Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 30 - Greek Myth in Painting


Look closely at a Renaissance painting depicting an ancient Greek myth.

Review the term renaissance.

Hear a Greek myth that tells how the peacock got its tail.

Sequence the story.

Identify the actions of the myth in the painting.

Comment on the balance in the painting.


Classroom size world map or map of Europe

Slide of View of an Ideal City (#19 in sleeve)

Slide of Bartolomeo di Giovani's painting The Myth of Io

Story of "The Myth of Io," see Suggested Books

Suggested Books

Aliki, The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus. New York: HarperCollins, 1994.

Does not include the myth of Io, but great review for major pantheon of Greek gods and goddesses including Hermes who does appear in the Myth of Io. Great for reading aloud and, as always, Aliki's illustrations are wonderful to share with the students.

D'Aulaire, Ingri and Edgar Parin. D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths. New York: Delacorte, 1962.

Good for reading aloud and showing beautiful illustrations. Contains the myth of Io.

Low, Alice. The Macmillan Book of Greek Gods and Heroes. New York: Macmillan, 1985.

Outstanding illustrations by Arvis Stewart. Contains the myth of Io in a form well-suited to reading aloud to this age group.

Gates, Doris. Lord of the Sky: Zeus. New York: Viking, 1972.

Contains "The Story of Io." It would be good reference for the teacher of this art lesson, but its telling is more complex and lengthy than is appropriate for second graders.


Tell the children that they are going to see a painting today that was painted by an Italian artist named Bartolomeo di Giovani (bar-tah-la-MAY-o dee jee-o-VAHN-ee). Have someone come and locate Italy on the map. Ask: Does anyone remember another Italian painting we saw recently that was called View of an Ideal City? Show the slide of the painting and review with the children some of the elements they discussed when they saw it before (balance, symmetry, architecture).

Say: When we looked at this painting, we said it was done during a period we call the renaissance. Do you remember what the word renaissance means? (rebirth) Does anyone remember what we mean when we talk about a period of art called The Renaissance? What was it a rebirth of? (Greek art, symmetry, the kind of beauty found in ancient Greek art) The painting we are going to look at today is also part of the Renaissance period of art, which started in Italy nearly 600 years ago.


Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 30 - Greek Myth in Painting

Show the children the slide of The Myth of Io. Ask whether anyone can tell what's going on in this painting. If they have trouble with that, ask various students simply to identify things that they see in the painting (animals, ships, shepherds, huge rocks, etc.) Say: This seems to be one of those paintings that tells a whole story, and this story is one of the Greek myths. Italian Renaissance painters were not only inspired by Greek architecture and sculpture, but by the Greek myths as well.

Read the story of Zeus (Jupiter), Hera (Juno), Io, and Hermes (Mercury) to the children from one of the Suggested Books above. Then tell them that the painting, which is in the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, is the second of two panels that tell the story they have just heard. Say:

Let's figure out where in the myth this painting begins. Say: The following things have already happened when our painting of the myth begins:

Zeus flirts with the nymph Io.

Zeus turns Io into a cow to protect her from his jealous wife, Hera.

Hera asks for the cow as a gift, and Zeus give it to her.

Hera gives the cow to Argus, the one hundred-eyed giant.

Lead the children to see that the painter has placed the sequence in a particular order on the painting. Make it a kind of riddle for the children to figure out the number of different scenes in the painting, what they are, and where they are placed on the painting.

Note to the Teacher:

Basically, there are 8 scenes or events pictured.

The order goes from upper left corner where we see that Zeus sends his messenger Hermes to get the cow back.

Moving next from the lower left corner, we see that Hermes descend, disguised as a shepherd and brings his flock of sheep towards the place where Argus is guarding the cow.

In the upper center we see Hermes charming Argus with a reed pipe (in some versions he simply tells a long, boring story to Argus) in order that all his eyes close in sleep.

Moving slightly to the right of upper center, Hermes beheads Argus.

The scene in the lower center, Hera has taken all of the hundred eyes from the head of Argus to place them on the tails of the two peacocks.

In the lower right hand corner, Hera gets even by sending three Furies to torment the cow (Io) by chasing it around the world. (In some versions, the cow is tormented by a gadfly.) Io as a cow crosses a sea that is thereafter named after her, the Ionian Sea. ( Have the children find the Ionian Sea on the map. Tell them the Ionian Sea lies between Greece and Italy.)

