I’ve been wary of posting an art history blog because I know it will show the gaps in my knowledge. Please, have mercy. This is not a published article. This is not a peer reviewed journal. This is not a research paper. I teach art skills and art history to grade schoolers. I keep it simple.
Good, now that that’s out of the way… I want to write out some of what my students and I talked about last week.
This is The Night Watch or The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq. The first thing said, “Wow, that’s a loooong name.”
I told them how the painting was a portrait of a militia company (I took time here to explain that a militia company was a group of “soldiers” who would defend a city). I also said that the other portraits painted of the militia companies were very stiff and formal, like the photos they take for school, with two to four rows of people all facing forward. This portrait by Rembrandt showed everyone in action, actually doing something.
I also told them why it was named The Night Watch. That it was a mistake to call it a night watch, because it had just gotten dirty and looked like it was at night. My son piped up, “Why is there an angel right there?” And I love that he noticed that! The little girl is bright might be because that part of the painting was cleaner than the rest. It’s kind of a mystery, and if it’s been figured out yet, I’d love to know! I also told them how the painting was saved and stored for many years during World War II to protect it from the Nazis. I also told them about when it was displayed at one point, it was trimmed on the sides to help it fit between two windows. They were shocked that someone would do this. I think it’s wonderful that they already respect art so much. 🙂
The next painting we looked at was The Feast of Belshazzar. I told them to notice how shocked everyone looked in the painting. The woman on the right is spilling wine on her dress, the people to the left of Belshazzar are backing away and wide-eyed with surprise. Belshazzar looks petrified and mesmerized. My main goal with showing them this picture was to notice facial expressions and how they tell a story within the painting.
Rembrandt did several etchings of facial expressions. He would dress himself up and pose and sketch himself. The kids loved this image. He looks so silly!
Here, Rembrandt is throwing his head back and laughing. He seems very carefree and effortless.
This one is great. He looks so mad. 🙂
I’m calling this, the Pout.
At the end of the slideshow, I passed out paper and pencils (the kids love the HB art pencils I got for them) 🙂 And I instructed them (several times because they weren’t listening very well) to draw as many facial expressions as they could. I told them to concentrate on eyebrows, eyes and mouth on each face. Those are the most expressive parts. The kids started getting really imaginative and made faces at each other and made faces in their little mirrors. It was great!
Making art history come alive to kids is amazing. I love my job.
LaughladyXD signing off.
Edit: How cute is this!?
“A flashmob breaks the tranquil setting at a shopping center in Breda, Netherlands. Dressed in 17th century outfits, armed with guns and swords, the performers recreate Rembrandt’s painting “The Night Watch” to commemorate reopening the Rijksmuseum exhibit.”