Circa 1900: An Art and Humanities Resource

Art Social Studies | Grade 6

Identifying and Illustrating Landforms

Download PDF
Download Presentation





  1. Introduction

Paul Cézanne was a post-impressionist painter from Aix-en-Provence, France. His landscape painting, Houses on the Hill, depicts the hills, trees, and rooftops near his beloved hometown. Although Cézanne paints a specific place, the seemingly unfinished composition allows the viewer to impose memories of places they have visited on the landforms. Landscape paintings offer an interesting way to learn about landforms and the relationships between geographic features and people. Artists often used different techniques to convey specific features of landscapes not able to be captured in a photograph, such as how the artist felt about a landscape or the impression it gave.


  • Establish a comprehensive understanding of landforms.
  • Identify landforms in landscape paintings.
  • Illustrate the visual characteristics of landforms using watercolor


  • Pictures of landforms (see Sources Worth Consulting)
  • Lesson Handout: Looking Activity
  • Cardstock or watercolor paper
  • Masking or artist tape
  • Watercolor pan set with brushes
  • Optional items for watercolor techniques: Oil pastels, salt, rubbing alcohol, eye dropper, paper towels, etc.
  • Rulers Pens and pencils
  1. Pass out the provided handout and show Cézanne’s Houses on the Hill. Discuss what is depicted using the following questions:
    • What do you see? What colors are used? What is the medium? Are there any visible brushstrokes? Is anything missing from the composition?
    • Does the composition remind you of any place you have visited on vacation? What place? List up to five feelings that surfaced from thinking about this place on the provided handout.
  2. Move to the next section of the handout, “Welcome to Roadtrip.” Have students begin to visualize the journey to a place they have visited on a trip. Ask the following questions:
    • Are you traveling by car, bus, train, plane, or boat? 
    • Are there any smells that you can recall (for example, the smell of the ocean)?
    • Where are you going? What do you see along the way?
  3. In the last section off the handout, “Mixtape,” list five bands or songs that you would put on a mixtape for this journey or remember listening to while on this vacation. Keep this sheet for the watercolor project.


  1. Have students examine examples of landforms at the beginning of the PowerPoint. Reference the links under Sources Worth Consulting for additional examples. Guide students to identify the different landforms and encourage them to list the different characteristics of each.
  2. Show the examples of landscape painting in the PowerPoint. Ask the following questions:
  • What landforms are depicted? Why do you think that? How does the artist’s style help communicate the characteristics of these landforms?
  • What feelings or emotions does the landscape evoke? Consider the composition of the painting, the colors used, and the style of the brush strokes.

Landform Watercolors

  1. Go to the Watercolor Techniques website from Sources Worth Consulting and review different techniques that can be used in watercolor painting. Do any of the techniques resemble the characteristics of certain landforms?
  2. Give each student a piece of cardstock or watercolor paper. Draw three 4 inch squares and tape around the edges to ensure the watercolor stays within the boundaries. Sketch the remembered landscape from the Looking Activity. Use the three squares to experiment with different watercolor techniques or approaches. Outline the landforms, features, and foliage of the memory in pen, then use watercolors to paint the drawing. Students can apply any of the techniques from the Watercolor Techniques website.
  3. When finished, pick up the painting and gently tip it from side to side just once or twice to allow the colors to blend. Allow the watercolor landscapes to dry. Once the landscapes are dry, use ink to draw added details such as texture, contour lines, or patterns, and to sign the painting.
  4. Students brainstorm an Instagram style hashtag for their painting.

Reflective Response

Paul Cézanne preferred to paint still lifes and landscapes in his later work. Ask students to consider:

  • What if the modern Cézanne used social media and posted instagram photos of his artwork?
  • Why would Cézanne post his art on social media?
  • Given that Cézanne loves to paint still life and landscapes how is this similar to the feed one would view on Instagram today?

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