Towards the the upper right corner we see Zeus and Hera in a cloud as he convinces his wife to stop tormenting Io.

Eventually Io reaches the Nile River in Egypt where Zeus changes her back into her own form of a lovely young woman, after promising Hera that he would not ever flirt with Io again.

In the extreme upper right corner we see Io as a goddess, floating in the sky.

Ask the students what they think about placing many different events in the same painting. (Let them respond.) Say: The Renaissance painter has given us some clues that help us to figure out who the characters are. What do you think about the way he helps us by using color? (Hermes is always in a light blue robe, Argus is in crimson red, Hera in dark blue, and Io--when she has been transformed from a cow back to her own body--is in a kind of diaphanous pink.


Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 30 - Greek Myth in Painting

Next, ask about the balance, which they discussed when they looked at the Renaissance paintings View of an Ideal City. (They may observe the large cliff exactly in the center foreground, the cliffs exactly in the center in the background with one tree on each side, the presence of the sea on each side in the background, the two groups of animals in the foreground.

Finally, ask: Would you say this is a very balanced painting or not? Why or why not?


Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 31 - Japanese Ukiyo-e


Review information about Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai.

Review some points of geography in Japan.

Identify Mt. Fuji as volcano in Hokusai's print The Great Wave off Kanagawa.

Review process of making prints from carved wood blocks.

Observe that religious and artistic traditions traveled from China to Japan.


Classroom size map of the world or globe

Reproduction of Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa or from books suggested below

Slide of Hokusai's Children's Games (slide #4 in plastic sleeve)

Sources for Photos of Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Glubok, Shirley. The Art of Japan. New York: Macmillan, 1970.

Life-size black-and-white reproduction, p.46. Large details of other works by Hokusai (including another from the Mt. Fuji series) on back cover and endpapers of the book.

Instructor magazine, published by Scholastic in NYC, from February, 1992 has a fine article about the Hokusai print by Diane Darst. At the time of publication they offered a full-color, life-sized reproduction as a supplement to subscribers.

Japan Today. Tokyo: Japan Graphic, 1992, p. 31, 3 x 5 color reproduction.

Tames, Richard. Passport to Japan. Danbury, CT: Franklin Watts, 1994, p. 40

Well, Ruth, A to Zen. Saxonville, MA: Picture Book Studio, 1992. Artist's rendering by Yoshi.

Note to Teacher

This art lesson supplements the History/Geography lessons for this month and should not be taught before the initial geographical material has been presented in those lessons.


Show the children the slide of Hokusai Children's Games and ask whether anyone remembers what country this artwork comes from (Japan). Congratulate anyone who remembers, because they saw the slide back in October, before they had studied Japan. Ask: What kind of artwork is this? Is it a painting? (no) Is it sculpture (no) What about architecture? (no) Who remembers what we call this kind of artwork? (a print, woodblock print) Tell the children that the Japanese artists learned how to make woodcut or woodblock prints from the Chinese, who were the first to experiment with this form of printing. Say: The Japanese have a very special name for this kind of print in their language, which is ukiyo-e (oo-kee-OH-eh). Have everyone try to pronounce the word.

Ask a student to come to the map or globe and point out Japan. Have various students volunteer to tell something they have learned about Japan during this past month (History/ BCP DRAFT ART 64

Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 31 - Japanese Ukiyo-e

Geography Lessons 45-50). When everyone has had a turn, ask: What is the name of Japanese printmaking again? Have everyone pronounce ukiyo-e once more, then remind the children that when they looked at the slide of Children's Games last October they observed that there were not many different colors in the artwork. Say: When Japanese artists make ukiyo-e, they make one separate block for each color, so it's not so surprising that these prints have a limit to how many individual colors the artists uses.

Next show the children a reproduction of Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa. Ask whether they think this is also a Japanese print--why or why not. (Japanese calligraphy is the most obvious thing, but accept any observations that indicate the child has looked carefully.) Tell them there is one important clue right in the center of the background. Ask: The clue is a very special Japanese mountain that you learned about in your geography lessons this month. Who knows the name of this mountain? (Mt. Fuji)

Ask: Would you think this woodcut print was made by the same Japanese artist who made Children's Games? Why or why not? (Accept all observations.) Tell the children that the same artist did both prints, and his name is Hokusai. Say: Hokusai was born near Edo, which is an old name for the city of Tokyo? Who can tell me something special about Tokyo and show it to us on the map? Say: Hokusai was so fascinated by that wonderful volcanic mountain, Mt. Fuji, that he made a whole set of different views of it, which he called The Thirty-six Views of Fuji.

