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Stories in Art : Volume 2

Teachers’  Notes

The Teachers’ Notes for Stories in Art provide suggestions from which you can formulate lesson plans.

Following the introduction of Volume 1, this video appeals again to young children’s fondness for good stories and recognition of artistic ability. The programme can be viewed as a whole or in three parts to allow for different lessons to be built around each section.

Through Art and by the artists who create it, we have a succession of stepping-stones permitting a view of our world and of contemporary events.

Great Britain is rich in its many accessible collections of great works of art and by featuring individual works and the artists who produced them, it is hoped to convey a sense of history, an appreciation of art in a variety of forms and a lasting appetite for visiting galleries, collections or exhibitions.

The focus of this programme is a selection made at Castle Howard in Yorkshire. Castle Howard has been the architecturally impressive home of the Howard family ever since it was built at the beginning of the 18th century, being currently home to the Honourable Simon Howard and his family.

The programme takes us inside to meet a “detective” who will encourage the children to search for clues and the message or meaning of each piece of work, thereby discovering the “STORIES IN ART”.

"Henry VIII by Holbein."

STORY 1 : Henry VIII
by Hans Holbein the Younger 1497/8-1543

Holbein’s portrait of Henry VIII can be seen in the Music Room. Signed and dated 1542, it was purchased by Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle, about 1720.

Encouraged to look at the painting as if doing some detective work the children are asked for their first reactions to it.

"you may never have been the sitter in a portrait but I expect you have had the school photographer take your picture."

"...holy images became unpopular when changes in attitude and belief occurred in a movement called the Reformation."

"When Henry came to the throne, he was considered to be the most handsome sovereign in Europe...."

Holbein’s life is outlined giving the circumstances of his arrival in England.The religious turmoil of the Reformation in Europe meant that Holbein could no longer rely upon religious painting to provide a regular source of income. The Church was to be replaced as a patron by the Royal Courts, the Nobility and the Merchant class. As Court Painter to Henry VIII, Holbein received an income of £30 a year for which he undertook a variety of commissions from designing costumes to painting the dynastic group portrait of Henry VIII, his new Queen, Jane Seymour and his parents, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, on one of the walls in Whitehall Palace.

"His first visit to London was spent in the company of the great scholar and statesman Sir Thomas More."

"The outlines of the artists' drawings were transferred by tracing, or by pricking small holes and shaking charcoal dust through them!"

"Holbein made preliminary drawings for his paintings with notes about the sitter's clothes...."

"It's thought that he probably died of the plague.."

Henry VIII’s life is well documented and I touch upon some of the well-known points. The children may be intrigued by the idea of a whipping boy. Being such a gentleman, it was thought to be an even greater punishment for Henry to watch someone being punished on his behalf than it would be to undergo the punishment himself!

Holbein’s methods of working are described including the technique of pouncing – an early form of dot to dot. Holbein made copies of his works as did other artists as royal portraits were in great demand. It is Holbein’s Henry VIII that remains posterity’s image of the King.

"Henry had a very spoilt childhood - he even had his own whipping boy..."

The portrait, which is painted in oil on wood panel, is described in detail and pupils are asked to look carefully at the artist’s craftsmanship.
Finally they are asked to consider the significance of the ‘H’ and the ‘42’ on Henry’s wooden stick.

"Henry closed all the Monasteries and Nunneries in England...."

"Divorced       Beheaded         Died            

Divorced       Beheaded       Survived"

" Anxious that a son should follow him, Henry is famed for having six wives....."


Classroom Ideas:

Children could study a selection of pictures and then recreate their own Tudor portraits using paint or collage materials such as fabric, beads, lace and fur fabric.  Gold pen could be used to suggest gold thread in the richly patterned fabrics.  The work could be mounted on a dark background before being given a card or paper frame.

Drawings in the style of Holbein could be executed in black and white or coloured chalks or pastels.

Pupils could then experiment using tracing paper with the technique of pouncing.

