Thursday, October 15, 2009

Puzzle Mystery

Third Grade Art Lesson

Written by Dawn Kelly for Burbank Unified School District, and for the J. Paul Getty Foundation, Adapted for use at George Kelly Elementary

Featured Artwork: The Entry of the Animals into Noah’s Ark by Jan Brueghel the Elder, The Return from War: Mars Disarmed by Venus by Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder

Lesson Overview:

Your students will have fun trying to solve a mystery in this lesson. Students are given a small detail of a painting, which they sketch and give a title. Students share their titles and try to determine the theme and subject of the full painting based on these clues. At the end of class the students put their details together like a puzzle to create a reproduction of the painting.

Learning Objectives:

Students should be able to:

- describe in writing the art elements they see in a painting (line, color, shape, mood, imagery).

- sketch and color a small detail from a painting.

- write a title that describes the mood and imagery in a sketch.

- determine the character and theme of a work from written and verbal descriptions.


-power point presentation

- Small poster (11 x 14 in.) of The Entry of the Animals into Noah's Ark cut into 30 rectangles

- Art paper cut into rectangles proportionate to small rectangles of the poster

- On Noah’s Ark by Jan Brett, Putnam Juvenile, 2003

- Information about Jan Brueghel

- Pencils

- Colored pencils

- Writing paper


1. Show students only a small corner of The Return from War (first power point slide) and elicit descriptions from them about the image, including comments on color, line, shape, mood, as well as imagery. Use prompting questions, such as: What colors do you see? Are they repeated? Where? Are they warm or cool colors? Do the colors affect the mood of the painting? What lines or kinds of line do you see? Where do they start and stop? Are they thick, thin, horizontal, vertical, straight, wavy, curved? What kind of shapes do you see? Do you see positive and negative space? Where? Can you recognize anything in the picture? Is this painting realistic or abstract?

2. Tell students that they will work independently and then as a class to solve a mystery. Tell them that in the beginning they absolutely must not look at or discuss the pieces of the puzzle that they or their neighbors have. Hand out the small cut-up poster pieces.

3. (OPTIONAL – may want to discuss whether you have time for this with teacher) Ask students to write a description of what they see in their puzzle piece, referring them to the discussion of The Return from War: Mars Disarmed by Venus to get ideas for vocabulary words. Encourage descriptive writing skills and the use of adjectives.

4. Ask students to use a pencil to sketch the lines and shapes they see on their puzzle piece. After they sketch the basic outline with pencil, have them use colored pencils to complete their artwork.

5. Have each student give his or her picture a brief title. Students then share their titles with the class one at a time. When all titles have been read, students try to determine what the larger “mystery” painting is. What might be the theme or subject? Give students the title of the painting at the end of this discussion. Ask a volunteer to explain the story of Noah's Ark.

6. Show students The Entry of the Animals into Noah’s Ark (in power point slideshow) and discuss the image in the same manner that The Return from War was discussed. Begin by asking students what they notice first in the painting. What colors do they see? What lines or kinds of line do you see? What kind of shapes do you see? Where do you see positive and negative space? What objects do you recognize in the picture? Are there any you don’t recognize? Is this painting realistic or abstract? Discuss the story of Noah’s Ark. Explain that the artist came from a Christian culture and would have been very familiar with this story. Ask students whether the story of Noah's Ark is familiar to the class.

7. Read On Noah’s Ark by Jan Brett. Activate students' background knowledge by asking what they think it would be like to be on board the ark with all the animals. In what time period do they think the story takes place? Ask students to look at the girl on the cover of the book. Would they like to be in her place? Why or why not? After reading the story, ask students if this story matches the images in the painting. How does the story affect the way they look at the painting? Ask students to identify what point in the story the scene in the painting takes place.

8. Put students’ completed sketches together like a puzzle, referring to the painting, and hang the completed puzzle in the classroom. Ask them to give a title to their artwork. If desired, create a wall label with the title, date, and medium (graphite and colored pencil on paper) of the artwork.

Background Information:

Jan Brueghel the Elder

b. 1568 Brussels, Belgium, d. 1625 Antwerp, Belgium 
painter; draftsman 

A flower painter and landscape artist, Jan Brueghel the Elder worked from nature. Bringing home the flora he depicted in his tightly composed still lifes, he often went great distances to find rare examples. When flowering plants had run their course around August, landscape season began. Called "Velvet Brueghel" for his skill at painting rich and delicate textures, Brueghel was the second generation in a dynasty of Flemish painters. Born in Brussels and trained by his grandmother, Brueghel was celebrated in his own time, becoming dean of the Antwerp painters' guild by 1602. He traveled widely throughout Europe. During a three-year trip to Italy in the mid-1590s, he gained the patronage of Cardinal Federigo Borromeo, who delighted in Brueghel's unrealistic spaces and unexpected vistas combined with flowers and animals depicted from life. 

Brueghel mixed the past--artificial, jam-packed Mannerist compositions--with a modern insistence on observation from nature. He frequently provided lush, warm-toned woodland scenes densely populated with exotic animals and flowers as frames for other artists' figures. His best-known collaborator was his friend Peter Paul Rubens. Brueghel's sons, including Jan Brueghel the Younger, and later artists carried on his style well into the 1700s.

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