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Exploring Impressionism, Grades K-5

Learn about Artists’ Lives and Explore Their Art with Lessons, Galleries, Activities, and Videos

Found In: artslanguage arts, social studies, preK-2, 3-5

The Impressionists were a group of Paris-based painters who became prominent during the 1870s and 1880s. The principal Impressionists were Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Berthe Morisot, Armand Guillaumin, and Frederic Bazille. A characteristic of their art was an attempt to capture the changing effects of light and color. Learn about their lives and explore their art with lessons, galleries, activities, and videos.

Lesson Plans

Monet's Magic Garden 
Students in grades K-1 pretend they are insects or frogs, jumping from lily pad to lily pad as they explore the world in Monet’s painting.

Watching Wheatstacks
Students in grades K-2 learn about basic shapes in Monet's painting Wheatstacks, Snow Effect, Morning and about light and shadows by experimenting with three-dimensional models and flashlights.

The Art and Science of Impressionist Color
Students in grades K-5 learn about the Impressionist painters' use of color and how it related to early-19th-century scientific theories about color. They will explore combinations of primary and secondary colors, experiment creating secondary colors, and create a landscape using complementary colors.

Lesson Plan Collections

When Impressionism Was a Dirty Word (Education at the Getty)
Four lesson plans (grades K-12) designed for teachers to prompt classroom discussion and learning around the history of Impressionist painting.

Art Access – Impressionism and Post-Impressionism Lesson Plans (The Art Institute of Chicago)
Four lessons for grades 2-8 help teachers plan classroom activities that will enhance their students’ understanding of Impressionist art


The Artist’s Toolkit
Students can explore the tools artists use: line, color, and balance to build works of art. Includes short videos of artists in action and an encyclopedia of visual elements and principles.

Art Access – Impressionism and Post-Impressionism Lesson Plans

Art Access – Family Activities (The Art Institute of Chicago)
These three projects can be done at home or adapted to the classroom. Many of the supplies are household objects, and the steps are easy to follow.


Background Resources

Impressionism: Art and Modernity (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Thematic essays, slideshow, and maps.

American Impressionism (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Thematic essays, slideshow, and maps.

The Athenaeum
Search by artist to find downloadable images.

Impressionism and Impressionist Painters
Covers 12 Impressionist painters from Bazille to van Gogh.

Art Access – Impressionism and Post-Impressionism (The Art Institute of Chicago)
Images, lesson, activities.

Impressionism (WebMuseum, Paris)
A brief essay on the movement and its principal artists.

Impressionism (1860-1900) (WebMuseum, Paris)
Brief bios and examples of art for 20 artists.

Claude Monet: Life & Art
A website devoted to Monet’s life and works.


The Impressionists (British Broadcasting Corporation)
This 3-hour BBC mini-series tells the story of Impressionism most famous French artists – Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne and Manet. View it here in three partsvia YouTube.

The French Impressionists (PBS Video) (58:26)
This PBS video documentary showcases “the color and texture that defined a turning point in art history.”

last updated: September 14, 2016


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