Maurice Utrillo : Street in the Suburbs

Overview Artist Biography Planning Ahead Materials & Setup Class Discussion Project Directions Reflections Downloads & Resources Docent Forum

Overview

early 1900s, oil pastels, 29 in. x 23 in. National Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic Photo Credit: Bridgeman-Giraudon/Art Resource, New York, NY, USA

In this lesson, students will:

  • Analyze Utrillo’s Street in the Suburbs and how he used the principles of linear perspective
  • Describe how he used color to create mood
  • Identify the elements of line, color, and space in this realistic landscape
  • Discover the way converging lines connect the foreground, middle ground, and background at the vanishing point
  • Sketch landscapes with vanishing points
  • Draw landscapes, using oil pastels, showing linear perspective

Lesson Teaching Notes

A document of summary pages on the lesson’s Key Concepts, Vocabulary, Discussion Questions, Artist Points, and Project Directions.

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Materials and Setup

Materials List
  • sketchbooks
  • 6×12 white paper
  • drawing pencils
  • oil pastels
  • craft picks
  • erasers
  • rulers
  • damp sponges and paper towels

How to Draw a Vanishing Point Perspective
Pictures of Landscapes with Vanishing Points

Setup Directions
  • Set out sketchbooks, drawing pencils, and pictures of landscapes with vanishing points.
  • Set out 6×12 white paper, rulers, erasers, and How to Draw Vanishing-Point Perspective guides.
  • Have ready oil pastels and craft picks.
  • Have ready damp sponges and paper towels for wiping fingers.
Variations
  • Use chalk pastels instead of oil pastels.
  • Use larger paper and paint the scene with tempera or watercolors.
  • Take a photograph of a nearby street that shows a vanishing point. Use the photo as the subject of the pictures.
  • To simplify project for younger students: Predraw the landscape outlines.
  • To extend project for older students: Draw objects on both sides of the road. Draw a variety of objects on a diminishing scale, such as a large tree, a medium-size parked car, and a small figure. If students have learned to draw buildings, make a city street with shops or houses.

Photos of Setup

Class Discussion

What style did Utrillo use to paint this landscape?
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Style - Post-Impressonism

Utrillo painted landscapes and cityscapes showing scenes of France. His style was influenced by the Impressionists like Degas who had painted a few years earlier, and he often arranges the composition using converging diagonal lines to show distance.

What is happening in this landscape?
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Style - Landscape

This landscape shows a small town in France about 100 years ago. The street is empty except for a few small figures walking along a road toward the horizon line. Behind a long wall we see houses and a church steeple.

How does Utrillo show perspective on a flat canvas?
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Space - Perspective/Overlap/Scale/Placement

Utrillo used overlap, scale, and placement to show perspective, or the illusion of depth, on the flat surface of the painting.

Trees in the foreground overlap the trees in the distance. The trees overlap the walls, which overlap the buildings. Overlap shows what is in front and what is behind.

Closer trees are larger in scale, or size. The leaves show more detail and brighter colors. Closer buildings and figures in the foreground are larger in scale. The black- robed figure, possibly a priest, is larger in scale than the other figures, although if they stood next to each other they would be close to the same size. The figure is small compared with the trees. Figures and trees provide a measure, or scale, that help us imagine how we would fit into the painting.

Smaller figures and trees are placed higher in the picture plane. People in the background are smaller and harder to see. How many figures can you find?

Why is the street so narrow in the distance?
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Space - Linear perspective/Vanishing point

Utrillo shows linear perspective by painting a road that appears narrower in the distance, in the same way that roads and railroad tracks appear to come together in the distance. The street appears very wide where it is close to us, at the bottom of the landscape, but narrow at the vanishing point.

The distant point where the edges of the road appear to meet is called the vanishing point. The lines created by the white walls, the sides of the road, and the tall trees direct our eyes toward the vanishing point.

Where are we, the observers, standing?
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Space - Viewpoint

Our viewpoint is from the lower right-hand corner, as though we were standing near the figure in the foreground. Our eyes are at the level of the horizon line. We look up at the trees and down at the road.

How do the diagonal lines give a feeling of movement to this landscape?
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Lines - Diagonal

Diagonal lines imply movement. The tops and bottoms of the tree trunks, the long white walls, and the edges of the road imply diagonal lines that make our eyes move to the vanishing point. Crossing diagonal lines in the fence above the wall add to the feeling of movement.

