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Painting architectural details - Victorian styles.

One of our most distinctive styles of architecture is the Victorian house. These beautiful houses of a bygone era can be seen in almost any town or city. New construction testifies to the timelessness of the design as many contemporary homes reflect the old Victorian beauty.

Wondering what fourth grade students know about Victorian houses I asked, "Can you name some of the characteristics of a Victorian house?" Each group worked collaboratively to compile a list of features typical of a Victorian house. The most common listed characteristics included stained glass windows, round windows, large porches and ornate trims.


We talked about other characteristics omitted in the initial discussion including textures created by wood patterns and details, turrets, immense houses with three or four stories, and wrap-around porches. (Porches for sitting and visiting are common in America but a rarity in Europe and elsewhere.

I distributed to each group a packet illustrating seven or eight Victorian houses and 9 x 12" (23 x 31 cm) sketching paper. With this packet as a reference, the students drew several sketches of different sections of the houses. Then, each student chose one sketch to enlarge onto 18 x 24" (46 x 61 cm) black construction paper using white chalk.


Since the Queen of England, Victoria, reigned for a very long time, the era spans from 1837 to 1902. The objects made during that time are considered Victorian and encompass a variety of styles.

Examples of Victorian styles can be seen in interior design as well as in architecture. I have always loved the term horror vaque, meaning fear of open spaces. This term can be applied to the Victorian era. It could be seen in parlors where tables were laden with memorabilia. Fringed paisley shawls were draped everywhere. Patterned wallpaper and rugs filled any empty space. A perfect example of this style at it's peak is the Peacock Room created by Whistler, now restored and housed in the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery.

A Global Movement

Art movements do not exist in a vacuum. The Victorian trait of many patterns, or horror vaque, can be seen in other cultures as well. The bas-relief artwork on temples of India, Persian rugs and miniature paintings are execllent examples.

After discussing the historical background, I explained the criteria for the project and displayed this information to give the students clear step-by-step directions and expectations. Students could assess their work and double check it to make certain all the processes have been completed. Within these guidelines, room for flexibility and creativity exists for a wide range of ability levels.

Encouraging Creativity

I find limited choices at the elementary level fosters thinking skills, expands problem-solving abilities and encourages creativity.

I gave each group one color of tempera paint and one size of paint brushes on a Styrofoam meat tray. Then, I set a time limit of about three to five minutes per color. I announced when there was a minute left to help students judge where to finish with that color. When time was up, the students put their brushes down and moved on to the next tray.

Finishing Touches

The students used oil pastels to trace over the white chalk, define outlines, emphasize patterns and create repetition of line. They were free to experiment with their choice of colors. This final touch unified the painting and added rhythm.

Once the paintings were completed, the students displayed them for the entire school to enjoy. Now, when the students see Victorian houses, they will view them with a more sophisticated eye.


The students will:

* create a contour chalk drawing of a section of a Victorian house;

* paint between the chalk lines;

* use the same color of paint in several areas around the paper for balance;

* work neatly;

* use oil pastel over the contour lines to redefine the shapes;

* use oil pastel to add texture and pattern throughout the painting.

This will create rhythm and patterns. Some areas where textures and patterns can be found are: roof, shingles, ornate woodwork, ironwork, door and windows.


* visual examples of Victorian houses, interior design styles, traits and patterns in other cultures

* images of Whistler's Peacock Room (See the April Resource Center for information on where to obtain a copy of The Princess and the Peacock for illustrations and photographs of Whistler's Victorian style interior.)

* soft lead pencil

* 9 x 12" (23 x 31 cm) Manila or newsprint paper

* 18 x 24" (46 x 61 cm) black construction paper

* white chalk

* Styrofoam trays

* tempera paints

* paint brushes

* oil pastels

RELATED ARTICLE: Special Education Modification

A predrawn section of a house may be used or copied by the student. Supply paints that are highly contrasting in color. The teacher may draw pencil lines for the student to trace over in oil pastel. An example sheet of a variety of textures and patterns to choose from may also be helpful.

Bonnie Baber is an art teacher at Friendship Valley Elementary School in Carroll County, Maryland.
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Title Annotation:fourth grade art lesson
Author:Baber, Bonnie
Publication:School Arts
Date:May 1, 1995
Previous Article:Cooperative group design.
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