Thomas Cole, American (born England)
Oil on canvas
33 x 48 inches (83.8 x 121.9 cm)
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Gift of the McNeil Americana Collection, 2004
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The Industrial Revolution was not fought between armies and governments—although there were periods of violence. From the late 1700s through th e early 1900s, every aspect of day-to-day life in Europe and the United States was affected by changes in industry, transportation, and manufacturing. People from this era were often shocked by what seemed to be constant changes in their lifestyles, influencing how they viewed the world around them. Writers often reflected on these changes and artists frequently incorporated industrial influences into their creations.The goal of this lesson is to see how artists mixed agricultural or pastoral themes with hints of industrial change, and to make inferences to how the artist might have felt about these changes.
PA Academic Standards:History: 8.4.C (Influences of Continuity and Change in World History)
Art: 9.2.D (Historical and Cultural Contexts)
NJ Academic Standards:History: 6.2 (World History/Global Studies)
Art: 1.2 (History of the Arts and Culture)
Grade Level:For grades 7–12, adaptable for late elementary advanced classrooms
Art Images Required:Click on the titles below to view images on the Museum’s website. Images available on ARTstor are indicated by an ID Number; use this ID Number to search for the corresponding item in the ARTstor database (http://library.artstor.org/library/welcome.html).
- Landscape, the Seat of Mr. Featherstonhaugh in the Distance by Thomas Cole; ARTstor ID Number: 2004-115-4
- Canal near Rijswijk by Jacob Hendricus Maris; ARTstor ID Number: PMA_.Cat.-1030
- Railroad Bridge, Argenteuil by Claude Monet; ARTstor ID Number: PMA_.Cat.-1050
- Breaking Home Ties by Thomas Hovenden; ARTstor ID Number: PMA_.1942-60-1
- Silver Tanks and Moon by Arthur Garfield Dove; ARTstor ID Number: not available on ARTstor
- The City by Fernand Léger; ARTstor ID Number: 1952-61-58
Background:This lesson should be supplemental to a general introduction to the Industrial Revolution, as it focuses on how lifestyles changed as early technology and industry swept across Europe and the United States. It might be best to use this lesson before moving too far into a unit on the Industrial Revolution, since these images represent the period of change from an agricultural society to an industrial society.
Lesson Process:Part 1
- Examine the 1826 painting Landscape, the Seat of Mr. Featherstonhaugh in the Distance by the British-born American artist Thomas Cole. Have students describe what they see, either through discussion or in writing. Mention to them that every choice an artist makes is deliberate, and with that in mind, have students look again for small details. (Can the students see the estate in the distance?) Ask them, does this painting of an agricultural setting evoke positive or negative feelings? Is Cole celebrating nature or industry in this painting?
- Have students discuss or write about this painting from the point of view of someone who is witnessing and processing the changes in their world as it moves from an agricultural society to an industrial society. How might such a person react to such an ideal (or even ironic) scene?
- Next, examine the painting Canal near Rijswijk (1872) by the Dutch painter Jacob Hendricus Maris. Ask students if this painting offers a positive view of agricultural life or a positive view of coming industrialization. What clues do they see in the painting that led them to their conclusions?
- Look at the 1874 painting Railroad Bridge, Argenteuil by the French painter Claude Monet. What aspects of rural or agricultural life do your students see and what images of industrialization? Does Monet seem to be neutral in his feelings about agricultural or industrial life, or does he seem to favor one or the other? Have students identify what details of the painting helped them to form their conclusions?
- Finally, take a close look at Irish-born American painter Thomas Hovenden’s Breaking Home Ties (1890). After students discuss what might be happening in this evocative family scene, inform them that a common source of family conflict in the late 1800s involved the young men who were leaving family farms to find work in cities. Discuss Hovenden’s view of industrial change in this painting.
- At this point, have students (either individually or in small groups) go to the Museum’s website to search the collections. Students should look for works that seem to include either agricultural or industrial details—ideally, both in the same work. (Tip: Several such works can be found by searching for Winslow Homer.)
- Either in written form or as a presentation, have students describe the details of the artwork they have chosen and explain whether the work seems to be pro-agriculture, pro-industry, or neutral.
- Examine the painting Silver Tanks and Moon (1930) by the American artist Arthur Garfield Dove. While this painting seems very simple, have them consider that all choices are deliberate. Can they discern Dove’s reaction to industry? After a brief discussion, assign an analysis of this work as it relates to the topic of the place of people in an industrial world.
- As an alternative, examine the 1919 painting The City by French painter Fernand Léger. Even though this painting is very abstract, remind students of the title as they look closely. Have them write or discuss any conclusions about an industrial society from this work.
Remediation/Extension:Classroom examination and discussion of other images.
- Have students create a sketch that shows the contrast of agricultural and industrial objects or lifestyles, and have them explain the choices they made and the intended theme their sketch was meant to portray.
For more information, please contact Education: School & Teacher Programs by phone at (215) 684-7580, by fax at (215) 236-4063, or by e-mail at .