not allow them to set aside school tasks for such things as drawing, which they considered of far less importance. How glad Margaret and Frank must have been that their father was an artist and did not interfere with their efforts at drawing and painting, but encouraged them as much as he could.
The young artists were successful in their work from the very first. Their pictures were admired and praised by every one who saw them. Very often pictures by both sister and brother were to be seen at the same exhibition. Later Frank became a member of the Royal Academy.
Miss Dicksee chose as subjects for her paintings scenes from history, biography, and fiction. She also painted a number of fine portraits. The pictures she has left to us give evidence of a very lovable and sympathetic nature. Among her most noted and attractive works besides “The Child Handel Discovered Playing in the Garret” are “The Children of Charles I” and “A Sacrifice of Vanity,” the latter a scene taken from Oliver Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield.
Questions about the artist. In what part of London was the artist born? What was her father’s name and profession? Tell about Margaret Dicksee as a little girl. Who helped her in her first attempts at drawing? Tell about the childhood experiences of her father and uncle. What was the name of Margaret’s and Frank’s cousin? What did he become? What subjects did Miss Dicksee choose for her paintings?
By Permission of Braun & Co., Paris and New York
THE HORSE FAIR
Questions to arouse interest. How many of you have ever attended a horse fair? Where is this horse fair, and what kind of horses are they? How are they controlled? What is the object of having a horse fair? How many horses are represented in this picture? How many are in the same position? Which are under the best control? Which have their ears back? What does that indicate? Which horse is trying to throw his rider? Which horse looks vicious? How is he controlled? What colors do you think they are? What can you see in the background? Upon what part of the horses does the light fall? What does this tell us of the position of the sun? the time of day? Which horse has a blanket on his back? Why do you think he is not entered for the prize? Which horse is the most lifelike? To which one would you give the blue ribbon?
Original Picture: Metropolitan Museum, New York City.
Artist: Rosa Bonheur (bō nûr´).
Birthplace: Bordeaux, France.
Dates: Born, 1822; died, 1899.
The story of the picture. In this day of the automobile we do not hear much about horse fairs. Of course, we still have our county fairs, but there the horse is only a small part of the attraction. In many places also horse markets are held where all kinds of horses are brought to be sold, but these could hardly be compared to a horse fair, where only the finest specimens are entered. In some of our large cities we have what we call horse shows, which in a measure seem to have taken the place of the old-fashioned horse fair. So we have the International Horse Show in Madison Square Garden, New York City, one almost as large at Chicago, Illinois, another at Olympia, Washington, one in Montreal, Canada, the famous Horse Show in London, and others. But how unlike the scene represented in this picture they are!
Imagine yourself in that largest of all show buildings, the Madison Square Garden, New York City. Tier above tier the seats are arranged around the central ring or drive, which in size and appearance is similar to the usual outdoor race track. The seats extend around the track except for a small space left for the entrance and exit, and are arranged very much like the seats in a theater, having the box and reserved seats nearest the stage or track. Each box is numbered and catalogued so that you may know just which wealthy man or woman is occupying that particular box.
Before the performance, or during the intermission, you may go about, catalogue in hand, and see for yourself what these people, whom you have read so much about, look like. In other words, this horse show has become a society event, appealing to all classes of people, but more especially to the rich.
All is carefully planned. A flourish of trumpets, and the man with the megaphone announces the first number—perhaps a tallyho contest. More trumpets, and in come the dashing six horses drawing the picturesque tallyho. They have been driven a mile through Central Park before entering the building, and it is to the horses found to be in the best condition after this drive that the prize is to be given.
But scarcely have we looked at them when there is another flourish of trumpets, and another tallyho arrives, sounding its bugle call. The footmen descend and stand at the heads of the spirited horses while the passengers alight. We have a fleeting glimpse of their fashionable clothes; they have a moment’s rest, and then, when the judges have examined the horses, up they climb to their high seats and at the signal are driven slowly around the ring. Then others arrive, and soon all are driving in a gay procession around the ring. The spectators applaud enthusiastically while the spirited horses proudly arch their necks.
Then come the tandems, and horses and carriages of all kinds in order. Then horses are exhibited in every form of activity—leaping, running, pacing, and hurdling. After the show is over, perhaps we go to see the horses in their stalls, but then we find ourselves in the minority, for few spectators remain after the last horse leaves the track.