How do the converging lines draw us into the painting?
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Lines - Converging lines

The diagonal lines of the trees, road, walls and figures converge, or come together at the vanishing point, leading our eyes down the street and draw us into the picture.

What feeling do the horizontal lines give to this landscape?
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Lines - Horizontal

Horizontal lines in the tops of the walls give a still feeling to the town. The street leads to the town. The horizon line in the distance is where the sky meets the ground.

What feeling do the vertical lines give to this painting?
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Lines - Vertical

Vertical lines in the trees, figures, and church steeple give this painting a restful feeling. Parallel vertical lines are repeated in the tree trunks and people.

What is the mood of this landscape?
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Color - Mood/Muted

Restful horizontal and vertical lines and muted colors create a peaceful mood.

Muted brownish and grayish colors in the brown tree trunks, brownish green leaves, reddish brown road, and gray blue sky give a quiet mood to the landscape. How would this landscape feel if bright colors were used?

Where do repeated lines create rhythm?
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Design - Rhythm/Parallel/Movement

Parallel vertical lines in the trees and figures give this painting a rhythm like walking people. The lines get smaller in the distance like repeated footstep getting fainter. Clap out the rhythm created by the repetition of tree trunks.

The converging diagonal lines create a feeling of movement, drawing us toward town. We imagine ourselves walking like the figures on the street.

How does the repetition of color help balance this landscape?
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Design - Repetition

The rusty brown of the road is repeated in the tree trunks, the wall, and the buildings on both sides, giving balance and unity to the picture. The blue sky and white clouds are broken into 3 parts, repeated evenly across the top of the painting and in the wall. Green is balanced in the trees and the patches of grass. The colors appear balanced on both sides of the road. Although the landscape is asymmetrical, the colors are balanced.

Download Discussion Questions
Download Key Concepts

Video

Project Directions

Landscape with Vanishing Point

Directions

Warm up and Brainstorm

  • Talk about types of landscapes that show vanishing-point perspective. Scenes with roads, rivers, bridges, or train tracks are common, as are roads lined with trees, telephone poles, lampposts, flowers, people, buildings, or fences.
  • Talk about details in a landscape scene. Look at pictures of landscapes or the view from a window, and notice the small details, such as leaves, gravel, knotholes in wood, variations in colors, and textures. Details make a scene more realistic.

Project Directions

  1. Sketch a landscape with horizon line, vanishing point, river or road, and trees in scale. Use How to Draw a Vanishing Point Perspective guide.
  2. Draw landscape using linear perspective. Draw horizon line and vanishing point using the sketch as guide in the middle of 6x 12 white paper (placed horizontally). Place vanishing point on horizon line, slightly off-center.
  3. Draw converging lines from vanishing pt to bottom left edge of paper with ruler for river, road, path, train tracks, or bridge. Repeat for bottom right edge. Draw curving lines above horizon for hills or city skyline.
  4. Draw lines from vanishing pt to top right/left corners to help with placement of trees. Draw lightly so that lines can be erased later.
  5. Draw trees or objects in scale, using triangular guide lines at sides. Make closest objects largest.
  6. Color the landscape with oil pastels, making surface glossy. Color over or erase triangular guide. Blend dark colors over light colors.
  7. Add details to make landscape realistic. Use scratchback technique, using craft to add details or texture for water, railroad ties, etc. Draw small objects on other side of river, such as bushes, etc. Blend colors and add contrasting colors
Tips
  • Color heavily.
  • Details and texture add realism.
Variations
  • Use chalk pastels instead of oil pastels.
  • Use larger paper and paint the scene with tempera or watercolors.
  • Take a photograph of a nearby street that shows a vanishing point. Use the photo as the subject of the pictures.
  • To simplify project for younger students: Predraw the landscape outlines.
  • To extend project for older students: Draw objects on both sides of the road. Draw a variety of objects on a diminishing scale, such as a large tree, a medium-size parked car, and a small figure. If students have learned to draw buildings, make a city street with shops or houses.

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Student Gallery

Reflections

  • Identify the horizon line and vanishing point in each landscape. Find landscapes that show vanishing-point perspective successfully. What helps make them good compositions?
  • Look for converging lines that create linear perspective.
  • Look for objects that overlap to create the illusion of distance.
  • Look for mood created by color.
  • Identify and describe how the foreground, middle ground, and background are used to create the illusion of space.
  • Evaluate and compare compositional and expressive qualities of your own and other’s artwork, finding successful compositions and suggesting ways to improve less successful ones.

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