Grade: 3-5
Subject: other

Teachers.Net Lesson Plans

#12. The Lost Works of Vincent van Gogh

other, level: elementary
Posted by Kyle Yamnitz (
The Lesson Plans Page
University of Missouri, USA
Materials Required: Oil canvases (or manila paper), oil paints, paintbrushes, paint tins
Activity Time: 2-3 class periods
Concepts Taught: Art, Oil Painting, Art History (Vincent van Gogh)

Art Lesson Plan

Description of Class:

This lesson is for a fifth grade art class consisting

of 9 and 10 year old children. Students have done paintings

with various types of paint, but have not used oil paints

previously. However, in the previous class session they were

allowed to experiment with oil paints. The class has also done

some background studying on Vincent van Gogh and his works.

They have also done color mixing with other paints.


"The Lost Works of Vincent van Gogh"


Students will be able to demonstrate knowledge

about the life and works of Vincent van Gogh. They will also

become aquainted with the use of oil paints and will be able

to better identify with real artists by using their medium.

Teacher Aims:

1. To present the methods of using oil paint and demonstrate their use.
2. To challenge students with the complexities of oil paints and to understand the
benefits of using oil paint as well.
3. To instill a knowledge of a famous artists life, works, and methods.
4. To be able to relate to a major artist.

Student Aims:

1. To be able to demonstrate how to use oil paints by creating an oil painting.
2. To explore the benefits of oil paints and understand their complexities.
3. To describe the life of Vincent van Gogh, his works, and his methods.
4. To discover the talent, time, dedication, and hardships it takes to become a
major artist.

References, Resources, Visual Aids, Examples:

As many prints of Vincent van Goghs work as possible as well as

books with collections of his work and biographies. Enough images of his

work need to be provided for the children to gain an understanding of his

work. A local artist who is proficient in using oil paints could

demonstrate the positive and negative aspects of using oil paints and

provide some tips on using oil paints.

Materials and Preparation:

Oil Canvases if funds allow (manila paper if not)
Oil Paints (in primary and secondary colors)
Various Paintbrushes
Muffin Tins for paint and for mixing paints


First, the teacher will discuss the methods of using oil paint

and will demonstrate how to use it. Next, the teacher will give a short

lecture on the life of Vincent van Gogh and his works and methods. During

the lecture (or afterwards if time allows so that distractions will be

avoided) prints of van Goghs work will be passed around for the class to

study. After seeing the his work students will be asked to imagine a

painting of van Goghs that has never been seen. One that is distinct from

his other paintings, yet maintains the same style and subject matter.

Problem Statement:

Students will attempt to create an oil painting resembling van Goghs

work; his subject matter and style.


1. While supplies are being distributed, students will be thinking about Vincent
van Goghs painting style and choosing subject matter to depict in their
2. Newspaper should be laid down under all work areas to make cleanup easier
and pennies should be worn to keep the students clean.
3. Paint will be put in muffin tins and all mixing will be done in these tins as well.
4. Students should be cautioned against using too broad of a palette due to time
constraints and lack of a unity of composition that is difficult to achieve with
too many colors.
5. If available, canvases will be provided for students to work on.
6. To make the painting similar to van Goghs, the paint can be applied thickly and
long brushstrokes will also help.

Students Reconstruct Problem in Their Own Words:
Ask students the following:
1. What are some of van Goghs subject items for his paintings? What can you
use for a subject that would be similar? (Trees, flowers, night scenes, scenery,
2. How are his paintings distinct from others? How is his style different?
3. If you found a previously unseen Vincent van Gogh painting, what might it
look like?

Transition to Work Period:

After lecture, demonstration, and description of oil painting techniques, oil

paint will be distributed in muffin tins to the students, as will canvases, pennies,

paintbrushes, and newspaper.

Work Period:

Students that are having trouble getting started may be given tips on subject

matter to choose from. For example show students how van Gogh painted flowers, trees,

and scenery. Students may choose from different flowers, trees, scenes, etc. The

teacher may prompt their imagination by asking them to imagine what it would be like

to find a Vincent van Gogh painting that may be worth thousands, even millions of

dollars. What would that painting look like?

Medial Summary:

Teacher may need to warn against copying van Goghs paintings, or against

using the exact same subject matter. The teacher may also need to keep students

focused on their work when they begin playing with the new oil paints.

Final Work Period:

After work is finished, students will be instructed to clean out their brushes

and return all materials to their proper locations. Paintings need to be placed in a

safe place to dry for a relatively long period of time since oil paints dry slowly.

It is very likely that this lesson would take two days. The first day would consist

of the instruction: lecture, demonstration, and the studying of van Goghs work. The

second day would consist of their painting, while the time between should be used to

come up with subject matter for their painting.

Discussion and Evaluation:

After paintings have dried (during the next class meeting), each student will

discuss their painting to the class and describe how their painting is similar to van

Goghs work. They should discuss their choice of subject matter, their style, and the

methods they used to achieve a likeness to Vincent van Goghs paintings. If the

teacher feels it is necessary, a short quiz may be given over common aspects of van

Goghs life, works, and methods.

Relation to Life:

Students try to imagine the impact of finding a Vincent van

Gogh painting. What would happen to it? What would it be worth? Where would

it be kept? Teacher will also generate a discussion of where his paintings

are now, what they are worth, and the class will reflect upon van Goghs life.

Ideas for Further Work:

Look at other oil paintings and describe how they differ from Vincent

van Goghs oil paintings. In addition, comparing oil paintings to paintings

done with different media would be another activity. If possible, a field trip

could be taken to a museum that houses a van Gogh painting so that students can

see what they really look like with their true texture and relief.


Oil Paint

Exhibition Wall Text:

Work will be displayed on a wall with a title above as "The Lost

Works of Vincent van Gogh." A paper will be posted describing the paintings

as work that the students felt Vincent van Gogh may have painted, but they

have not been discovered yet.