Would it not be pleasant now to go with Rosa Bonheur out into the great field near that avenue of trees, and watch the men riding or leading those powerful French dray horses before the judges? Horses like these have been imported to our country, so we see them on our own streets drawing heavy loads, and we know how strong and powerful they are.
There are more than twenty horses in this picture that we can count, each in action, and yet no two are alike. The artist has made us feel the perfect control man has over them. All the possibilities of a horse of this kind are represented. Here we see the well-trained, perfectly controlled horse going on cheerfully and steadily; there are some with their ears back, showing annoyance and watchfulness; here a rearing horse is trying to rid himself of his troublesome driver. That one at the left of the picture is angry, perhaps vicious. His driver is unable to manage him alone and it requires two men to control him. But they do control him, and in every case man, through his intellect, is the master.
Notice the colors of the horses: even a print of the picture tells us that they are white, dappled, and black. When they return, surely many of them will be wearing the blue ribbon.
At the right of the picture are several spectators who have gathered to see the splendid horses.
Rosa Bonheur wished to draw these horses two thirds life size, and when you consider the amount of space devoted to sky and ground, you will realize that it required a very large canvas. We are told that she stood upon a stepladder to paint parts of it.
She chose a part of Paris that would be easily recognized, showing the dome of a well-known church and an avenue of trees just as we might see them to-day. But we can scarcely realize the amount of time and patient study it required before she could paint even one of these horses. She went about with a sketchbook and made drawings of horses in all possible positions, and persevered in this study for a year and a half before she began this picture.
Her friends in Paris helped her all they could by lending her their fine horses. But this was not enough,—she must visit horse fairs and markets as often as possible. Sometimes the grooms made fun of her, and it was hard for her to work, but she would not give up.
In the picture she has centered the interest upon the horses nearest to us by painting them more in detail, showing even the muscles of their strong, powerful bodies, and also by means of the light upon them, and by their size. The light is high, falling upon the rounded backs and upraised heads. The short shadows help us guess the time of day, which must be about noon. The horse with the blanket on his back suggests to us that the groom beside him intends to ride him when he returns after leaving his noble charge.
There is a feeling of open air and space about this picture which adds much to its charm. This is all the more remarkable, too, in a picture containing so many horses, since it might easily have appeared crowded.
The “Horse Fair” was bought for fifty-two thousand dollars by Cornelius Vanderbilt, who presented it to the Metropolitan Museum, New York City. Most American critics consider this Rosa Bonheur’s masterpiece, although the French claim that honor for “Plowing in Nivernais,” the original of which is hung in the Luxembourg Gallery in Paris.
Questions to help the pupil understand the picture. Where do we go to see fine horses? What has taken the place of horses and horse fairs? Where are our largest horse shows? How do they differ from the horse fair in this picture? Tell about the horse show at Madison Square Gardens, New York. Compare it with the “Horse Fair.” Where is each held? What kind of people attend? Why did Rosa Bonheur choose this particular location for her painting? What preparation did she make before beginning this picture? For what purpose are these French horses used in the United States? How many horses are represented in this painting? Why does it not seem crowded? How near life size did Rosa Bonheur paint these horses? What did she stand on while painting? why? What can you tell of the dispositions of these horses? In what way is man always the master? Upon which horses has the artist centered the interest? How has she done this? What time of day is it? Why do you think so? Where may we see this painting?
To the Teacher:
Subjects for Compositions
A Description of a Horse Fair.
A Visit to Rosa Bonheur’s Horse Fair.
A Day with the Artist.
The story of the artist. Perhaps the reason Rosa Bonheur loved animals so dearly was because she spent the first ten years of her life in a little village, where her parents and their neighbors kept horses, chickens, and pigs, and where Rosa learned to know all about them. Rosa and her two brothers had lambs, rabbits, squirrels, and pigeons for pets. They spent many happy hours out in the fields and woods, yet when their father, who was an artist, decided to move to the great city of Paris the children were delighted. This wonderful Paris they had heard so much about seemed to them the most desirable place in the world to be, and their only sorrow was in parting from their grandparents and from their many pets. Rosa was allowed to take a parrot with her, and the two boys had a dog.
