Book Activity: Camille and the Sunflowers
- Camille and the Sunflowers: A Story About Vincent van Gogh by Laurence Anholt.
- Painting supplies (your choice)
- Bouquet of sunflowers (optional)
Claude Monet (1840-1926), a French Impressionistic painter said: "I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers."
Why did Claude Monet say that?
What other famous artists painted flowers, especially sunflowers?
Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O'Keefe. Claude Monet is famous for water lilies but has also painted sunflowers in his garden scenes.
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) was a Dutch postimpressionist painter. Like Monet in the GITG first grade lesson (Unit 1, Lesson 3), van Gogh used flowers as art subjects for painting. One of his most famous paintings is "Sunflowers". There are some excellent children's books, videos, and art packets available about both Monet and van Gogh. Since the theme for these activity ideas is sunflowers, we will focus on sunflowers.
Take turns reading aloud and showing the pictures from Camille and the Sunflowers: A Story About Vincent van Gogh by Laurence Anholt.
What did you learn about sunflowers from reading Camille and the Sunflowers?
Camille lived where sunflowers were so tall or high that they looked like real suns. There were fields of sunflowers. Camille ran through the sunflower fields to help his Dad with the mail. Camille picked sunflowers and put them in a big brown pot for Vincent van Gogh when he first arrived in town. Camille called Vincent the "Sunflower Man" because he watched him paint the sunflower fields where he lived. When Camille went to warn Vincent about the people asking him to leave town, he noticed that the sunflowers in the pot had wilted and it made him sad. But, Vincent presented his (now-famous) The Sunflowers painting to him to show how big and bright the sunflowers had been and it made him smile. The people in Camille's town didn't appreciate Vincent's sunflower paintings but now millions of people enjoy them, particularly the one titled The Sunflowers.
Was the story based on actual facts?
Take a look at the book and see if you can find the answer.
What makes sunflowers fun to draw and paint?
The book mentions that Vincent van Gogh was looking for sunshine and bright colors.
What characteristics do sunflowers and the sun have in common?
Why do you suppose these flowers are called sunflowers?
It might be because of some common characteristics. It is also because the sunflower heads follow the sun throughout the day. Do you know what that scientific process is called? Phototropism is when plants lean toward the light.
Have you seen entire plants leaning out from under larger plants or towards a window as if they are reaching for the light?
Take a look at The Sunflowers painting by Vincent van Gogh. (From the website or from the book.) What is unusual about the collection of sunflowers in the pot? They don't all look the same.
What would make each sunflower look unique or different than the other sunflowers in the pot?
Possible answers could be that they were in different stages of ripeness; they were different varieties of sunflowers picked from different fields or left from previous fields of sunflowers; weather, dryness, types or conditions of the soil in different parts of the field would produce different looking plants; or some plants wilt faster than others. There are several possibilities. Even the light on the pot of flowers would cause them to be different colors.
Paint your own picture of sunflowers. (You can bring in a bouquet or have them do one from memory or looking at an assortment of sunflower pictures. Use whatever painting supplies, markers, or colors you wish to use with your group.)
Take a look at everyone's paintings and note the similarities and differences. Just as every person has unique characteristics, so does every sunflower.
For more information on the life of Vincent van Gogh, go to: http://www.vangoghgallery.com/misc/bio.htm
Van Gogh Art Activity Pack by Mila Boutan (1996. Cronicle Books, San Francisco, CA. ISBN: 0811813126) has everything you may need to get your students excited about art and famous artists and creating their own masterpieces. This inexpensive ($9.95) activity pack includes a paperback book about Vincent Van Gogh and an art activity book and a poster to color.