Circa 1900: An Art and Humanities Resource

Art Social Studies | Grade 6

H.S.I. - History Scene Investigation

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Looking Activity



Camille Pisarro often depicted peasant women at ease, perhaps representing his utopian view that peasant life held the basis for a harmonious, rational, and humane society. This reflects a broader cultural nostalgia for the past, as the Industrial Revolution was rapidly changing the lives of individuals, both positively and negatively. New technologies machinized labor, increasing efficiency, reducing average costs, and enabling more goods to be produced at affordable prices. However, as a result of these technologies, many people became unemployed, so they migrated from rural agricultural villages to cities to seek jobs in factories where they worked long hours in dangerous conditions for very little money. Pisarro’s Haymakers Resting is an idyllic image of peasant women relaxing in the shadow of a mound of hay with a sunlit field stretching behind them. It represents the fantasy that industrialization was making life easier as well as a longing for “simpler times.”


  • Explain changes in society due to the Industrial Revolution.
  • Evaluate the social, political, and economic contributions of individuals and groups.
  • Describe pre and post Industrial Revolution society
  1. Show PowerPoint presentation starting with the slide where the image is completely covered. Pass out “H.S.I. - History Scene Investigation” hand out and tell students not to share their observations until told to do so.
  2. Move to the next slide where one piece of the image is shown. Ask students to jot down what they see in the “Evidence” box on the left side of the handout.
  3. Move to the next slide where two pieces of the image are shown. Ask students to write down what they seein the “Evidence” box. Using their notes, have students fill in the “First Prediction” box on the right about what they think this image is showing.
  4. Reveal the next piece of the image and have students write down more evidence and a second prediction. Reveal the next piece of the image and repeat. Have the students write down their final prediction about what is happening. Either in groups or as a class, students discuss what they wrote down as “evidence” for each piece of the painting that was revealed, as well as how their evidence influenced their first, second, and final predictions.
  1. The Industrial Revolution resulted in massive social and economic change. Review the following points with the class: 
    • Many new technologies were invented that enabled mass production of items such as textiles.
    • New techniques and technologies in agriculture resulted in higher food output from less farm workers. This created a surplus of workers who moved to the rapidly growing cities to find jobs in manufacturing.
    • Children as young as four years old worked long hours in factories under dangerous conditions.
    • Cities were often overcrowded, unsanitary, and polluted. This was a dramatic change for the average person. 
  2. Using the above points for context, have students write a creative narrative about what might be going on in this painting. Who are these people? What are they talking about? In what ways might the Industrial Revolution have impacted their lives?
  3. Discuss narratives as a class or in small groups.

This resource is made possible in part by a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.