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Rip Van Winkle by John Quidor

Rip Van Winkle by John Quidor

John Quidor was born in 1800 in New York. At the age of fourteen he began to study with a portrait painter. Since artists had a hard time making a living during the 1830's, Quidor lived on a farm near Quincy, Illinois, but he returned to New York City where he painted for the rest of his life. Quidor's work Rip Van Winkle was inspired by the romantic and fantastic scenes from 1820 tale of Washington Irving. Irving's character, Rip Van Winkle is a hunter living in New York in 1760's. One day walking in the Catskill Mountains he is lured into a secluded glen by a strange and small man. Rip decides to join the man and his companions in a game of bowling. While they play, Rip drinks a mysterious potion that makes him fall asleep for twenty years. This painting illustrates the most dramatic moment of the story when Rip wakes up and returns home, it is Election Day and everything has changed. People are crowded around him, not recognizing him. They are questioning him while he is trying to explain himself and at the same time make sense of his surroundings.

Questions to Ask

What is the first thing that you see? This is the focal point. The focal point is what first draws your eye, something that stands out.

What colors do you see? What is the mood of the painting?

Ask the students to describe the scene. What do you think is happening in the picture? When and Where does this take place? Who are the characters? How are they dressed? How do they feel?

Do you know whose portrait is hanging over the tavern door? (George Washington) Do you know when he was president? What number president was he? When Rip wakes up he thinks that they land is still ruled by the British King George III. Which American War gained independence from England?

Ask the students to describe the architectural style of the buildings? How are these building different from the homes and businesses we see today? The Dutch style houses in the painting are characterized by step-shaped roofs, many of which were still standing when the Revolutionary War (1775) began. Although the painting was complete in 1820 and many of these style homes had been destroyed or replaced with more modern architecture, the older Dutch homes are pictured in this painting. This style of home would be that of which was there when Rip was asleep and when he awoke.

Can you tell that Rip Van Winkle has been asleep for twenty years? Imagine if you feel asleep for twenty years, what things would be different when you woke up? (Environment, technology, transportation, fashion, family and friends)

Activities for the Classroom

Additional Kid Friendly Resource at the AHML is "Rip Van Winkle" by Washington Irving, available in book form, DVD, and sound recording.

Ask students to imagine falling asleep for twenty years and waking up to a different life. Draw a picture of what you think life would be like twenty years into the future. Who would be there, what would the environment look like, what would the fashion be, etc?

This print is great for comparison purposes, focusing on crowds and moods when compared to Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte. Show the students the Sunday Afternoon poster, then discuss the difference in colors, posture, mood, etc. This is often a very lively discussion. You can also incorporate other prints, like Rembrandt's Night Watch, for example.

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