Tag Archives: Winslow Homer

Shipwrecks and Lighthouses

It was nighttime, August 11, 1897, and a thick fog had closed in around the Howard W. Middleton, a 3-masted schooner carrying 894 tons of coal from Philadelphia to Portland, Maine. The schooner had just passed rocky Black Point, made famous by the stormy seascapes painted by American artist, Winslow Homer.

Rather than risk sailing farther, Captain Shaw decided to put into a harbor on nearby Richmond Island, but in the swirling fog he missed the island and wrecked his ship on a rock just off a mainland beach.

sunset over Higgins Beach, photo by author

The Middleton’s crew made it to shore, and eventually tugboats from Portland retrieved much of the coal. A lot of coal also washed up on the beach, and people came from miles around to gather it for the coming winter. But with a huge hole in her hull, the Middleton was declared a loss and left on the rock. That winter a storm broke up the ship and carried it onto the beach, where today,125 years later, its seaweed-draped keel and ribs still lie half buried in the sand. I’ve walked around it many times at low tide.

Howard W. Middleton shipwreck, photo by author

If the Middleton had been able to round the next headland,

headland at Two Lights, photo by author


rocks and waves at Two Lights, photo by author

Several lighthouses, including Two Lights

Two Lights, photo by author

and the iconic Portland Head Lighthouse, both often painted by Edward Hopper, could have guided her into Portland’s safe harbor.

Since ancient times ships have depended on lighthouses to help them navigate dangerous waters. After independence, in 1789, the new American Congress passed a law to provide for the maintenance of existing lighthouses and for the building of new ones. Edward Hopper is famous for his paintings of lighthouses.

In this post you’ll:

  • Learn a little about Edward Hopper and his paintings of lighthouses
  • Find helpful vocabulary
  • Discover 3 activities to help you and your children explore and enjoy Hopper’s work
  • See a cute photo of Molly, the Artsy Corgi

The Artist

Edward Hopper,photo in public domain

Edward Hopper (1882-1967) was born in a small town on the Hudson River north of New York City. By the time he was 12, Hopper was already 6 feet tall, making him feel out of place and lonely. After high school he studied at the New York School of Art,

Soon after graduation from art school, Hopper traveled to Europe. He wasn’t interested in the modern art movements such as cubism. Instead he was drawn to the work of the French Impressionists. Over the next few years he made 2 more trips to Paris, studying the Impressionist’s emphasis on light and nature, their lighter colors, the cropped compositions, and the buildings many painted.

For a while Hopper struggled. His art didn’t fit either type of art that was prominent in America in the early 1900s–gritty, city scenes or idealized paintings of rural America. By the 1930s, with the help of his wife, Josephine Nivison (also an artist), people began to appreciate his work. His landscapes, and paintings of houses, lighthouses, diners, and storefronts all have a similar style that has greatly influenced American art. Hopper painted in both oil and watercolor. His most famous painting, The Nighthawks, was painted during WWII and seems to show the darkness and anxiety many people felt during those war years.

The Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, 1942, Art Institute of Chicago, public domain


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 the painting.

  • Impressionists:  artists who wanted to show the effects of changing light in their paintings. They also painted scenes of everyday life. Claude Monet was a leader of the French Impressionists.
  • Geometric: when used in art–simple shapes showing squares, circles, triangles
  • Mood: the way an artist uses color, shadow, and other aspects of composition to makes us feel a certain way.
  • Composition: how colors, shapes, lines, etc. are arranged in a paintign to create a balanced work.

The Paintings

Hopper’s lighthouse paintings aren’t in the public domain, so I’ll use The Nighthawks and The House by the Railroad to explain his style and then give you links to see his lighthouses.

The House by the Railroad by Edward Hopper,1925, Museum of Modern Art, public domain

Like the Impressionists, Hopper liked to show the effects of light on objects and their colors. Part of this house is in bright sunlight, while the angles of the roof and windows produce sharp shadows—some of them very deep. Unlike the Impressionists, Hopper didn’t blur the edges of objects. He used a definite line and used lots of geometric shapes.

