W. L. Bresse, American
Oil on canvas
24 1/8 x 35 3/4 inches (61.3 x 90.8 cm)
Gift of Frank and Alice Osborn, 1966
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Primary Curricular Area: Approaches to Learning Academic Art Standard: Classify, compare and contrast objects, events and experiences
Pennsylvania Academic Standards
CA 9.1 B Demonstrate the ability to represent experiences, thoughts, and ideas through the use of visual art forms.
CA 9.3 A Represent fantasy and real-life experiences through pretend play.
CA 9.4 B Use oral language to describe or explain art.
L 1.1 I-Q Develop and expand awareness of concepts of print.
SS7.3 D Show understanding of how individuals work together to achieve group goals.
SS7.3 G Identify location and direction.
Art Images Required:Most images listed can be found by searching the collections at the Museum’s website. (NOTE: This image is not available through ARTstor.) W. L. Bresse, Locomotive Briar Cliff (c. 1860) can be found on the Museum’s website.
Background:Unlike popular images of trains making their way through the American landscape, this image appears more as a “portrait” of the steam locomotive Briar Cliff. The engine seen here is the American type 4-4-0, originally designed for the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railway in 1836. The great attention to the mechanical details suggests that Bresse may have worked from a technical print of an engine. Around mid-century, locomotives were typically ornamented with colorful paint schemes and decorative touches such as the flowers painted on the smoke box, the elaborate ironwork support for the headlight and the American eagle on the side of the light itself.
EXPLORE – As a class, read and discuss Donald Crews’s book Freight Train (1978) and compare with W. L. Bresse’s painting Locomotive Briar Cliff. Use the following questions as a guideline to begin your discussion.
What do you see?
Both the book and the painting describe trains. Crews’s book shows us the whole train from engine or locomotive to caboose; Bresse’s painting shows a locomotive. Ask children to describe the colors, shapes and other details of the trains.
What is similar? What is different?
Does the train appear to be moving? In what direction? Where is it going? What parts help the train move? What are the boxcars and other freight cars for? What is the purpose of the caboose?
The train in Crews’s book moves fast! A railroad engineer is visible in Bresse’s locomotive, but it doesn’t appear to be moving because there is not any smoke. To learn more about trains, look together at a book about trains such as DK Publishing’s Big Book of Trains (1998).
What parts of the train make noise? What noises do they make?
Responses might include:
- Wheels against the train tracks
ENGAGE – What would it feel like to be a train? As a class, pretend to be a train. Lay out “tracks” in your classroom or an outdoor play area using masking tape, chalk or string. Designate children to be a locomotive, tender car, box cars and other freight cars, and a caboose. Have all of the “train cars” line up along the track with each “car’s” hands on the shoulders of the “car” in front. Practice moving along the train tracks. (Don’t forget to make train sounds!) Challenge the students by stopping and starting, speeding up and slowing down. Use this game as a time to practice classroom skills for walking in a line.
If you have a train set or train toys in your classroom, gather them together and look at them as a group. Allow students to touch the toys and talk about them.
CREATE – Using their knowledge of trains have each student make a picture of a boxcar for a train to decorate your classroom.
Supplies: One full sheet and one half-sheet of 9 x 12” construction paper per student (the two pieces of paper should be the same color, but using different colors for each student will create a train that is visually interesting); glue; paper circles (pre-cut); popsicle sticks; crayons or markers; and collage materials such as buttons, beads, torn paper or found objects.
Process: Begin by folding the smaller piece of paper in half like a greeting card. Apply glue to the backside of the folded paper and attach to the larger piece of paper. This part will be the door of the boxcar. Next, have children glue wheels onto their boxcar. Finally, add in details by drawing or gluing them. Popsicle sticks, for example, could be used to represent the slat boards of the boxcar. Make sure to decorate the inside, too! What is the boxcar carrying? Draw or glue objects under the paper flap to show the cargo.
- Uses vocabulary words
- Demonstrates knowledge of train function and purpose
Resources:Crews, Donald. Freight Train. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1978.
Heap, Christine. Big Book of Trains. New York: DK Publishing, Inc., 1998.
For more information, please contact Education: School & Teacher Programs by phone at (215) 684-7580, by fax at (215) 236-4063, or by e-mail at .