Ask: Do you remember I told you Japanese printmakers have to carve a different block of wood with sharp tools for every single color they use? How many colors do you see in the Hokusai Wave? (several shades of blue, gray, white, peach, and brown) So how many plates do you think Hokusai had to make, can you make a guess? (probably 8 to 10) What do you think about that wave? What makes it look so fierce? (all the curly lines, the shape of the wave, the way the boats are in the troughs of the waves) What about the people on the boats? What do you notice about them? (Accept any observations.) What colors are they dressed in? (all in same deep blue as the water) What about the base of Mt. Fuji? What color is that? (same deep blue)

Finally, ask the students to imagine they are in one of the boats in this picture. Give them a prompt for writing a few sentences about their feelings and experience with Hokusai's Wave. Brainstorm with the children a list of words they might need to spell and leave them on the board as they write. Tell them the prompt and write that on the board as well: When the wave towered over our heads. . . .Give the students about ten minutes to write their sentences, and then collect them for reading later in the day.



Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 32 - Himeji Castle


Review the term architecture.

Look closely at Himeji Castle as example of Japanese architecture.

Compare and contrast architecture of Himeji Castle with Greek Parthenon.


Poster of Himeji Castle, see Suggested Resource below

Pictures of the ancient Greek Parthenon

Color pictures of white heron and white egret from books or magazines

Suggested Resource

Japan National Tourist Organization

One Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 1250

New York, NY 10020

Telephone (212) 757-5640

This office will send free posters for educational purposes of the Kamakura Buddha of Japan and Himeji Castle. They are wonderfully large, colorful, and would be great to hang in the classroom during this month's study of Japan as well as supplementing the students' exposure to images of the Buddha in their study of World Religion.

Suggested Books

Flint, David. Japan. Austin, Texas: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1993.

Many color photographs of modern Japanese life and countryside. There is a photo of Himeji Gastle (referred to here as The Imperial Palace in Tokyo) on p. 28.

Glubok, Shirley. The Art of Japan. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1970.

Another in this excellent series by former teacher and lecturer for children at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The illustrations, although not in color, are large and well photographed and give characteristic examples from all forms of Japanese art. The book contains a good photograph of Himeji Castle.

Japan Today, Tokyo: Japan Graphic, Inc. 1992.

This book has many color photographs of architecture and everyday life in Japan. A small photo of Himeji Castle (called White Egret Castle here) is on p. 6.

Note to the Teacher:

This lesson is designed to supplement the History/Geography lessons for this month.


Presuming that you have been able to order the free posters mentioned above, ask for someone from the class to volunteer to help you unroll and attach to the wall the poster of Himeji Castle. Ask the students: What kind of art is this? (architecture) Who remembers the definition of architecture? (strong structure to enclose space for a purpose) What kinds of things do architects BCP DRAFT ART 66

Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 32 - Himeji Castle

build? (houses, castles, bridges, churches, temples, accept any reasonable answers and write them on the board under the heading architecture)

Next, say: Take a really close look and tell me what catches your eye about this poster. (Use the student's responses to guide a discussion about the elements of the poster. For example, someone might notice the JAPAN in bright red letters, which could lead to some review of facts about Japan they have recently learned. Someone may notice the use of color in general or something more particular about the architecture of the building itself.) Be sure to include in the discussion the information that this building is in Japan and its name is Himeji Castle.

After the discussion generated by their responses, ask the children: Who remembers some other very famous architecture we looked at last month? (Parthenon) Where and when was the Parthenon built? (Greece; about 2500 years ago; long, long ago) Show the children a picture of the Parthenon to refresh their memories. Hold the picture up against the poster and ask them to compare the two buildings. Ask questions such as:

Which building looks more open and which more enclosed? (Parthenon-more open; Himeji Castle-more enclosed) Ask the children for ideas about the reasons for this (Greece is warm enough all year to allow buildings to be open to the light and air). Tell the children that Himeji Castle was first built about 600 years ago at a time when Japan was being ruled by warriors called samurai. Ask: What about this building makes you think about warriors, or military men, and fighting? (very high wall, very high on a hill, very enclosed building like a fortress)