The first place in which they lived was up several flights of stairs and across the street from a butcher’s shop. This shop had a queer sign cut from wood and representing a wild boar, which looked so much like Rosa’s little pig at home that she used to stop to pet it every time she passed.
A man who lived in the same house with the Bonheurs kept a small school for boys. Rosa’s two brothers went to this school, and later the teacher said Rosa might come, too. She was the only girl in the school, but she did not mind that at all, and the boys were glad to have her, for she knew more games than they, and played just like one of them.
The father had hoped to sell more of his pictures in the city, but he did not do as well as he had expected and it cost so much more to live that he had to move his family to a cheaper house and up on the sixth floor.
Rosa’s mother was a musician and gave music lessons to help keep up the home, but she worked too hard and finally became very ill. She died just as the father secured a position in a private school and things began to look more prosperous for the Bonheur family.
For a time the father tried to keep his little family together by leaving them in a sort of day nursery, but this was not satisfactory, so he had to send them away. Juliette, the baby sister born after they moved to Paris, was sent to her grandmother, the two boys to school, and Rosa to an aunt.
This aunt sent Rosa to school. To reach the schoolhouse she had to walk some distance through the woods, and often she would stop on the way, smooth the dust in the road with her hand, and then draw pictures in it with a stick, her favorite pictures being of animals. Often she became so absorbed in her drawing she forgot to go to school, or was so late that her teachers complained to the aunt, saying she was getting behind in her school work. Every time her father came to see her Rosa begged him to take her home, and when at last he could provide for his children they were all very happy to be together again in Paris.
Wherever they lived they must have pets. A great many stories have been told about the pets they kept in their house. Every morning Rosa’s brother Isidore would carry a little lamb on his shoulders down six flights of stairs, that it might nibble the green grass and be out in the fresh air, and in the evening he would carry it back upstairs. It became a great pet, and all the children drew its picture in ever so many different positions. Besides, they had the parrot, a monkey, two dogs, rabbits, and birds. Their father let them keep these in a room especially fitted up for the purpose.
He was teaching in a private school at this time and was away from home all day, but when evening came he gathered his children about him and taught them how to draw. They put their easels in different parts of the room and worked away, drawing and painting, until bedtime. They would all much rather do this than anything else in the world.
Then the father accepted another position in a school where he could also send his four children. Here Rosa was continually in trouble, for she did not study much and was always getting into mischief. One day she planned a mock battle in the school yard between the girls. They used sticks for swords. Very soon Rosa’s side drove their enemies toward a bed of hollyhocks which was the pride of the school. Here they turned and fled, but Rosa charged on. She cut off the heads of all those stately hollyhocks because they seemed to stand guard like soldiers. For this she was sent home in disgrace.
Very often, too, Rosa had these sham fights with her brothers at home, when the easels and even the pictures were used. The palettes served as shields, and the little Juliette, dressed in all the finery they could find, sat in state, representing the lady of their choice for whom the battle was fought.
Rosa tried to learn the dressmaking trade and to be a teacher, but it was no use,—the only thing she cared to do was to draw. So her father decided to give up trying to educate her in any other way. She was willing to walk miles in any kind of weather, to sit hours in all sorts of uncomfortable positions, and to go without food, in order to draw a good picture of some animal.
Now that she had begun in earnest to study animals, she must go to all the country horse fairs, to the slaughter houses, and everywhere she could to study them. But as she grew older she found it more and more difficult to go to these places, because of the attention she attracted and because her long skirts were so in the way. Finally she obtained a permit to wear men’s clothes. With her short hair, blue working blouse, and dark trousers she looked so much like one of the workmen that now no one noticed her, and she could go where she pleased.
People who did know her did not mind her dress and were ready to help her all they could in her work. From all over the country she received gifts of fine horses and other animals to paint, Buffalo Bill once sending her two fine horses from Texas. She bought a farm, and had a large barn built for her many pets.
Her pictures became famous the world over. How proud her father was of her!