Tudor miniatures were usually painted on vellum or sometimes ivory or card and could be held in the hand or worn as a piece of jewellery. A head and shoulders could be drawn on white paper, cut out and then mounted on a royal blue background. A frame could be made using gold paper.

The Portrait could be used as a starting point for poetry, writing or drama.

The class could describe their character, imagine what he’s thinking or what he’s about to say or do. A child could dress up and pose as the King.

Props would develop the idea – rings, gloves, chain etc.

Other children could take the parts of queen, prince, princess, courtier, whipping boy etc. They could arrange themselves into tableaux, perform mimes and write plays.

Further research could lead to some Tudor Maths e.g. the lengths of the marriages, the effects of the plague and population data, old coinage values, wage calculations and revenues gained from the dissolution of the monasteries.

A study of Holbein’s portrait could be used as part of the history study of Britain and the wider world in Tudor Times and its significance as a primary source.

STORY 2 : The Grand Tour

Today, young men and women usually complete their education by going to College or University but, in the 18th century, the Nobility completed their education with a period of European travel, known as The Grand Tour.  The modern equivalent to such travels is the so-called 'Gap Year'.  As the 'Grand Tour' could last from a few months to several years, it was undertaken only by the very wealthy who had the means and the time.

In the 18th century, the art and culture of ancient Greece and Rome were revered hence the six Roman capriccios acquired by the 4th Earl.  Painted in oil on canvas and dated 1740, these large pictures are located in the Long Gallery North.  As forerunners of the modern day postcard, these fanciful paintings served as souvenirs for the travellers, showing the buildings and sculptures that they most admired.  Such monuments were not shown in their real landscape but in imaginary settings and groupings, animated with numerous figures.

"This house is very much influenced by the Grand Tour."

The artist Giovanni Paolo Pannini (1691/2-1765) is introduced and three of his paintings are discussed: A View of the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine, The Baths of Caracalla and A Ruined Colonnade with antique sculptures.

Successive Earls bought copies of many of the famous sculptures in the paintings.  During the course of the programme the children are shown the statues of Hercules, Hygeia, Silenus with the Infant Bacchus and the Dying Gaul, all of which can be found in the house and grounds.  More of the sculptures both in the featured paintings, and in the remaining capriccios, could be sought by pupils on a visit to Castle Howard.  Pupils will probably be familiar with the story of the Labours of Hercules.  The Farnese Hercules shows him leaning on his club, which is draped with the skin of the Nemean Lion.  Behind his back, he’s holding the apples of the Hesperides.  The other statue of Hercules shows him fighting with the Hydra from the Lernaean swamp.

"Spectacles such as gladiatorial combats and fights with beasts were held in the Colosseum."

Research may be needed into the less familiar characters such as Hygeia, the Goddess of Health. The huge columns in the Great Hall where she stands, compel you to look upwards to the decorated dome, which provides Castle Howard with its unique silhouette.

In the 18th century, antique sculpture formed an important part of any art collection and the Antique Passage is lined with busts, statues, sculptures and marble tabletops.  Some would have been excavated at sites around Rome and restored, others, such as the Dying Gaul, are 18th century copies of antique originals.

"They tell of rivalries, the shipping and packing arrangements, and worries about pirates...."
A portrait of Frederick, 5th Earl of Carlisle, can be seen in the Turquoise Drawing Room.  Painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92), I feature this as it adds a human element to the stories of the Grand Tour with a touch of humour and sadness related to the Earl’s pet dog Rover.  The 18th century Latin verse written by the 5th Earl on the death of his dog, “ibat et ad Stygias nobilis umbra plagas” translates as “and the noble shade went to the Stygian snares” – the shade being the ghost of the dog and the snares being the snares of death, the Underworld.
"Rover must have been quite a character because later on the Tour it seems that he was to have his portrait made"

"While escaping from a larger dog, Rover was run over by a chaise and suffered a broken leg"

"Rover was always getting
into scrapes and pushing his luck too far."

"Sadly, one day, his luck ran out."

Classroom Ideas:

Pupils could compose their own holiday painting or collage in the style of Pannini.  Favourite elements of a holiday could be grouped together to form a pleasing picture.

