Students will play matching games about the seasons of the year, take a nature walk, and create a class painting of trees using Pissarro’s painting as inspiration.
Students will be able to:
- play a matching game with seasons;
- actively listen to a read-aloud story;
- compare the illustrations in a book to a painting;
- discuss the season depicted in a painting; and
- work together with classmates to make a collaborative artwork.
- Begin by playing a matching game about seasons with the students. Have students organize images of trees, clothing, and objects according to what season they represent (save the leaves for later). For example flowers, ice cream cones, and swimsuits would go with the tree that represents summer; snowmen, mittens, and sleds would go with the tree that represents winter. Talk with students about how we change our clothing and activities based on the season of the year. Explain that we change our clothing in much the same way a tree changes their leaves each season.
- Show students Autumn Poplars by Camille Pissarro. Ask them what season of the year is shown in the painting. How can they tell? What colors, clothes, and activities does fall remind them of? Ask them to look carefully and see if they can discover the two animals in the painting.
- Read Hello Harvest Moon by Ralph Fletcher (or one of the other selections) to the class. Ask the students: How are the illustrations in the book similar to the painting? What colors are the same?
- Return to the matching game. This time have students place the leaves that match each season with the appropriate tree. Begin with the autumn tree and have the students find leaves that match the colors of the leaves in Pissarro’s painting.
- Take a nature walk with your class and allow students to discover the colors in the trees. Perhaps collect leaves if the season is appropriate. Point out animals if there are any around. While on the walk, explain to the students that Pissaro and his Impressionist friends liked to paint outside. Why would they like painting outside? How is painting outside different from painting inside? What would you see outside that you couldn’t see inside?
- When you return from the walk, present students with the drawings of tree trunks that resemble the trunks from Pissarro’s painting. Decide as a class what color of leaves each trunk will have using colors from Pissarro’s painting as inspiration. Distribute paper plates of paint and have students use their handprints to create leaves for the trees.
- One copy of Hello Harvest Moon by Ralph Fletcher.
- Drawings of tree trunks similar to the trunks in Pissarro’s painting on a large sheet of butcher paper
- Poster paints in seasonal colors
- Paper plates and paper towels or rags to clean hands
- Images of trees, clothing, objects, and leaves that represent each season
- About the Art section on Autumn Poplars
- One color copy of the painting for every four children, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen
- Visual Arts
- Invent and Discover to Create
- Observe and Learn to Comprehend
- Relate and Connect to Transfer
- Language Arts
- Oral Expression and Listening
- Reading for All Purposes
- Critical Thinking & Reasoning
- Information Literacy
Autumn, Poplars, Éragny (Automne, Peupliers, Éragny)
- Camille Pissarro, French, 1830-1903
Camille Pissarro was born on the island of St. Thomas in the West Indies (Virgin Islands, when the island was still a territory of Denmark), where he spent most of his formative years. Pissarro was an artistic youth and spent much of his time drawing and painting. He moved to Paris in 1855, began his art studies, and joined a group of young painters who later became known as the Impressionists. Impressionist artists used bright colors, painted everyday scenes, and left their brushstrokes broken and visible—techniques that challenged the rules of academic painting at the time. Most Impressionists were not allowed to show their works at the Salon, the official French art exhibition, because of their unconventional approaches to painting. In response to their exclusion, Pissarro organized an exhibition of Impressionist paintings in 1874. A total of eight Impressionist exhibitions were organized after 1874 and Pissarro was the only artist in the group to show his work at all of them. He is considered by many to be the central figure of the Impressionists. In his time, Pissarro saw the Impressionist style move from being unconventional and rejected to favorable and admired.
Pissarro painted Autumn Poplars from the window of his country home in the village of Eragny, about an hour northwest of Paris. He loved painting outdoors and even invented an easel on wheels to help him accomplish this. Pissarro was an innovative artist, constantly searching for new means of expression; his style was always evolving. In this painting, Pissarro experimented with color, painting dots of pure, unmixed colors side by side. When viewed from a distance, the colors blend together, creating an image that is very different than what one would see close-up. He began experimenting with this technique after meeting French painter Georges Seurat [sur-AHT], who is known for this style of painting. Pissarro put his own twist on Seurat’s tight, tiny dot technique by using looser brushstrokes that appear more like dabs of paint.
Pissarro and the Impressionists had liberated themselves from the constraints of subject matter, composition, and style. Impressionists were breaking boundaries and exploring new ways to depict the world through painting. In light of their work, new possibilities opened up—among them what colors to use, what subjects to portray, and even how to paint them. Pissarro explored and experimented with these new possibilities throughout his career.
Pissarro, like most Impressionists, was interested in scenes from ordinary life and the effects of light. In this painting, there are no people, just several poplar trees in their rich autumn colors. Don’t miss the grazing cows in the background between the trees.
Color, Light, and Shadow
Many different colors can be seen in this painting: yellow, green, pink, red, black, and blue. Light shines from behind the trees, causing shadows to be cast, which were painted in a darker green, across the grass. Leaves that have fallen off the smaller tree in the foreground dot the green grass.
If you look closely at this painting, it’s easy to see thousands of small dots or dabs of paint. When viewed from a distance, the colors begin to blend into one another, creating a more recognizable image.
Funding for object education resources provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.
The images on this page are intended for classroom use only and may not be reproduced for other reasons without the permission of the Denver Art Museum. This object may not currently be on display at the museum.