One day she was working very hard in her studio when a servant came to tell her that the Empress Eugénie had come to see her. It was a great event when this royal lady came to the artist’s studio, and there was Rosa dressed in her old blue blouse, all spotted with paint. She did not have time even to slip it off before the empress came in, but they had a most delightful visit. As the Empress Eugénie bent over and kissed Rosa Bonheur she pinned the Cross of the Legion of Honor on the artist’s blue blouse. Rosa did not notice it until after the Empress had left. She must have been very much pleased, for she was the first woman to receive that honor.
Questions to help the pupil understand the picture. Tell about Rosa Bonheur as a little girl. Where did she live the first ten years of her life? What pets did she have? Why were the children glad to go to Paris? why sorry? What pets did they take with them? Describe their first home in Paris. Tell about the wild boar; the school for boys. Why did the Bonheurs move? What did Rosa’s mother do to help? When she died, what became of the children? To whom were they sent? Why was Rosa behind in her studies at school? Why did she return to Paris? Tell about the children’s pets, and how they were kept; about Isidore and the lamb. What did the children do in the evening? Where did Rosa go to school? Tell about the mock battle and the hollyhocks. How was Rosa punished? Tell about the sham battles at home. What was Rosa willing to do in order to draw? Where did she go to study animals? Why did she wear men’s clothes? What were some of the presents she received? Tell about the visit of the Empress Eugénie. What honor did Rosa Bonheur receive from her, and how was it presented?
Questions to arouse interest. What is this woman doing? Where do you think she is sitting? How is she dressed? How has she arranged her hair? What can you say of her hands? How many think she is smiling? that she is sad? that she is vain and self-conscious, or dreamy and forgetful of self? How many think she is looking at us? beyond us? What is there mysterious about her expression? Why do you think no one is able to understand it?
Original Picture: Louvre Gallery, Paris.
Artist: Leonardo da Vinci (lā´ō när´dō dä vēn´chē).
Birthplace: Vinci, Italy.
Dates: Born, 1452; died, 1519.
The story of the picture. When the artist, Leonardo da Vinci, was a boy he liked nothing better than to model in clay. Although he modeled many figures in action, his chief delight was to model heads of smiling women and children. His boyhood was such a happy one, and he was so well liked, that even people with the most severe features relaxed them in a smile when he appeared. If they did not, he quickly made a sketch so comical in expression that they could not fail to be amused.
After he grew to manhood he had a very dear friend named Francesco del Gioconda, who asked him to paint a portrait of his wife, Mona Lisa, or La Gioconda, as the picture is often called. Leonardo wished to make this something more than a mere likeness. He wished it to show the character and soul of the woman herself. It proved to be a most difficult task, for after four years the portrait was put aside as unfinished.
Many critics claim that he intended to paint a face that no one could understand; others claim that the lady’s moods were so changeable and her expressions so various that he tried to paint them all in one. The picture remains a mystery which no one seems to understand, yet like all mysteries it is fascinating and our interest in it grows stronger the longer we study it.
Many do not care for it at first, especially those who see it without its beautiful coloring, but few fail to find it interesting if they but linger long enough.
But after all why should the fact that we do not understand the expression of this face trouble us, or that nearly every time we look at it we find a new expression, a different meaning? Is not the same thing true at times even with our most intimate friends? We think we know just what they will do and say, yet are we not often amazed at some sudden change in opinion or action on their part? It but marks their individuality, and we accept it as part of them. And that is one of the reasons this portrait of Mona Lisa is considered the greatest ever painted, because it represents so well the mystery of human personality. If so great an artist as Leonardo da Vinci spent four years painting this picture, and it is still considered by the great art critics the most wonderful portrait ever painted, we must study it even more carefully if we have not liked it at first.
Leonardo da Vinci had musicians playing or jesters with their funny sayings to amuse Mona Lisa while he was painting her picture. He did not wish her to think of herself or to grow weary and look tired.
As you look at the picture can you not imagine you hear the music of stringed instruments and the splash of that rushing, roaring little stream in the background? Mona Lisa is listening, dreaming, thinking. She looks at us, then on beyond without seeing us. She seems to know everything, feel everything, yet her smile is reassuring.
Her hands are beautiful. In that all will agree. The few details of her dress and scarf are exquisite, even in a print.
