Looking at and responding to an artwork, be it a painting or sculpture, is much more enriching, stimulating, and thought provoking when done so with other people. The rewards of productive discussion, whereby thoughts and viewpoints that incorporate a wide range of cultural contexts and upbringings are shared, can result in fascinating gems of observation, which could only have been achieved through the combined efforts of the group. Allowing time for discussion before embarking on a project also allows time for children to forge connections with the art and so become personally involved.
Here are some potential questions to consider:
Discuss initial reactions to the artwork; does it remind anyone of anything they’ve seen before? Do they like or dislike it? (These questions could be re-visited at the end of the discussion to see if, as a consequence of further analysis, their views have changed).
- Ask students to list descriptively what they see in the painting; seemingly simple questions can lead the group into more complex levels of understanding.
- Although paintings are ‘silent’, if there was also a volume level attached to the scenes depicted, the viewer would probably hear many different sounds. In The Banquet, music is being played. If children have been to the Goose Fair themselves, they would know that if they were to step into the painting Nottingham Goose Fair it would be far from silent. What sounds can the children ‘hear’?
- Discuss the size of the painting: why has the artist chosen this particular size? How does the size affect the overall impact? Contrast the dimensions of The Banquet with those of Winter Scene; does the size change the meaning?
- Only tell the students the title of the painting after a period of discussion. Ask the students if the title changes their opinion the artwork.
- Research the lives of the artists. For example, Klaes Molenaer, who painted Winter Scene, was working in a society whereby art was bought by people with different degrees of wealth and was often sold at local markets. Contrast this with Siberechts, painter of Nottingham From The East, who worked in a more common Western tradition of being commissioned by a wealthy landowner. What does the way that the artists were funded say about the societies that they were working in?
More practical ways of interacting with an artwork:
- Use different techniques to make a record of initial responses; sketching, note taking, sound recording or taking photographs.
- Choose a painting to look at and highlight some of the objects that appear in the painting. Place your own versions of the objects into a feely bag.
- Ask the children to place their hands into the feely bag and ask them to describe the object by feeling alone, or draw the object by feeling alone.
- Play a memory association game based on looking at the artwork.
- In pairs, ask pupils to choose five words to describe an artwork of their choice. The rest of the group then guess which work has been described.
- Use or make viewfinders to select and concentrate on one section of an artwork. Discuss the colours, shapes and textures that they discover.
· Ask the children to work in pairs, with one child describing the artwork while the other child draws their interpretation from the partner’s description alone.
Click for a larger view
There is the potential to explore local history and geography when looking at this painting.
- Look at changes in the environment as part of geography. Base a design technology project on spotting and recreating recognisable buildings depicted in the painting.
- Linking to geography, look at places or buildings depicted in the painting, and look for those place names on local maps. e.g. River Leen school, the Arkwright building
- Using design technology as a basis for a project, look at the differences in transport between today and when the painting was depicted.
- Social history: Look at the people in the painting –what would their jobs be? What were their backgrounds? Who lived in the big houses? This could act as a stimulus for creative writing.
- Linking to geography and the science curriculum, look at the production of food as depicted in the painting and think about how this has changed.
- Explore the connection between social history and changes in the built environment.
- Look at how the industrial revolution has impacted on the environment and further develop this into looking at local industry.
- Produce an ICT and photographic project that demonstrates how our visual landscape has changed since Jan Siberechts painted this view.
- Linking to the science curriculum, look at weather patterns.
Click on image for large view
This painting offers an opportunity to explore the local history of Nottingham and therefore the historical and geographical context of The Goose Fair.
The painting could be used to explore the history of the 800 year old Nottingham Goose Fair and its relationship Old Market Square which was severed when the Goose Fair moved to its present site. There are also other paintings of Old Market Square that could be incorporated into this project.
- An understanding of historical events, people and changes could be explored by looking at the differences in clothing, technology and animal welfare (also linking to Citizenship). Look at photographs taken at the time; compare modern and old photographs of the same scene, linking to a photographic ICT project.
- Arthur Spooner was born and lived in Nottingham. He exhibited in the annual exhibition that is still held at Nottingham Castle A visit to look at this painting could be timed to combine with looking at the annual exhibition.