Hopper’s compositions are spare, with just enough detail to tell you the setting of the painting. Notice that in Nighthawks, the counter is almost bare, as are the walls and the windows across the dark street.  Many of his paintings look like snapshots.

Most of Hopper’s paintings have few, if any, people, and there is often a mood of silence and even loneliness in them. The diner lights in Nighthawks are harsh. Fluorescent lights were still new, and Hopper seems to have enjoyed the eerie mood they produced.

Here are links to 2 of Hopper’s lighthouse paintings:

The Lighthouse at Two Lights

Lighthouse and Buildings, Portland Head, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Activities to Help You and Your Children further Explore Hopper’s Paintings

  1. Ask children to tell what’s going on in the paintings, (at least with Nighthawks. The others don’t have much action!) and what tells them that. Enhance their observational and verbal skills by rephrasing words and adding new vocabulary.
  2. Talk about mood, and what colors placement and actions of people, etc., give them the mood of Nighthawks and why the other paintings seem to be so quiet and lonely.
  3. In the other paintings, ask children to find different geometric shapes. How many ovals, squares, rectangles, etc. and of what colors, can they find.

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

Here’s a photo of Molly with the canvas bag I always use to carry things back and forth to school. It has a picture of Hopper’s painting, Lighthouse and Buildings, Portland Head, Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Molly hopes you enjoyed learning about Edward Hopper and will join us next week for a devotion based on his lighthouse paintings.





Art Activity for Winslow Homer’s Painting The Country School

What better art activity to go with Winslow Homer’s painting, The Country School, than APPLES? Here’s a fun print project that can be made into a cute card to thank a special teacher or a poster for the fridge!

In this post you’ll find:

  • Supply list
  • Step-by-step directions
  • Helpful hints
  • Clean-up tips
  • Variations and/or adaptations for different ages
  • Ways this activity aids children’s mental, physical, and social development

Let’s get started!


  • Apples, 3 or 4 should be enough (no need to buy expensive ones; they won’t be edible afterwards)
  • Red, yellow, and green tempera paint
  • Wide, flat paint brushes and a few round ones, if you wish to fill in spaces (the toothbrush is in the photo in case I decided to spatter paint)
  • Paper plate or plastic container for paint puddles
  • Scrap paper to practice on
  • Sturdy paper to print on
  • Card stock in various colors for card or poster backing


  1. Have an adult cut the apples in half
  2. Cut the paper for printing into various sizes, such as for a card (smaller sizes are easier to work with)
  3. Choose a color and paint it on an apple half with a flat brush
  4. Practice making prints on the scrap paper
  5. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different papers and techniques
  6. When apple prints are dry, add leaves and stems with crayon or marker
  7. Cut apart to make posters and cards


Helpful Hints:

  • you’ll get more complete prints if you place the apple half on the paper, then carefully pick up the apple with the paper stuck to it. Turn it over so you can first pat to be sure the paper is stuck, then smooth the paper against the apple. (Be prepared for smears as the paper may slip)
  • It often works best to have an apple half and a brush for each color
  • But you can wipe the paint off a used apple and change colors that way
  • If you want more complete prints, use a round brush dipped in the same color and pounce up and down in the places you want filled in. You want it to still look like a print.
  • If you plan to cut the prints apart for cards, etc, leave plenty of space between the prints

Clean up Hints:

  • Acrylic paints will work fine, but take more cleanup and don’t come off clothes as well)
  • Be sure to put a plastic table cloth or large paper under your work
  • Have lots of paper towels handy
  • Have a wastebasket close for paper plates, apples, and paper towels
  • A dish washing tub is great for washing brushes
  • Lay brushes flat on paper towels to dry so they keep their shape

Variations and/or adaptations for different ages:

  • Younger children will enjoy choosing and painting the apples, but may need help turning the apple and paper over and learning to pat the paper against the apple
  • Try painting red and green or red and yellow on the same apple half and see if you like the combinations
  • Try printing apples of various colors all over a larger paper
  • Cut leaf shapes from sponge or bring in some real leaves and print these with the apples (look up what shape leaves apple trees have and find or make an appropriate shape)
  • Add wiggly eyes to your printed apples

5 Ways this activity aids children’s mental, physical, and social development

  1. Using paint brushes and other art tools helps children develop fine motor skills.
  2. This art activity helps develop visual/spatial skills as children decide where to place their prints
  3. When children make choices with colors and the ways they want to finish and display their prints, it enhances problem-solving skills.
  4. Art gives children opportunities to explore their interests and talents.
  5. Making art enhances creativity and refreshes minds and eyes tired from screens.