Ask the students to compare the lines and the shapes of the Greek building and the Japanese building. If they need prompting, ask questions such as:

Which building has the stronger vertical lines? (Parthenon, columns)

Which building seems more perfectly symmetrical? (Parthenon)

Show the children some pictures of white herons and egrets and say: Sometimes this building is called White Heron or White Egret Castle. Can you guess why? (color white, roofs curved like wings with points at ends, roofs look like little tuft of hair on egret, building seems to be soaring in the sky)

Finally, have them compare the Parthenon and the Himeji castle again and say: There is one shape (as in circle, square, etc.) that can be found on both buildings. Can someone find that shape and tell us? (triangle at roof of Parthenon, triangles at roofs of Himeji) Who can describe what's different about the triangles of the Japanese building? What makes them look like fancier triangles? (curved sides, again, wing-like in shape)

Have them tell you which of the two buildings they would most like to visit and why.


Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 33 - Translucent Pictures

(adapted from Core Connections, Lessons from the Sixth National Conference 1997, "Art For the Artistically Challenged," Linda Horn, Core Knowledge Charter School, Parker, Colorado)


Review information about Japanese traditional houses.

Observe the use of sliding paper panels in Japanese houses.

Review meaning of the term translucent.

Create translucent pictures.


Pictures of sliding paper screens in traditional Japanese homes, see Suggested Books below

Classroom size world map

Water colors


Vegetable or baby oil

Cotton balls

Construction paper for frames

Note to Teacher:

This lesson, which tells the children some information about the use of sliding screens in traditional Japanese houses, is a good supplement to the History/Geography lessons for this month. The students should have had History/Geography Lesson 46 before they do this art lesson.

Suggested Books

Flint, David. Japan. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1993.

Picture of traditional paper screens as walls in traditional Japanese home, p. 11.

Glubok, Shirley. The Art of Japan. New York: Macmillan, 1970.

Picture of sliding screens in traditional Japanese house, p. 22.

Japan Today. Tokyo: Japan Graphic, 1992.

Picture of sliding screens in Japanese home, p. 17.


Ask the children the name of the capital of Japan (Tokyo). Have someone come up and find it on the map. Ask: What did you learn about Tokyo in your History/Geography lessons? (capital of Japan, very crowded, city with the largest population in the world) What could we infer about the way people in Tokyo live if we know Tokyo is very crowded? (many people living together in one apartment, hard to find places to live)

Say: Many people in Tokyo live in apartment buildings that look a lot like apartment buildings in United States cities, but out in the country and in smaller cities in Japan people still live in what we call a more traditional style. Can anyone guess what we mean by traditional? (If no one knows, tell them that the traditional way of doing anything is the way the same group of people have always done things. Traditional ways are passed on from parents to children, then children to their children and so on, a little bit like the way folk songs and stories are passed along.


Second Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 33 - Translucent Pictures

Show the children some pictures of traditional Japanese houses, pointing out the sliding panels that can change large rooms to several smaller ones and vice versa. Tell the children that--except for the northern island of Hokkaido (show on map) summers in Japan are very hot and humid. Making inner walls of paper pasted on wooden frames that can be easily slid open will allow cool breezes to go through the house. In addition, Japanese people have a great love for nature and the outdoors. Sliding doors allow them to look outside in good weather and feel that the inside and outside are all connected.

Say: These sliding panels of paper are translucent. Does anyone remember what that word means? You've heard it before when you heard the story of The Crane Wife. (If you need to refresh their memories, be sure they know that transparent things, such as a pane of glass, allow you to see through clearly, whereas translucent things, allow only the light to pass through. Brainstorm with them to come up with a few examples of each.) We're going to make some translucent panels that look like the panels someone might find in a traditional Japanese house.

1. Pass out several layers of newspaper, a few cotton balls, a small saucer of baby or cooking oil, water colors, and a piece of drawing paper to each student.

2. Have the students paint pictures of nature, using water colors.

3. As soon as the water colors are mostly dry, students will turn their paintings face down on the newspapers, and using baby or cooking oil, dampen a cotton ball and gently wipe it across small areas until, bit by bit, each area becomes translucent.

4. When the entire picture is translucent, the painting should be turned over again.

5. You will want to put the pictures in frames of construction paper, because they will remain slightly oily even after several hours of drying. If you hang the "framed" pictures in the windows, the children will see clearly what translucense is.