We cannot be quite sure about the chair she sits in; some say it is of marble, others that it is a wooden chair. And where is she seated? Some say it is on the roof of a building, others say on a balcony, but that is even less mysterious than that strange, winding, dashing, little mountain stream that comes and goes we know not whither.
Critics cannot even decide what time of day it is in the picture, the light is so uncertain; some claim it is twilight; others, early morning.
If we could see the original, we would perhaps be astonished to find that the lady wears a very thin veil over her face and hair. Her eyes are a deep brown, her hair a beautiful auburn, and her dress a rich green with a touch of yellow. We cannot accuse her of vanity, for she wears no rings or ornaments of any kind.
Leonardo da Vinci loved problems. Even as a boy he would make up problems in arithmetic that would puzzle as well as interest his teachers. Here he has found a different kind of problem, which he has solved in his own way.
It seems as if each part of the face had an expression of its own, so that if the rest of the face were covered we could see that one alone. The left side of her face is thoughtful, the right side is smiling; her eyes are sad, the mouth is cheerful yet firm. There is hidden strength behind this face—it is as if she had discovered the secret of the world, but would allow no word of it to pass those lips so firmly closed. It is interesting to know, too, that the real Mona Lisa was one of the famous beauties in Florence.
The artist kept this portrait for several years, and then sold it to the King of France. It is now in the gallery of the Louvre at Paris.
Great consternation was caused by the loss of this picture a few years ago, when it was stolen from the Louvre. The whole country was aroused, until at length the thief, a young Italian workman, was captured. He had been employed in the Louvre, and found no difficulty in taking the picture from its frame, concealing it under his blouse, and walking off with it. He placed it face downward in the bottom of his tool box, and carried it past the customs inspectors into Italy. The only hard part was to dispose of the much-sought picture. He was in the same predicament as the man Mark Twain told us about, who showed how very easy it was to steal a white elephant, yet how difficult a matter it was to get rid of the elephant. So, two years later, the Italian was captured, having tried in vain to dispose of “Mona Lisa.”
He claimed he had stolen the picture to take revenge on France for the pictures stolen by Napoleon from Italy. This does not seem very convincing, for “Mona Lisa” was not stolen from Italy, but purchased from the artist by Frances I for four thousand dollars. At present it is valued at five million dollars.
The fact that the thief was not discovered sooner proved rather humiliating to the Paris police, because they had missed an important clew. It seems the Italian had left two distinct prints of his thumb on the glass and frame of the picture, and by means of the Bertillon method of detecting criminals by thumb prints he should have been discovered at once. This same Italian had been arrested some years before for stealing, and the thumb prints taken by the police at that time matched perfectly those left on the picture frame. The police, however, much to their chagrin, did not discover this until after his capture. But we do not wonder so much when we are told that they had seven hundred and fifty thousand thumb prints to compare.
Great excitement prevailed in Florence when the “Mona Lisa” was discovered safe and uninjured except for two slight scratches it had received in the tool box. The picture was exhibited at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and great crowds came to see it. Then began its triumphal journey home, until at last it reached the Louvre Museum at Paris, where it may now be seen.
Questions to help the pupil understand the picture. Who was Mona Lisa? of what nationality? How many years did it take the artist to paint this picture? What did he wish to show us in this picture? What do some of the critics say about it? In what way is the expression mysterious? What means did the artist use to produce that expression? Where is Mona Lisa seated? What does she wear over her face and hair? What is the color of her hair? her eyes? her dress? What can you see in the background? How does it differ from the backgrounds painted in modern portraits? What happened to this portrait? How was it recovered? Why is this picture valued so highly?
The story of the artist. Leonardo da Vinci was born in the little village called Vinci, about twenty miles from Florence, Italy. His father was a country lawyer of considerable wealth. Very little is known of Leonardo’s boyhood, except that he grew up in his father’s palace and at an early age displayed remarkable talents. He was good-looking, strong, energetic, and an excellent student. He was also a very amiable person, of winning charm in temper and manners.
He loved to wander out into the great forest near the palace, where he tamed lizards, snakes, and many kinds of animals. Here he invented a lute, upon which he played wonderful music of his own composing. Then, too, he sang his own songs and recited his own poems.