Molly prefers to eat apples, but she hopes you enjoy printing apples for cards and posters! And we hope to see you back next week for another Kathy the Picture Lady post.

I’m trying to be good

Maybe I’ll just try a lick

Oh, okay, I’ll wait!

But Don’t You Wait!

  • 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 making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family!
  • 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. http://www.kathy-oneill.com/

Winslow Homer, Versatile Illustrator, Wartime Artist-Correspondent, and Seascape Painter

Long before he became known for his seascapes, Winslow Homer was a magazine illustrator. He also spent the 4 long years of the Civil War as a wartime artist and correspondent.

After the war, like most Americans, Homer wanted to put the tragedies of war behind him, get back to normal life, and look ahead to the future. What better way than to show children involved in everyday activities such as school?

In 1871 Winslow Homer painted The Country School, showing a moment in the day of a teacher and her students at a rural one-room school.

Before we look at the painting, let me explain that I usually do 4-part series about an artist and his or her work–one series per month. Starting this month you’ll receive one weekly post. Most will follow this format:

  • Post 1: a short bio of an artist and 1 or 2 fun ways to enjoy the artwork with your children
  • Post 2: a kid-friendly devotion related to the painting
  • Post 3: an art activity related to the painting
  • Post 4: an interview with a children’s author or reviews of books for children and other activities. These may or may not be related to the artwork.

For those who have been reading my blog for a while, the content hasn’t really changed. It’s just spread out over 4 weekly posts. (December and the summer months are usually exceptions to this format).

So here in Post 1 you’ll find:

  • A short bio of Winslow Homer
  • Activities to help you and your children enjoy and understand The Country School  (You don’t have to do them all. Pick the ones that fit you and your children)

The Artist, Winslow Homer

Homer was born in Massachusetts in 1836, and grew up in a rural area near Boston. He preferred outdoor activities to school but did have an interest in art. He first learned art skills from his mother, who was an accomplished watercolor artist. After high school Homer apprenticed to a printer, then began free-lance illustrating for magazines. He specialized in scenes of everyday life and people.

When the Civil War began Harper’s Weekly sent Homer to the front as an artist- correspondent. Homer’s sketches of battles and camp life helped people at home understand the life of a soldier. After the war, Homer turned some of his sketches into oil paintings which won awards and took him to Paris for a year.

Back home Homer continued painting ordinary people at the seashore,

Long Branch, New Jersey by Winslow Homer, 1869,Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, public domain

in the mountains, and on farms, as well as school scenes and the life of former slaves. He decided to return to Europe and spent 2 years living and painting in a small fishing village in England.

When Homer returned to America, he moved to the coast of Maine, where he lived and painted for the rest of his life. His studio still sits above rocky cliffs on a point that juts out into the Atlantic.

That’s the point as seen from across a tidal river. This is the gentler side of the point. The rocky cliffs are on the other side.

In Maine Homer painted his famous scenes of sea rescues and storm-tossed waves.

Sunlight on the Coast by Winslow Homer, 1890, Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, public domain

During Maine’s cold winters, Homer often traveled south, painting marine watercolors that glow with light and color.

Homer took a few art lessons, but was mostly self-taught. He closely observed his subjects, whether people or landscapes. One time he walked backwards all the way home from a store so he could study a sunset. For his marine paintings, Homer carefully studied how the waves rolled in and broke on the rocks below his studio. He once said he didn’t like painting the ocean when it was too calm, likening it to a duck pond.

The Painting, The Country School

The Country School by Winslow Homer, 1871, St. Louis Museum of Art, public domain

In art a genre scene captures a moment in the life of ordinary people. The people in these scenes don’t pose, but go about their activities as if the artist isn’t there. A genre painting might show a young woman gathering eggs, or a farmer reaping grain.