- There is a steam driven fairground ride in the painting. This could generate a science project looking at how steam is made. Do we still use steam today? Look at the historical changes in Industry and transport.
- A design technology project could be based on making carousels.
- The Goose Fair is organised by people who travel the country, going from fair to fair. Look at the History of travellers.
- Narrative: Everyone depicted in the painting is absorbed in the environment of the fair. The policeman is chatting. There is the man with the megaphone. There are children in the foreground. Children could focus on one character from the painting and produce a story that charts their day at the Fair.
- Ask the children to devise imagined conversations, incorporating drama, speaking and listening.
- As part of an ICT and English project, ask students to produce a front-page version of the Nottingham Evening Post, reporting on the day that the painting is capturing.
- The Goose Fair is an evocative painting using many of our senses; when looking at the painting, the sights, smells and sounds of the funfair are almost tangible. The painting is crammed with people, with those in the foreground almost stepping out of the painting. Can you smell the onions, mushy peas, candyfloss, petrol, smoke? Can you hear the mechanical organ music, laughter, shouting, and engines? Using design technology, ask students to produce a Soundscape.
- As part of PSHE and citizenship, explore the cultural nature of festivals and fairs; why do we do it? What happens in other parts of the world?
Exploring the painting of A Winter Scene
- Although the painting is Victorian, the costumes and architecture relate to earlier times; it was an historical painting harking back to the 16th century. The costumes and architecture are used to set the context the painting. Look at the concept of time and history, linking to some of the attainment targets present in the history programme of study.
- The extravagance of the clothing that some of the guests are wearing suggests great wealth. Examine the different types of clothing and other accessories evident in the painting to understand the differences in social standing amongst the guests and staff. Compare this to what people would wear today if they wanted to demonstrate great wealth, with links to the history programme of study.
- Ask the children to re-appropriate the painting by updating either to the Victorian period (when the painting was made) and/or to a modern day setting. This could be part of a design technology project whereby children produce pieces of clothing appropriate to the era. The end result could be documented and presented through the use of digital photography and graphic design incorporating ICT.
- There is a clever use of perspective as demonstrated by the way the floor tiles have been depicted to give an illusion of space. Look at other Artistic Movements that also have championed three-dimensional depictions of the world and compare to the works of other artists who in contrast, have chosen to depict the world stylistically different. What are these artists trying to achieve in their different approaches? Links with art and design.
- On the curtain hanging behind the hosts, is the family coat of arms. Look at the history of Heraldry; compare to the use of logos today. Ask children to design their own family Coat of Arms, linking art and design.
- Look at the use of performance, staging and dance in the painting with links to physical education and drama.
- Devise character’s back stories: what interesting stories do the characters have to tell the viewer? Children have a number of characters to choose from: the dancer, the soldier, the musicians and even the monkey. Linking to English.
- What moment in time is the painting capturing? Ask the children to look for clues. It is clearly a banquet, but where is the food? Has the food already been eaten? If so, has the dancer appeared as part of the after dinner festivities? Ask the children to devise stories based on what happened to the guests before or after they attended the banquet. Ideas could be generated through hot seating and role play with links to English but also incorporating drama.
- Ask children what food may be have been presented and eaten at the banquet. Look at the history of food presentation. Ask the children to devise a menu for the banquet: perhaps cook some of the dishes that would have been served, linking to science.
- When looking at the painting in the context of the gallery, the frame of the painting can be as impressive as the painting itself. Encourage children to think about frames and the effects that a frame can have on an image. As the children to make their own frames and encourage the children to look at the world around them through their frame. Do people and places look different? What do they choose to frame? Linking to art and design.
- Think about the music that is being played. Listen to different types of music and ask the children to decide which type of music is the most appropriate. Look at the musical instruments.
- Look at the mathematical tasks that the artist has undertaken such as: tessellation, angles (in the pillars and columns), height, weight, depth, symmetry and perspective. Perhaps try some co-ordinates based on the painting.
- Look at the geographical and geological setting of the painting: what is the weather like? How do we know this? What type of plants are growing?