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Lesson ideas

Art and design

KS 1-2

Describe the painting. How tall is the bridge. What can you see in the background? What are the shapes on top of the bridge? What are the sprays of gold? What time of day do you think it is? How does the artist convey this?


How realistic is the painting? The area around Battersea Bridge was very industrialised; do you think Whistler is right to disguise this?

KS 2-3

Whistler studied the view intently and then painted it from memory in his studio. Try this yourself. Study a view, turn away from it and describe it to another person. Then try drawing it from memory.


Compare Whistler's paintings of the Thames with others in the exhibition by Turner and Monet. What are the differences and similarities? Why do you think Whistler wanted to design the frames for his paintings? The butterfly symbol replaced his signature. Design your own logo.


Whistler often used musical terms such as harmony and nocturne as titles for his paintings. Why do you think he wanted to stress the similarities between art and music?

KS 4-5

How does Whistler's view of art differ from that of other Victorian painters such as William Frith (1819-1909)? How does his more formalist approach anticipate the ideas of 20th-century artists? What do you think is more important today: the subject, colour, brushwork or composition?


* James McNeill Whistler By Richard Dorment and Margaret MacDonald Harry N Abrams, available in libraries

* Turner Whistler Monet Edited by Katherine Lochnan

Tate pound;29.99

* A Pot of Paint: Aesthetics on Trial in Whistler v. Ruskin By Linda Merrill, Smithsonian, available in libraries

* James McNeill Whistler By Robin Spencer, Tate pound;8.99

* There is a good collection of Whistler's work at Tate Britain. The most extensive holdings in Britain are in the Hunterian Museum Art Gallery at Glasgow University. Images can be accessed at:

* "Turner, Whistler, Monet" is at Tate Britain until May 15. Tickets: pound;10 (pound;8 concessions); groups pound;9 (pound;6 concessions).

Tickets and events Tel: 0207 887 8888

Schools bookings Tel: 0207 887 3959

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