Your Family's Incredible Lifestyle Begins HERE – With Homeschooling
Friday April 19th 2024

Sign up for The Good Ship Mom & Pop, Parent at the Helm's irregular and possibly irreverent FREE newsletter!

Books By Linda Dobson ArtofEdCover Books By Linda Dobson learning-coach-approach

Good Stuff for Special Days: Van Gogh By Becky Rupp

If you're new here, you can subscribe to our RSS feed, receive e-mails and/or sign up to receive our FREE monthly newsletter, The Good Ship Mom&Pop . Welcome aboard - thanks for visiting!

Good Stuff for Special Days By Becky Rupp

NOTE FROM GRANDMA LINDA: In typical Becky Rupp style, the following post contains oodles of resources, so many that I figured I’d best get this into your hands now so you can be ready by March 30 to enjoy celebrating and learning about Vincent Van Gogh with your family!


Celebrate March 30! It’s the birthday of painter Vincent Van Gogh, born on this date in the Netherlands in 1853.

The Vincent Van Gogh Gallery is a nicely designed site covering the life and times of the painter. Included are images of his works, a comprehensive biography, a timeline, a photographic tour of places where he lived and painted, lesson plans (on sunflowers) for elementary- and high-school-level kids, and a list of references to Van Gogh in contemporary culture, including the lyrics to the song “Starry Starry Night” by Don McLean. There are a couple of annoying pop-ups, but it’s worth living with them to get at the good stuff.

Good accompaniments to sunflower-centered lesson plans include Laurence Anholt’s Van Gogh and the Sunflowers (Barron’s Educational Series, 2007) in which a young boy named Camille welcomes a visitor to his village with a bouquet of sunflowers, which his new friend turns into a wonderful painting; and James Mayhew’s Katie and the Sunflowers (Orchard Books, 2001), in which Katie, on a magical visit to the art museum, experiences paintings as they come alive. Here she knocks over Van Gogh’s vase of sunflowers, which sends the girls in Paul Gauguin’s “Breton Girls Dancing” into fits of giggles. For ages 4-9.

Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night is a beautiful interactive tour of Van Gogh’s work from the Museum of Modern Art, with an explanatory text.

In Search of Vincent Van Gogh is a creative lesson plan targeted at fifth-graders, in which participating kids take on the roles of Investigative Reporter, Art Critic, and Suicide Prevention Expert, each assigned a list of tasks to accomplish while discovering various aspects of Van Gogh’s life and art. Included are suggestions for final presentations.

From the National Gallery of Art, Who Am I? is an excellent multi-part lesson plan aimed at middle-schoolers in which kids study the work and life of Van Gogh and create a Van-Gogh-style self-portrait. Included is a printable “How to Make a Van Gogh-Style Self-Portrait” worksheet.

For ages 8 and up, Starry Night Reproduction describes a hands-on project in which kids create their own versions of Van Gogh’s famous “Starry Night.” Included are instructions, a printable copy of the original painting, and samples of student work.

A good accompaniment to the Starry Night Reproduction project is Neil Waldman’s picture book The Starry Night (Boyds Mills Press, 1999), in which young Bernard comes across Van Gogh painting in Central Park and takes him on a tour of modern New York. The book is illustrated with Waldman’s own Van-Gogh-style paintings of scenes from New York City and the endpapers feature children’s interpretations of “Starry Night.”

Also for hands-on art-lovers, see Marty Noble’s Color Your Own Van Gogh Paintings (Dover Publications, 1998), which features 30 black-and-white line drawings of Van Gogh’s works, among them “Sunflowers,” “Irises,” and “Starry Night.” (About $4 from Dover Publications.)

Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Style of the Great Masters by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga (Bright Ring Publishing, 1997) includes two hands-on projects based on works by Van Gogh – and much more. (A highly recommended resource for art history programs.)

For the very youngest Van Gogh fans, Baby Einstein’s DVD Baby Van Gogh: World of Colors teaches babies and toddlers six different colors with colorful puppets, narrating children, and Van Gogh’s paintings. See Baby Einstein. The DVD is also available from other online sources, among them

Julie Appel’s Touch the Art: Make Van Gogh’s Bed (Sterling, 2006) is Pat the Bunny for budding artists. Preschool readers interact with Impressionist and Post-impressionist paintings by – for example – arranging the blanket on Van Gogh’s bed, stroking Monet’s water lilies, and fluffing Degas’s tutus.

In the Garden with Van Gogh by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober (Chronicle Books, 2002), also for preschoolers, pairs simple rhymes with Van Gogh’s paintings. (“Twelve sunflowers/lean toward the light./Five are wide open/seven shut tight.”)

Vincent Van Gogh: Sunflowers and Swirly Stars by Brad Bucks and Joan Holub (Grosset & Dunlap, 2001) is a friendly introduction to Van Gogh for ages 5-9, written in the style of a child’s school report and illustrated with images of Van Gogh’s paintings.

For the same age group, Mike Venezia’s Van Gogh (Children’s Press, 1989), one of the “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists” series, pairs silly cartoons with a short kid-friendly biography and art images. (Though thoroughly loathed by the School Library Journal, a lot of kids like these.)

Vincent’s Colors from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Chronicle Books, 2005) combines Van Gogh’s paintings with excerpts from his letters to his brother Theo. For ages 5-9.

Susan Goldman Rubin’s The Yellow House (Harry N. Abrams, 2001), also for ages 5-9, is the story of a wonderful summer in 1888, when painter Paul Gauguin came to stay with Vincent Van Gogh in his yellow house in Arles.

For ages 12 and up, perhaps the most famous movie version of Vincent Van Gogh’s fraught but talented life is “Lust for Life” (1956), based on the 1934 Irving Stone fictionalized biography of the same name. The film, directed by Vincente Minelli, is lush, dramatic, spectacular, and tortured. Kirk Douglas plays Van Gogh; Anthony Quinn (who won an Oscar for his performance) is Paul Gauguin. (It’s available from Netflix.)

Also available from Netflix (and other sources) is “Vincent: The Life and Death of Vincent Van Gogh” (1988), a 99-minute documentary by Paul Cox, in which images of paintings and of landscapes, towns, and people known to Van Gogh are accompanied by readings by John Hurt from Van Gogh’s letters.

A learning guide (with lesson plans) to accompany “Vincent” is available from Teach With Movies at For an annual subscription fee of $11.99, you get access to the entire Teach With Movies library of learning guides, available for 300 different movies, chosen to mesh with the K-12 curriculum.

Copy the code below to your web site.

Leave a Reply