He loved to draw and paint because he could both represent the things he loved and use his inventive genius as well. He seemed to be gifted along so many lines, and was of such an active and inquiring mind, that it was difficult for him to work long enough at one thing to finish it. We read of him as musician, poet, inventor, scientist, philosopher, and last but most important to us because of this great picture—as artist.
When he was fifteen years old he made some sketches which were so very clever that his father took them to a great artist, Verrocchio, who was delighted with them and was glad to take Leonardo as his pupil. The story is told that when Verrocchio was painting a large picture he asked Leonardo to paint one of the angels in the background. The boy spent much time and study on this work, and finally succeeded in painting an angel which was so beautiful that the rest of the picture seemed commonplace. It is said that when Verrocchio saw the work his pupil had done and realized that a mere boy could surpass him in painting, he declared that he would paint no more pictures, but would devote the rest of his life to design and sculpture.
One day one of the servants of the castle brought Leonardo’s father a round piece of wood, asking him to have his son paint something on it that would make it suitable for a shield, like the real shields which hung in the castle halls.
Leonardo wanted to surprise his father. So he made a collection of all the lizards, snakes, bats, dragonflies, toads, and other creatures that he could find. Then he studied them carefully and finally painted a fearful dragon in which all the grotesque characteristics of these various creatures were combined. It was a terrifying thing, breathing out flame and just ready to spring from the shield. Coming suddenly upon this shield on his son’s easel, the father was indeed startled. He found it so lifelike and wonderfully painted that he declared it was far too valuable a present for the servant; so another shield had to be painted and the first was sold at a great price. No one knows what finally became of it.
Leonardo spent seven years with Verrocchio; then he opened a studio of his own in Florence, Italy.
Later Pope Leo X invited him to Rome to paint, but most of his work there was left unfinished. The story is told that one day the pope found him busily engaged in making a new kind of varnish with which to finish his picture. “Alas,” said the pope, “this man will do nothing, for he thinks of finishing his picture before he begins it.”
From Rome, Leonardo went to Milan, where, with the Duke of Milan as patron, he painted his masterpiece, “The Last Supper.” He also made a model for a great equestrian statue of the Duke’s illustrious father which won the admiration of all who saw it and was regarded as equal to anything the Greeks had ever done. The model, which was twenty-six feet high, was to have been cast in bronze, but Leonardo was called away on other important duties and the work was never completed.
Leonardo da Vinci proved to be a great addition to the duke’s court,—his fine appearance and his many talents made him very popular. He invented a beautiful harp, shaped something like a horse’s head, and charmed the people with his music and songs. He also helped the duke found and direct the Academy at Milan, giving lectures there on art and science. So his time was divided, as usual, among his many interests.
After the duke was driven out of Milan by the new French king, Leonardo spent several years in Florence, and there he painted the famous. “Mona Lisa” and other portraits.
The last years of his life were spent in France, where the king, Francis I, gave him a castle and a liberal pension. The king and his court often visited Leonardo, who was regarded with great reverence and respect, and beloved by all.
Questions about the artist. Where and when was the artist born? What did he like to do when he was a boy? In what ways was he talented? Who was his teacher? Tell about Leonardo’s painting of the angel; the shield. Why did Leonardo not finish his paintings for the pope? What did the pope say of him? In what ways was he an addition to the Duke of Milan’s court? Where was he when he painted “Mona Lisa”? How did he spend the last years of his life? How was he regarded by the people?
OXEN GOING TO WORK
Questions to arouse interest. What do you find most interesting about the oxen in this picture? In what direction are they going? How many oxen are hitched to a plow? How are they harnessed? Have you ever seen oxen yoked in this way? Why don’t we use oxen now? What time of the year is it? time of day? How can you tell? What seems most important in the picture? What can you see in the distance?
Original Picture: Louvre Gallery, Paris, France.
Artist: Constant Troyon (trwä yôn´).
Birthplace: Sèvres, France.
Dates: Born, 1810; died, 1865.
The story of the picture. Constant Troyon delights in showing groups of animals coming toward us. No matter where we stand, they seem to be coming to meet us. We can almost hear the heavy tread of these oxen as they plod along over the uneven ground, their great heads held by the yokes.
