Teaching Ideas

Early Learning

For Ages 3-5


  • What is your favorite food to eat? What is your favorite food to look at?

  • Look at photo spreads from lifestyle magazines of food. Which image is the most appealing to you? Why? Talk about the idea that how the food looks can influence whether or not we want to make or eat that food.

  • Food can also inspire artists to create their work. One type of painting that artists might make is a still life. A still life shows things that people like to see or use—like food!

  • Read Still-Life Stew by Helena Clare Pittman (Disney-Hyperion, 1998) and have the children choose their favorite vegetable. Focus on the fact that Rosa thinks about the shapes and colors of the vegetables as she chooses them.

Art Discussion

Still Life with Landscape by van Beyeren and Still Life with Vase of Hawthorn, Bowl of Cherries, Japanese Bowl, and Cup and Saucer by Fantin-Latour

  • Have the children look closely at Still Life with Landscape and list all the foods they see: lobster, oyster, grapes, peach, shrimp/prawn, ham, orange/lemon, some kind of drink.

  • Encourage the children to think about what this food can tell us about the artist or the scene he created.

  • What kind of food is this—snack food? Breakfast food? Fancy dinner food?

  • Where does this food come from? (gardens, trees, ocean)

  • Van Beyeren especially loved the ocean. Can you find any more clues in the painting that make you think of the ocean? (nautilus shell cup, merman, seahorse, ocean landscape in the background)

  • Now focus on the different baskets, bowls and serving ware featured in the painting. What containers do you see? (silver tray, shiny silver goblet, basket, glass goblets, velvet tablecloth)

  • What type of meal might these containers and trays be used for?

  • The artist is carefully showing us a very lavish, rich feast. The food and dishes are all very special—not things we would eat or use every day.

  • How would this painting feel different if all the food was jumbled together in just one plain bowl?

  • Another thing this artist really liked to emphasize in his paintings was light. Use your I Spy eyes and search for all the places in this painting where you can see light or a reflection. That use of light also helps to make the food and dishes feel very elegant and refined.

  • We’ve been focusing on what is in the foreground, or front of this painting. Now let’s look closely at the background of the painting. What do you notice about the place this artist has painted? (weather outside window is stormy and dark, rich drapes, stone column)

See also Fantin-Latour's Still Life with Vase of Hawthorn, Bowl of Cherries, Japanese Bowl, and Cup and Saucer (2001.5.FA).

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • The artist who painted this, Abraham Hendricksz Van Beyeren was a master of Dutch fish painting, and he often painted a variety of sea creatures. Do you see objects in this painting that illustrate the artist’s love of the ocean?

  • This example of a still-life shows luxury items that were significant to members of the middle class. Paintings showing banquet scene, like this one, gained popularity as early as 1630s, and they reflect the Dutch people’s love for beautiful objects and good food and drink. Here, the artist shows precious table with textiles and foods that were considered delicacies. What different foods can you see? Have you had any kind of food that is considered very special, or a delicacy?

  • If you were going to set a table for a feast, do you have any special dishes that you would use?

  • "Here today, gone tomorrow." What do you think this quote means? What objects in the painting would be gone tomorrow?

  • Every object included is meant to be fragile, unstable, easily lost. What moral lesson is the artist trying to communicate to the viewer?

  • In Still Life with Landscape, Van Beyeren gathered together objects which represented the luxuries of his time. If you were painting such a picture today, list the objects you would choose to express the same idea.