About the Packet

This packet introduces you to Impressionist painting and provides tools for curriculum design. The resources will be useful whether you have an hour or a week to devote to Impressionism. You are encouraged to share the curriculum ideas with other teachers.

1. What the Packet Includes

Introduction to the Major Themes of Impressionism

The introduction provides a discussion of Impressionism, its development, and its historical context in general terms. Also highlighted are six major themes:

  • Radicalism of Impressionism: "Trees are Not Violet; The Sky is Not Butter!" Although it may be difficult to imagine now, the new style of painting was people.
  • The Painting of Modern and Real Life Subjects. The Impressionists liked to paint scenes of everyday life: contemporary people at work and play.
  • Busy City and Quiet Countryside Settings. The Impressionists often painted people in city and country settings.
  • En Plein Air and "The Painter of the Passing Moment." Most Impressionists chose to paint en plein air, or outdoors, instead of, or in addition to, painting in their studios. They liked to capture their subjects in the middle of quiet, contemplative moments.
  • Optical Innovations: Images of "Magical Instantaneity." Many scientific and color theory innovations of the late 19th century enabled the Impressionists to experiment in the ways that they did.
  • Collecting Impressionism: "Something Solid and Durable." Impressionist paintings have become increasingly popular over the years.

2. Introduction to the Premise of the Exhibition

This section provides general information about the premise of the exhibition Impressionism: Paintings Collected by European Museums. The provenance, or history of a painting’s ownership, is explored in the exhibition and in this introduction.

3. Nine Overhead Color Transparencies

These transparencies represent nine of the works included in the exhibition. Each image illustrates the various themes found within the exhibition and can help prepare students to participate in activities and discussions. Use these transparencies on an overhead projector or as posters by placing a white piece of paper on the reverse side.

4. Information, Looking Questions, and Activities that Correspond to the Color Transparencies

  • Information for each image represented in a transparency is provided for quick reference about the artist, style, and subject.
  • Looking Questions enrich the student’s consideration of a painting by encouraging discussion and careful looking. Some questions also reinforce the themes of radicalism, the depiction of modern and real life, city and country settings, en plein air painting, and optical innovations. Your students may generate diverse answers to the looking questions.

The looking questions are a starting point for teachers to facilitate the student’s close viewing. The questions may be expanded to be more...

  • interpretive – "What do you think the artist’s intent was in...?"
  • comparative - similarities and differences between paintings...
  • hypothetical – "What if...?"
  • Suggested Activities engage students in various experiences relating to Impressionism. Additionally, these activities will help cultivate learning skills that involve the arts, math, science, language arts, and social studies. You can develop these activities further according to the level and needs of your students. We urge you to share the interdisciplinary curriculum activities in this packet with teachers of other subject areas.

5. Glossary

Printed in bold text throughout the packet are important terms for understanding Impressionism and the culture in which it existed. For definitions, please refer to the glossary at the back of the packet.

6. Resources

The books, videos, and other resources for teachers and students provide for further investigation of Impressionism, the artists, art history, and world events.

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