We see so few oxen now, it makes us wonder why they were used so much in those days, but we know men did not then have the machinery for tilling the ground and sowing and planting grain that we now have. It is true they did have horses, but oxen are stronger, slower, and more steady and patient. If the ground is rough, hilly, or full of stumps, a horse becomes restless and is not easy to guide; but the oxen may be depended upon to go on steadily, obeying the commands of the driver. Then, too, oxen were much cheaper than horses, making it possible for more people to own them.
It was with oxen that our own country was developed. They did all the hauling of logs, and the heavy work that must be done in clearing up a new, uncultivated region. They do not require harness other than the yoke by which they pull their load, and are guided by the words “Gee,” meaning turn to the right, and “Haw,” turn to the left. However, the driver in our picture would not use these words, for he is French and would speak in his own language. He guides his oxen with a goad or pole which he shakes or uses as a prod to hurry them along. They accept their fate with quiet resignation, even a sort of indifference, and are very gentle. It is unusual for them to run away, unless frightened or angry.
In spite of the fact that these oxen are all coming toward us, no two are in the same position. We are made to see them with all their characteristic curves and angles.
It must be very early in the morning, for the sun is scarcely up above the horizon, and we can see the morning mist rising from the earth. The smoking field, with its deep furrows, gives us the feeling of a gradual ascent. It is very interesting to notice the shape of the long shadows cast in front of the oxen. Half close your eyes as you look, and you will find that they form a pattern or design, and that the variety in size and shape of both the shadows and the ground space has been carefully studied.
Mr. Troyon has told us these oxen are on the way to their work. We are left to decide what that work may be. No doubt they will soon reach the field, where they will be harnessed to plows, and their day’s work will begin. In the distance we can see fields, orchards, and, at the left, another peasant starting out with his teams of oxen.
The picture gives a pleasant feeling of vast, roomy space all around us. There is a feeling of energy and action, too, for the man and his oxen are on the way to their work. Our interest is centered on the oxen first of all, then on the man and the landscape. With the sun at their backs so early in the morning, we readily determine that they are going west. At the close of day they will again travel over this same road, perhaps with even more energy, although tired, for they will be going home to be fed and to rest. They probably take their noonday meal and rest near the field where they labor.
Notice the knees of the oxen. We know at once they are walking, and as we look at them we almost find ourselves stepping to one side that they may pass.
Troyon has put into this picture the peace and contentment which come only to those whose day starts out sturdily toward the accomplishment of a share in the work of the world.
Questions to help the pupil understand the picture. How many oxen are coming toward us? How many are in the same position? How are they driven? Upon what kind of ground are they walking? What country is represented? Why did the people use oxen so much in those days? When were oxen used in our country? Why are they seldom used now? How are oxen harnessed? Where are these oxen going? What kind of work will they probably do? What makes you think it must be early in the morning? that they are climbing a low hill? In what direction are they going? How can we determine this? What can we tell by the position of their knees? Why has the artist left so much sky and land space all around them? How is one man able to control all these oxen?
The story of the artist. Constant Troyon’s father and grandfather were porcelain decorators in the little village of Sèvres, France. They lived near the porcelain factory at Sèvres, and so much of Constant Troyon’s life was spent in this factory that it is said he practically grew up within its walls.
When Troyon was only seven years old his father died, leaving his mother with two small sons to bring up. It was necessary for her to do something to support them. Living among painters and hearing so much of design, color, and decorations, she naturally thought of doing something along that line. After much experimenting she succeeded in making designs for brooches, rings, bracelets, lockets, pins, and other ornaments. These designs were unique, for they were made of birds’ feathers. They were exquisite in color and sold readily, especially to visiting foreigners, English and American. Through the success of these bird-feather designs, she was able to bring up and educate her two sons.
As soon as the boys were old enough they worked in the porcelain factory. Here Troyon received his first training in art. His great natural talent could not long content itself with merely decorating china, and soon he began to cover large canvases with his wonderful paintings from nature.
From this time on, he spent every spare moment out in the fields and woods. All the inspiration, opportunity, and joy in work which so many feel they must go so far from home to find, Troyon found here in his home town and neighboring woods. He painted the first thing he came across,—trees such as we see everywhere; paths, streams, and fields such as we pass every day; but there is a charm in his paintings which makes them very popular now as it did then. He did not need the columns, monuments, heroes, gods, or nymphs of the past. He preferred to paint truthful representations of the beauties of the present.