Paint pictures telling the story of a myth or legend or featuring a character from ancient mythology.

Children could draw a cartoon sequence of their own pet on holiday.

Further cross-curricular links could range from tourism today and rates of exchange to discussion, role-play and creative writing.  The class could write about their own pets on holiday or as if they were the dog running around the cities of Europe.

STORY 3 : Embroidered Screen
designed by William Morris 1834-96

The three-panel embroidered screen is located in the Anglican Chapel. It was purchased by the 9th Earl, George Howard, for his wife Rosalind in 1889.

The Earl and Countess are shown in two portraits, by Sir William Blake Richmond (1842-1921), painted in 1880 and 1879 respectively.  As a painter himself, the 9th Earl moved in Pre-Raphaelite circles and knew many of the eminent artists of the day.  He also revived the link between Castle Howard and Italy.  In 1865 he met the Italian artist Giovanni Costa and under his tutelage he developed his talents as a landscape painter.  They eventually formed the Etruscan School of painters in 1883-84.  Two of the Earl’s Italian Landscape paintings are shown, those of Amalfi and Florence, as well as his pencil drawing of William Morris, which dates to the 1870s.

"He was even given a pony and a miniature suit of armour by his parents so that he could pretend to be a knight."

Background information about William Morris himself, his work and his ideals are given.  Such is the enduring appeal of Morris and Co.’s distinctive style that many of the designs have remained popular and are still available today.  Three of these are shown: Garden Tulip, Blackthorn and Windrush.  They have been made using the block printing technique that Morris used to create his designs for wallpaper and cloth.  This required a high level of skill and craftsmanship on the part of the printers.  The design to be printed was carved into the surface of a wooden block, with a separate block required for each colour.  The block was dipped in dye and then pressed firmly on to the cloth or paper.  This would be allowed to dry before adding the next colour.  A complicated pattern could take many days to complete.

" Morris's career as a designer began with the design, decoration and furnishing of the Red House at Bexleyheath in Kent."

The three embroidered panels, which form the oak framed screen, are then studied.  Each panel, measuring 171.5cm by 73.6cm, formed part of an ambitious decorative scheme for the walls of the drawing room at the Red House.  The figures were first embroidered on linen, then cut out and stitched to a woollen serge background.  The embroidery was carried out with wools and silks using chain stitch, brick stitch, long and short stitch and darning stitch with gold couched threads.  As the programme relates, the figures have been identified as Lucretia holding a sword, Hippolyte with a sword and a lance, and Helen of Troy with a blazing torch.  The scheme was inspired by Chaucer’s late 14th century poem, “The Legend of Good Women”.

"William Morris rejected the Industrial Revolution, encouraging hand production over machine production."

Classroom Ideas:

Make observations from nature and use these as the basis for creating patterns for wallpaper, textiles etc.

Make a block for printing from a piece of sponge or card.  Experiment with symmetrical, alternating, dropped or more complicated repeat patterns.

Make a two-colour printed pattern.Take care not to smudge or mis-align the design.

Use observational drawings as the basis for computerised repeat patterns.

Pupils could design large ‘stained glass windows’ or shoebox size rooms could be made with tapestries, murals and furniture depicting chivalry and medieval figures in the style of Morris.

Use textiles to interpret a familiar event, story, myth or legend e.g. Bayeux Tapestry, Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Use a paper pattern to transfer drawings to fabric and cut out. Use simple embroidery stitches, beads etc. to make a fabric collage.

The work of William Morris provides a rich starting point for studying Victorian art and design and could form part of the history study of Victorian Britain. It also presents opportunities in Maths e.g. symmetry, reflection and rotation in patterns and the calculations of the areas of rooms and their walls for the practical problems of wallpapering, decorating and costs.

The geography of the location of Castle Howard and the history surrounding each work could be developed.  There are many opportunities to use the selected works as starting points across the full range of the curriculum.  At your discretion, ideas given should be set at an appropriate level for the age and ability of the class.

Jane Chipperfield

© Village Times Ltd. 2003