Overview The guide is divided into three sections: Pre-visit, visit, and post-visit
As pre-visit preparation in the classroom, students, facilitated by classroom teachers and/or art teachers, will be introduced to select works from the gallery Nature and the Nation either by slides, posters, exhibit cards, or images from the museum’s website.
The second phase will include a museum visit where students, led by a trained museum educator, will view the original paintings. The class will be conducted in the gallery Nature and the Nation, one of four American art galleries. During this period, students will be able to obtain a more direct and comprehensive understanding of the works on view.
The last lesson will involve follow-up study of the paintings discussed in the gallery. This will include additional reading assignments, research, writing, and an art project (optional for art students).
A. Classroom Preparation
Using the visual resources supplied by the museum, the library or the web, students will discuss the works in the gallery Nature and the Nation. At this point, students should only focus on examples of the “American” landscape (see suggestions below). Teachers should begin a discussion of the works by using informal, student-centered approaches to learning (like the VTS method mentioned below). Begin by getting students’ response to the works. Avoid leading questions like: Why did Cole paint in the Catskills? Instead, ask questions that get them to probe into the meaning of the work without instructional clues. For example: What can you tell me about this painting? What’s going on? Or follow-up questions like: What do you mean by that?Can you elaborate further? Once students become visually engaged, teachers may use this opportunity to introduce vocabulary terms or supply additional historical information (key words to focus on: Campagna di Roma; Olevano; Hudson River School; Luminism; and Sublime).
As an assignment, have students read the short excerpt from Thomas Cole titled Essay on American Scenery. Focusing on the recommended list of works, have students write a paragraph or two describing what Cole means by “uncultivated,” and how this shapes his vision of “nature” as “nation.” Also have the students make note of key words or themes addressed by Cole that can be addressed during the museum visit.
As preparation for the museum visit, have students examine George Inness’s In the Roman Campagna and Albert Bierstadt’s Olevano using the same visual thinking strategies (VTS) as before. In addition, students should read the short biographies of each artist. Have students begin thinking about how the idea of nation remains constant or changes when applied to landscape paintings in Italy.
4. Studio work (optional)
I. Drawing is crucial to understanding how ideas are expressed through an artistic medium. The techniques of painting reflect a philosophical world view and determine how a subject is to be interpreted. For example, unlike many of his contemporaries, Inness deviated from the tenets of American landscape painting by working from copies and photographs, as opposed to working exclusively from nature. As a hands-on introduction, begin by using reproductions of Inness’s In the Roman Campagna and/or Albert Bierstadt’s Olevano to develop small sketches (thumbnails) in pencil. If possible, make sure there is a range of 2H, HB, 2B.and 4B pencils.
II. During his formative years, Bierstadt specialized in monochromatic studies. As an additional exercise have students develop gradation charts, eight (8) progressions from light to dark, in order to familiarize themselves with the range of values found in the painting. Using the value scale as a guide, have students develop sketches, without attention to detail, that represent the range of values in Inness’s painting. Also, use this initial studio time to discuss composition (foreground, middle ground, background) and/or the pictorial use of space. This particular exercise may be particularly useful when understanding the concept of luminism or atmospheric perspective.
B. The Museum Visit
In contrast to the ubiquity of the reproduction, the museum visit offers a unique opportunity to study from original works of art. Not only can the student develop a better appreciation of the skill required to produce them, they can better understand the materials used and how they relate to the manifest content. Also, the museum visit helps to appreciate the aesthetic beauty and timeless wonder associated with original works of art.
Teachers are required to schedule tours at least six weeks ahead of time. This will give teachers time to coordinate the visit with a museum educator. You can call the museum’s reservation hotline at: (314) 655-5484; Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" email@example.com; or fill out a form online at HYPERLINK "http://www.slam.org" www.slam.org
1. The tour will be scheduled for gallery 218, a gallery organized under the thematic heading “Nature and the Nation.” The tour guide will begin with a capitulation of the overall theme Nature and the Nation. Students should utilize this moment to address the issues Cole raised in Essay on American Scenery.
2. The tour guide will then proceed with a discussion of Inness’s In the Roman Campagna and Bierstadt’s Olevano. In addition to the new information derived from direct observation of the works, students should use the biographical information supplied earlier to guide their questions.
3. Students will then choose one of the two paintings of the Italian landscape and compare and contrast them with scenes of the American landscape. How are they similar? How are they different? How does the conception of nature change? How does the concept of nation change? To what degree has the artist(s) taken certain liberties to depict the landscape at home and abroad? To what degree has the artist(s) attempted to transcend time and place?
Hands-on gallery activity (optional)
After students have discussed the paintings by Inness and Bierstadt, have them spend about ten minutes making thumbnail sketches of the paintings.
Students will then consider how their aesthetic reactions to the works have altered while working from the original as opposed to the reproduction. Referring back to the painting students should point out similarities and differences in the treatment of light, the application of paint, the palette, and the modulation of forms.
To conclude the exhibit, have students review the key terms discussed in class and in the gallery.
C. Follow-up classroom activity
1. Have students read one of the supplementary descriptions of Inness’s In the Roman Campagna and Bierstadt’s Olevano. Afterwards have students extend their analysis of the works by developing a 750 – 1000 word essay considering the following topics:
∗To what degree does the Italian landscape serve as a referent for the American landscape?
∗To what degree does the Italian landscape deviate from conceptions of 19th century America?
∗How does each artist address these issues? How does their choice of subject matter, compositional arrangements, and painting styles represent the contradictory notions of bountiful nature and decay?
∗How is the past embedded in the present and the present in the past?
∗Compare cultural backgrounds and artistic influences of each artist and how they relate to their contemporaries. For example, how does their background differ from Edmonia Lewis and Robert S. Duncanson? To what degree does this affect their artistic concerns?
∗What helped to influence the artists’ artistic development? For example, from 1865 onward, Inness was greatly influenced by the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. Read an excerpt from Swedenborg’s Heavenly Doctrines, Divine Love and Wisdom 321 and consider how his ideas are reflected in Inness’s version of the Campagna.
∗The Roman Campagna attracted artists for generations. Claude Lorrain, a French artist who spent most of his time in Rome, and Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School, provided classical renditions of the Italian landscape that inspired those who followed them. Find an example by Lorrain and/or Cole and compare them with Inness and Bierstadt. How are they similar? How are they different? (If possible, make an appointment with the Prints, Drawings, and Photographs department to view the list of prints provided below.
3. Post-visit Studio Project (Optional)
American artists often combined different studies to create their own unique interpretation of the landscape. Combine segments from the sketches made in the classroom and museum gallery to create your own original landscape. First develop a pencil study. Then, with the assistance of reproductions, develop a monochromatic painting using acrylic paint. Pay attention to how the foreground, middle ground and background are rendered. For example, consider how the sfumato technique is used to create atmospheric effects.
For advanced students
Substitute oil for acrylic. Begin by applying a ground color to a canvas prepared with gesso. Thinking only in terms of mass, use black and white to define shadow and highlight areas. Afterwards, apply thin layers of local color and proceed to paint wet-in-wet. As the painting begins to dry apply impasto areas. For guidelines read Sir C. J. Holmes’ Notes on the Science of Picture-Making.