In personal appearance, Troyon has been described as being coarse and rather rough. Yet his cheery good nature and kind heart won him friends wherever he went. Painting, to him, was a diversion, a pleasure to be indulged in only after work at the factory was finished. Since he did not have to depend on his painting for a living, he did not need to consider either the pleasure of others in his work or the money his pictures might bring. So he painted just the things that appealed to him, regardless of public favor. Indeed, he did not care to exhibit his paintings at all and did so only to please a friend who persisted in urging him. Troyon was quite overcome by the praise his pictures received and the popularity they brought him.
Troyon remained in the porcelain factory until he was twenty-one years old, then he began to travel the country as an artist. He painted landscapes as long as he had money in his pocket, then he made friends with the nearest china manufacturer and worked steadily at his trade until he had money enough to go on.
In the factory Troyon continued working out the small detailed designs suitable for china, but in the open field he paid little attention to details, his chief interest centering in the composition as a whole. At first he had found it difficult to paint large masses, and often the general effect of his landscapes was lost in the confusing details of parts of it. But one day as he was painting near the edge of a woods, a well-known painter of that day, Camille Roqueplan, came and stood behind his easel watching him. The older artist recognized at once the talent of the young man and while praising him for the truthfulness of his sketch, gave him valuable suggestions which Troyon never forgot. Although the artist Roqueplan was eight years older than Troyon, the two became close friends. Troyon studied under Roqueplan and it was through his influence that he made his first visit to The Hague. It was after this visit that Troyon began to paint animals and from that day dates his best work. Later he visited his artist friend in Paris and at length moved to Paris himself.
In 1849 Troyon was presented with the Cross of the Legion of Honor. His pictures were very popular indeed and during his lifetime he became a very rich man.
People usually speak of him as a painter of cattle, but he painted quite as many pictures of sheep and dogs.
His early training as a designer is noticeable in this picture. He is famous for his strong colorings, variety, and effects in light and shade.
Some of his best known paintings are: “Great Oak,” “Forest Depths,” “Horse Pond,” “Valley of the Toucque” or “Heights of Suresnes.”
Questions about the artist. Who painted this picture? What was his trade? How old was he when his father died? What did his mother do to earn a living? When did Troyon learn to decorate porcelain? How did his trade help him when he began to paint pictures? Who taught him to paint and draw? Where did he go to paint? What subjects did he usually choose? Why was he so independent of popular favor? What was his success?
THE SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS
Studying the picture. Several days before the lesson is to be taken up, the picture to be studied should be placed where every pupil can see it.
First of all, the children should find out for themselves what is in the picture. The questions accompanying the story of each picture are intended to help them to do this.
Language work. The pupils should be encouraged in class to talk freely and naturally. In this way the lesson becomes a language exercise in which the pupils will gain in freedom of expression and in the ability to form clear mental images.
If a lesson does not occupy the entire drawing period, the children should be asked to retell the story of the picture.
Dramatization and drawing. Most of the stories told by the pictures lend themselves readily to dramatization and, whenever practicable, such stories should be acted out. The stories also offer numerous interesting situations that may be used as subjects for drawing lessons.
The review lesson. The review lesson should cover all pictures and artists studied throughout the year. At this time other pictures available by the same artists should be on exhibition.
The review work may be conducted as a contest in which the pictures are held up, one at a time, while the class writes the name of the picture and the artist on slips of paper which have been prepared and numbered for that purpose. One teacher who used this device surprised her class by presenting those whose lists were correct with their choice of any of the large-sized Perry pictures studied.
Many teachers, however, will prefer to use this time for composition work, although the description of pictures is often given as an English lesson. Pupils may write a description of their favorite picture. In fact, the lessons can be made to correlate with history, geography, English, spelling, reading, or nature study.
In any event the real purpose of the work is that the pupils shall become so familiar with the pictures that they will recognize them as old friends whenever and wherever they may see them.
It is hoped that acquaintance with the picture and the interest awakened by its story will grow into a fuller appreciation and understanding of the artist’s work. Thus the children will have many happy hours and will learn to love the good, the true, and the beautiful in everything about them.#ENGLISH