How could The Icebergs, a 5-foot tall and 9-foot wide painting, be lost for nearly a hundred years? In plain sight! That’s how.
Read on to:
- Find helpful vocabulary
- Learn a little about Frederick Edwin Church
- Learn the story of this once lost masterpiece
- See activities to help you and your children explore and enjoy The Icebergs
- A cute photo of Molly, the Artsy Corgi
These words, which will be in bold green the first time they come up, will help you and your children talk more easily about different parts of a painting.
- landscape a painting of land, trees, etc. may have some people and buildings, but these aren’t the focus
- sketch a quick, non-detailed drawing or painting that artists use as studies for more finished works
- foreground, middle ground, background art words for the front, middle, and back parts of a painting.
- Horizon where the land or water meets the sky
Frederick Edwin Church, (1826-1900) was one of the very few students of Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School of landscape artists. (check out other posts I’ve written about the Hudson River artists)
Like others in the group, Church first painted landscapes along the Hudson River and in other rural areas of New York and New England. In 1857 he hit fame with his 7-foot-wide painting of the Horseshoe Falls of Niagara. Water rushing away from the bottom edge of the painting (which was set at floor level) makes viewers like they’re about to tumble over the falls. Church exhibited Niagara by itself in a gallery in NYC and thousands paid 25 cents to sit in front of it and view the rainbow, mist, and foaming waters.
Church’s interest in science and exploration soon took him to South America to climb mountains and trudge through tropical rain forests,
to Italy and Greece to study ancient ruins, and to the Middle East to ride camels to reach the fabled city of Petra.
From pencil and oil sketches in these places, he painted huge landscape masterpieces.
For The Icebergs, Church chartered a small sailing ship for a month-long summer expedition to the waters off the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador. From the ship he used a rowboat to get closer to the icebergs so he could do pencil and oil sketches. The sailors thought he was crazy to go so close.
Church finished the final Icebergs painting and displayed it before crowds in NYC and Boston, just as he had Niagara. But the Civil War had just begun, and Church couldn’t find a buyer for the huge painting, so he sent it to be exhibited in London. After its successful exhibit, a businessman from Manchester, England bought The Icebergs and installed it in his country estate.
The estate was bought and sold many times over the years, eventually becoming the property of the City of Manchester. At different times the city used the house for a hospital and an orphanage. By 1978 it was a detention home for boys. Except for a short stay at a church that gave it back, The Icebergs remained with the property all those years, because no one knew its true worth. Though many art experts wondered what had happened to the painting, it hung dusty and forgotten, but in plain view, on a little-used stairway.
Then in 1978, the home’s administrator decided to sell the painting to raise a little money to buy some land. Suddenly the world rediscovered Church’s masterpiece. And it didn’t just raise a little money, it sold for 2.5 million dollars at auction (setting a record for American paintings) to an anonymous buyer who donated it to the Dallas Museum of Art, where it remains today, welcoming visitors to the American Art wing.
Activities to Help You and Your Children further Explore The Icebergs
Before doing any other activities, ask children to tell what’s going on in the painting and what tells them that. Enhance their observational and verbal skills by rephrasing words and adding new vocabulary.
- Help them notice how the foreground ice formation frames the iceberg in the middle ground.
- Point out how Church has highlighted that middle ground iceberg with sunlight.
- Encourage them to look way into the background at the distant horizon to see more icebergs.
Though we might expect a painting of icebergs to be mostly white, Church’s interest in science as well as his artistic training, helped him look carefully to see many colors reflected in the towering icebergs.
A friend of Church, who was a pastor, wrote this description of what he saw as he accompanied Church in the rowboat, “the steepled icebergs ,a vast metropolis in ice, pearly white and red as roses glittering in the sunset.” Pastor Louis Noble.
Go to this link to The Icebergs at the Dallas Art Museum and enlarge and scan around the painting,
- Encourage children to see the details. Have them call out or write down the colors they see.
- Older children might enjoy coming up with similes for the different colors and textures they see. For example, parts of the iceberg look like peaks of white frosting.
Before You Go
If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to 5 Ways Art Benefits Children’s Cognitive, Physical, Spiritual, and Social Development, with a Few Fun and Easy Activities for each Benefit
Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages. Add link
Pictures of Molly
Molly and I took some photos on a cold day here in Colorado a few days ago. It was so cold that frost and snow froze instantly on every surface! We hope you enjoy them
And we hope you enjoy this first post in a series about Frederick Edwin Church. Next week we’ll have a devotion based on the painting or Church’s life and work.
If you’re new to my blog, this is what you’ll usually find in each month-long series. One post will come each week, usually followed by a newsletter the last week:
Post 1 will engage your children’s minds in art appreciation activities. with background information about the artist and artwork with pictures and links for you. Then I’ll give you some kid-friendly activities to help you and your children enjoy and appreciate the artwork.
Post 2 will engage your children’s hearts in a kid-friendly devotion based on the artwork.
Post 3 will engage children’s hands in an art activity based on the artwork. There are always suggestions to make the activities doable for a range of ages.
Post 4 may be related books to read or an interview with a children’s author. I include picture books as well as middle grade books.
In my end-of-month newsletter, you’ll find lots of ideas and links to help you make connections to other subjects related to the month’s artwork and artist. I hope this format will help you with games, lessons, and activities to engage your children’s minds, hearts, and hands in learning about and enjoying art.