Gathering Eggs by Winslow Homer, 1874, National Gallery of Art, Wash. D.C., public domain

The Reaper by Winslow Homer, 1878, public domain


Homer’s genre scenes of everyday life and people are warm and realistic. And although his career spanned the era of Impressionism, and he, too, filled his scenes with light, Homer didn’t dissolve the edges of people or objects, as the Impressionists did.





Activities to help you and your children enjoy and understand The Country School

Here’s a link to the St. Louis Art Museum where The Country School painting lives. Here you can enlarge the painting and move around it with your mouse.

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. Here are a few things to help the discussion.

In The Country School, it’s as if we’re standing in the school’s doorway, looking in at a moment in the day of a teacher and her students. So, let’s do that. At first glance we see light streaming in the windows of a one-room school house onto the desks of girls on one side and boys on the other, with a teacher in the center.

Take your time. The blackboard naturally draws our eyes. Because it frames the teacher, we notice this calm and serious young woman right away. Even though her dress is also black, her white apron and bright face make her stand out against the black. She’s what is called the focal point or most important part of the painting.

The teacher’s gaze takes us to the boys, who are reading aloud. Did the little girl’s red sweater catch your eye? Homer used red on purpose so your eyes don’t get “stuck” with the boys. He wants you to look around and notice other details. Artists often use bright colors in this way, so let’s go on a scavenger hunt to find and talk about some of those details.

How many of these things can you find?

  • A straw hat; whose is it?
  • A girl in a red sweater
  • The boy with a hole in the knee of his pants
  • All the girls with striped socks
  • 2 metal cans or pails on a desk, do you think these might be lunch pails?
  • slates; these look a little like modern tablets, but are like small blackboards
  • the slate on a bench with its attached writing tool hanging off the bench
  • A bunch of flowers in a glass vase
  • Another big bunch of flowers; who probably picked these?
  • The flower that’s fallen on the floor
  • sunshine making patterns on a curtain; what’s creating the pattern?
  • 2 ink bottles; imagine having to write without a computer or ballpoint pens!
  • A Bible; even public school teachers could read from the Bible in class at that time!
  • A bell; what’s it used for?
  • All the high black boots
  • 2 barefoot boys
  • A little boy who’s crying
  • 2 girls sharing a book

This is also a great painting to spark discussion and stories. Here are some questions to get everyone talking:

  • Why do you think the girls and boys are on opposite sides of the classroom?
  • Everyone is reading together. Follow the teacher’s gaze to see who is reading aloud.
  • Do the children look interested and attentive?
  • Why do you think the little boy is crying?  This could be a good story-starter.
  • Describe the clothing and hairstyles of the girls and boys. Do these children look wealthy?

Digging Deeper

Here are more ideas for discussion and/or written assignments:

The Country School by Winslow Homer, 1871, St. Louis Museum of Art, public domain

  • What are some ways this classroom is like and unlike today’s?  Do you see any posters on the walls? What are the desks and chairs like? This would be a good way to spark interest in researching schools of the 1800s and writing a list or short essay comparing and contrasting schools then and now.
  • Children could also research clothing styles and foods of the time.
  • What are some of the sounds you would hear in this classroom?  (don’t forget the bell!!) Is it mostly quiet or loud?
  • Write an acrostic poem using the letters from Country School to describe the sights and sound and smells of this classroom. Then write one about your present-day classroom.
  • Choose one of these boys and imagine the chores he may have to do when he gets home from school. Then tell what he likes to do for fun.
  • Choose one of the girls and write about her days as if she’s writing in her diary.

Winslow Homer has used careful observation to show us many things about The Country School and its teacher and students. Molly and I hope you’ll enjoy looking carefully to find all the details about the life of school children in the late 1800s.

Here’s Molly, the artsy corgi, enjoying the painting! Maybe in that second photo she can smell the lunches !!

If you write a poem or have any comments about The Country School, be sure to share them in the comment section.

We hope you’ll come back next week for a short devotion based on the painting.

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. Just click the sign-up  button above on the right. You’ll receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family. Even if your family isn’t into museums, the quarterly issues have lots of fun stuff for kiddos!

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages, and coloring pages. There’s also an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.