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Lesson ideas

Primary literacy

Use the painting as a stimulus for creative and descriptive writing, role play, drama and poetry. Lots of new vocabulary: builder's riddle, navvy, and so on. Using Brown's journal, recount stories of his models, for example, the brave navvy who tragically "lost his life by a scaffold accident, before I had quite done with him". Look in the picture to find more stories. Compare rich and poor clothing. Where did the girl acting as mother to her orphaned siblings get her dress?

Citizenship and PSHE

Discuss social inequality: why aren't the children at school? How many people in the painting have no shoes? The ragged plant seller has a ready market for his medicinal herbs - why did people make medicines instead of visiting the doctor? What would it be like nowadays without state-funded health care and education? Why was it necessary to provide clean drinking water in Victorian cities?

Art and ICT

Encourage observational skills. How do we know it's a hot summer's day? Look at photographs of modern urban scenes and compare them with the painting. Paint, photograph, create a collage or produce scanned digital images on the same theme. Focus on the facial expressions and gestures in the portraits, and draw posed classmates. Think about the composition, which is based on a pyramid. Who is at the top and who at the base? Compare with other artists' compositional methods and use of perspective. Look at the use of complementary colours and at the children's "brown" dog. Which colours have actually been used? "Work" has a frame inscribed with biblical texts glorifying manual labour. Pre-Raphaelite artists often used the frame to amplify the meaning of their painting. Could you produce a frame designinscription for your own painting?

Art GCSE, AS and A2

Explore fresco technique, which led to the use of the wet-white technique of the Pre-Raphaelites. Use MDF as a support. The innovation of paint tubes in 1841 enabled the Brotherhood to paint in the open air.

Compare European landscape art before and after this. Madox Brown worked from a photograph of Maurice and Carlyle to finish his work. Look at the rapid development of photography as an art form and study the influence of panoramic photographs on the perception and depiction of landscape in the 19th century. Madox Brown's landscapes were clearly influenced by such photographs.

How can you use digital photos in your own work? Compare Victorian war photography with social photography - studio visiting card portrait. How do the latter relate to the British portrait tradition?

Compare Pre-Raphaelite landscape painting with later French Impressionism. Why were such different results achieved from the same premise of painting directly from nature in the open air? Analyse the Pre-Raphaelites' use of complementary colours in shadows. Look at compositional devices such as the pyramidic structure of "Work". Why did Madox Brown use this format? Compare with "un-composed", "accidental" Impressionist works.

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