Family Activity: Looking Glasses

Examine John Constable's painting Stoke-by-Nayland, 1836 and see the English countryside come to life. Includes discussion questions and an art-making activity.


Introduction:

John Constable’s Stoke-by-Nayland depicts a beautiful day in the English countryside. Many aspects of daily life fill the scene: oxen pull a cart as a woman casually leans against a fence. In the distance, the buildings of a small village are clustered together beneath a sky filled with billowing clouds. Constable created this image based on sketches and memories of visits to his aunt’s home in a small farming village. His painting allows us to peek into this landscape and experience the sights and sounds of life in the English countryside.

Discussion Questions:

  • How many cows can you find?
  • What other types of animals do you see, and what are they doing?
  • What smells and sounds do you imagine fill this landscape?
  • Can you imagine the conversation between the two people in the foreground? What are they talking about?

Activity:

Make a pair of binoculars to discover the details in your town or neighborhood.

Materials Needed:

  • 2 empty toilet-paper tubes
  • markers and/or crayons
  • glitter or sequins
  • glue
  • double-sided tape
  • hole punch
  • 2’ piece of yarn

Steps:

  1. Decorate the toilet-paper tubes with markers, crayons, glitter, and sequins. Let the tubes dry completely.
  2. Using the tape, attach the tubes along the long sides to form a pair of binoculars.
  3. Punch a hole at one end of the outside edge of each tube.
  4. Feed one end of the yarn through the punched hole and tie to a knot over the edge of the tube. Repeat on the other side of binoculars with the other end of yarn.
  5. Use your new binoculars to go on a visual treasure hunt.
  6. Can you find any animals?
  7. What kind, and what are they doing?
  8. Can you find some trees?
  9. A tall building?
  10. Can you find two people talking?
  11. What do you imagine they are talking about?
  12. Discover the sights, smells, and sounds of your own neighborhood!


Art Access