Tribute to Van Gogh
I had a great conversation with my father-in-law this weekend about two artists, one a musician the other a fine artist (painter). The topic we were discussing was a lesser known song called Vincent by the musician Don McLean. Most of you likely know of Don McLean for his famous song American Pie. In stark contrast this song is not upbeat rather its more like a folk song walking you through a painters life. The painter that Don McLean speaks of the painter Vincent Van Gogh and the challenging life he had not being accepted as an artist. Well at the end of this discussion I mentioned to my father-in-law Bill I want to create an experiment where students listen to the song and try to pick up on who the singer is describing.
So, during Monday’s 6th grade Art Class I decided to test my students brains and see how well of a picture Don McLean “painted” for them through his words sung. I prefaced the song by saying to the students, to either close their eyes, put their heads down.. or just sit up and be silent.
As you can see the students were extremely focused, a pin drop could be heard throughout the song’s entirety! Post song we discussed who they thought McLean was talking about. A few students said..Van Gogh, I was super proud that they had listened intently to the thoughtful words in the song. We then began our discussion about what paintings where mentioned and what else Don McLean spoke of regarding Van Gogh. The discussion was wonderful, fun and the students spoke of how beautiful the world looked through Vincent’s eyes. I was floored! Lastly I showed students the Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night and briefly explained his style and how critics looked down upon him because his paintings were in stark contrast to works at the time. I used the image from an incredible art site developed by Google called The Google Art Project : Link to Starry Night . This site gives you street view tours of the world’s best museum’s and super high resolution images of world famous paintings.
I found this discussion to be motivating to me as a teacher showing that even in the information overload era that students like a quiet song and time to think, one student actually thanked me for helping to relax her. This type of moment cannot be planned but when it happens you just think.. man I’m sure thankful for wonderful teaching opportunities like this! If you decide to try out this experiment in your class let me know how it works out for you and good luck.
Lastly Here is the Song “Vincent” by Don McLean