Teaching Ideas

Early Learning

For Ages 3-5


  • What do we know about flowers?

  • What are your favorite kinds of flowers?

  • Where do we see flowers?

  • What do we use flowers for?

  • What do flowers need to grow?

  • Show images of various flowers and see which ones the children recognize.

  • Today we’re going to explore how artists use flowers in their work.

  • Read Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2003). Encourage the children to notice all the different colors and shapes of flowers in nature and look at the flowers like an artist would look at them—which one would you want to paint?

  • Introduce the concept of a still life and talk about how artists carefully set up a still life to draw, paint, or sketch. Brainstorm some of the things an artist might consider as she creates her still life:

  • Compare this painting to another painting by Anne Vallayer-Coster, Bouquet of Flowers in a Terracotta Vase with Peaches and Grapes (1998.51.FA). Look for similarities and differences.

Group Activity: Flower Arranging

  • Give each child a silk flower.

  • Talk about how you have to decide what shape you want your arrangement to be—tall and skinny, short and fat, curving in a half moon shape, etc.

  • Have the children work together to place flowers in a vase and create a floral arrangement.

  • When the arrangement is complete, have the children walk around and decide what spot they would want to “paint” their flowers from. Where is their favorite place to stand and look at the flowers?

  • Encourage children to sketch the flower arrangement then share their drawings with one another.

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • Anne Vallayer-Coster was perhaps best known as an artist for her flower paintings. What do you think was her personal take on flowers? How does she paint them? Is any one flower ever repeated exactly the same? What do you think she wants us to see in her flower paintings?

  • Look closely at this piece and Bouquet of Flowers in a Terracotta Vase, with Peaches and Grapes (1998.51.FA). How are they the same but also different? This painting was owned by a member of the royal court. How are these flower paintings like royalty? What words could you use to describe royalty that might also apply to these paintings of flowers?

  • Consider Anne Vallayer-Coster's flower paintings in relation to other flower painters: Chardin, Fantin-Latour, and O'Keeffe. How is Vallayer-Coster's rendering of flowers the same or different from the rendering of flowers by these artists?

Making Connections

For Students K-12

  • Like artists who came before her and those who would follow, Vallayer-Coster painted lobsters, flowers, grapes, peaches, plums, musical instruments, and so forth. Such objects were common for artists to include in a still-life painting and allowed them to focus more on the rendering of the objects itself. At times artists were quite competitive and buyers of paintings loved to compare a peach painted by one artist to a peach painted by another. Try your hand at drawing or paintings a peach or a bunch of grapes. Focus on brushstroke, light, colors, and scale. After you sketch a few objects individually, imagine a still-life composition overflowing with these objects and others of their choosing—sketch and paint the imagined still life.

  • Look closely at Vallayer-Coster's flower painting. Can you identify the flowers in the painting? What do you see that indicates what type of flower has been painted? Create a quick sketch of the flowers and label each flower. Research when each of the flowers blooms. Does your evidence support or negate that Vallayer-Coster fabricated (made up) the arrangement of flowers?