Tom Higgins

About Me

Tom Higgins

I retired as Principal of Breaffy National School, Castlebar, Co. Mayo in 1998. This project arises from my experience of teaching art and art appreciation in the Primary School, now known as looking and responding to art.

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Visiting an Art Gallery - Gallery Tresaure Hunt

There is no substitute looking at paintings in their original state. Ideally, as a preparation for taking a class to an art gallery, the teacher should visit the particular exhibition, examine the paintings and take some notes with a view of preparing a work sheet which will include a list of questions and activities for the children. The answers can be very brief, taking the form of noting the titles of paintings, underlining words and writing down single words.

If it is not possible for the teacher to visit the gallery beforehand he/she could decide on a general work sheet - something like the following. But here again, it would be desirable to be familiar with the contents of the exhibition.

  1. Name a painting in which you can see the under-painting.
  2. Name a painting in which (a) shapes are very important, (b) one in which colour is a very important element.
  3. Name a painting which has (a) mostly warm colours, (b) mostly cold colours.
  4. Name a picture in which paint is put on very thick and one in which it is applied very thinly.
  5. Name a picture in which the artist used small short brush-strokes and on in which large and long brush-strokes are used.
  6. Which picture has the most regular shapes, which the most irregular shapes?
  7. Which painting in the room has the purest colours, which has the dullest colours?
  8. Which painting has the greatest contrast between light and dark (tone)?
  9. Name a painting which has good contrast of colours.
  10. Is there a painting here which is more like a photograph, one which is least like a photograph?
  11. Which of the paintings would you describe as (a) peaceful, (b) sad, (c) happy, (d) exciting, (e) lonely, (f) full of action, (g) quiet?


The following is an extract from a work sheet which was prepared for a visit to the Impressionist exhibition for the opening of the new wing of the National Gallery in 2002.


Priory at Vauville, - by Jean Francois Millet.

This painting is dark toned / warm colours / cold colours / light toned / monochrome / pure colours / muted colours / soft line / sharp line. (Underline the correct words in the above sentence).

This painting communicates tranquillity / loneliness / frustration / unhappiness / peace. Underline the words you think are correct

End of the Hamlet at Gruchy, 1886 - Millet.

Millet's home place on the Normandy coast. There is less contrast of tone / more contrast of tone in this painting than in Millet's first picture. Underline the correct words. Look at the picture again. Millet loved / hated this place. Underline the words you think are correct.

Stream in the Forest, 1862 - by Gustave Courbet.

This painting is bright toned / dark toned / monochromed / multi-coloured. Underline the correct words.

The painting has warm greens, cold greens? Underline the correct word. Look at the picture again. Courbet wanted to tell us about the magic / the danger / the stillness / beauty of the forest. Underline the correct word or words.


Look for Sheep and Shepherd in a Landscape, 1854 - by Constant Troyon and Last Rays of Sun on a Field of Sainfoin, 1870 - by Antoine Chintreuil. (Sainfoin was a crop used in France to feed cattle in winter, as we use hay or silage.) Which of these two paintings has the warmest colours?

Look at Peasants in a Field. In which side of the field is the horse and cart loaded with the newly harvested crop? Left side / right side.

In which side of the field are the houses? Right side /left side.

What is the dominant colour in this painting?

As a contrast to all the green, there are a few small bits of pure colour in this picture. What colours are they?

Is this painting dark toned, mid toned or light toned?

Which of these two paintings do you prefer?

Morning near Beauvais, 1860 - by Camille Carot.

What time of the year was this painted? Name three things that make this a tranquil or peaceful place. Clue: think of line, colour and objects in the picture

Souvenir of a Meadow at Brunouy, Camille Carot.

Which of these two paintings by Carot is darkest in tone?

Which has the purest colours?


Fashionable Figures on the Beach, 1865 and Figures on the Beach, 1893 - Eugene Boudin.

Which of these two paintings has the greatest variety of colours?

Which of the two paintings has the roughest textures?

Which is the calmest painting?

Look at the pictures. In one of them Boudin was interested in the people. In the other he was more interested in the [________] Fill in the missing word.

Fashionable Figures on a Beach is almost an Impressionist painting because it has mostly dark tones / rough textures/ broken colour/ mostly bright tones. Underline the correct words.


Look for Waterworks at Marly, 1876; and Overcast Day, 1880 - Alfred Sisley.

Which of the two paintings has the smoothest textures?

Which has the warmest colours?

Which has textures made by short dabs of colour?

Find Snow at Argenteuil, 1874 - Claude Monet, and Entrance to the Village of Vetheuil, - Claude Monet.

Which of the two paintings has the darkest tones?

Which has the purest colours?

Which has the greatest variety of colours?

Which has the greatest contrast of tones?

Which has the greatest contrast of colours?

Look close up at Entrance to the village of Vetheuil.

Examine Monet's broken colour in the grass at bottom left. What colours do you see here?

XNow stand back from the picture. Observe how these colours 'mix' to give a wonderful sparkle of light. Look at the whole picture close up and at a distance. X


Look at all the paintings in this room. Compared with room 52, can you tell if Monet spent a lot more time finishing the paintings in this room? Yes / no.

Look close up at Monet's Old Fort at Antibes. Notice the broken colour especially on the trees. Now look at the same trees from a distance. What do you notice?

Which painting in this room do you think gives the greatest effect of sunlight on a summer's day?

Look at Meadow with Haystacks, Claude Monet. Notice the dabs of yellow paint at the bottom of the hedge. Now stand back and look at the same part of the picture. What do you notice now?

Look at Meadow at Giverney, Claude Monet.

This painting has less contrasts of tone than Meadow with Haystacks. True or false?

Look at these two paintings from a distance. Which of them in your opinion gives the best impression of a hot hazy day in summer?


Which of the four Renoir paintings here do you prefer?


Look close up at Monet's Grainstack (Summer). Notice the broken colour, especially in the bottom half of the stack. Is it dabs of red over a grey underpainting? – yes / no.

Now stand back and look for the impression Monet creates of late evening sunlight. Can you see the houses and trees in the middle distance? Yes / no.

Are the houses and trees almost blotted out by the light? Yes / no.<

Compare Monet's Water Lily Pond, 1900 with his Morning on the Seine, 1897.

Which of the two paintings has the roughest textures?

Which has the greatest contrast of colours?

Which has the greatest contrast of tones?

Which of the two paintings do you prefer?

Look at Camille Pissaro's paintings in this room. Monet or Pissarro - which of them do you think was the better artist? (Please note, Pissarro's best paintings are not in this exhibition.)


Follow the sign to the rest of the exhibition. On your way, pause to have a look at the new building.

Look at Willows by a Stream, 1885, close up and from a distance - Paschal Adolphe Jean Dagnan-Bouveret.

Do you think this is a magical painting? Yes / no.

A work sheet can be simple or more detailed, depending on the age group and the amount of preparation with the class. The above work sheet was used by fifth and sixth classes on separate visits to the National Gallery. Working in small groups, the children were enthusiastically occupied for over an hour searching, observing and sharing ideas. The children did have some experience in responding to art. In addition, reproductions of Impressionist paintings (not all of them the same ones as in the exhibition) were used in looking and responding lessons as part of the immediate preparation for the visit.

Little purpose would be served in bringing children to an exhibition such as the above without preparation or a work sheet.

Alternatively, a guided tour can be arranged with major galleries.

Commercial galleries are now located throughout Ireland and most counties have art centres with temporary exhibitions. Some of these exhibitions can be worthwhile for a visit. In addition to holding exhibitions, art centres such as the Linenhall in Castlebar frequently run workshops for children.