Circa 1900: An Art and Humanities Resource

Art Social Studies | Grade 6

Where Would You Rather Live?

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Studio Procedure



In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Europe was in transition. The industrial revolution impacted the economies of nations as well as the daily lives of citizens. Instead of working on farms, many people moved to cities to work in manufacturing. They moved away from the slow-paced world of small villages where space was plentiful and into bustling, loud, and crowded cities. Out of these changes grew a sense of nostalgia for the past which is seen in the artwork of the period circa 1900 in the depiction of rural and urban areas.


  • Identify the differences between rural and urban areas.
  • Analyze perceptions of rural and urban areas through paintings created circa 1900.
  • Use visual evidence to defend a point of view.
  • Determine what perceptions exist today between rural and urban communities.

Related Artwork

Looking Activity

  1. Divide the class into partners. One partner faces the screen while the other faces the back of the room.
  2. Project Sisley’s The Loing River at Moret for three minutes. The first student looks at Sisley’s painting and describes it to their partner who creates a blind sketch based on the verbal description.
  3. When the three minutes are up, both students will look at Sisley’s Loing River and compare the drawing to the actual painting. What looks different? What looks the same? Do you see something in the painting that your partner didn’t describe?
  4. Tell the partners to switch places and project Boudin’s Trouville. Repeat steps two and three.
  5. Look at and discuss Sisley’s Loing River and Boudin’s Trouville individually:
    • What do you see in the painting?
    • What is the weather like?
    • Would you like to visit this place? Why or why not?
    • What does this painting tell you about life in this area?
  6. Show the paintings side by side and ask the following:
    • What subject matter is similar in each painting?
    • Which painting represents a rural scene? Urban?
    • How can you tell?
    • How do you think the artists viewed rural and urban areas?
    • If you could live in one of these areas, which would you choose and why?

Students write a response to the following questions:

  1. How are depictions of urban areas different than rural areas in artworks circa 1900?
  2. How did artworks circa 1900 display a sense of nostalgia when depicting images of rural areas?

Vocabulary Preview

  1. Provide students with the definitions for rural and urban.
  2. Pairs of students create a T-Chart for rural and urban. In each column, students list objects, people, buildings, and activities they associate with each area.
  3. Each pair shares their ideas with the whole class, and students can add to their T-Charts as they hear from classmates.

Philosophical Chairs

  1. Introduce the essential question: Where would you rather live: Sisley’s The Loing River or Boudin’s Trouville?
  2. Students move into groups: those who would prefer to live at the Loing River at Moret and those who would prefer to live at Trouville.
  3. Allow each group several minutes to discuss why they chose their painting. Make sure the group considers the following qualities: employment, education, transportation, climate, cuisine, housing, air quality, and commerce.
  4. Each group lists reasons why it would be better to live at the Loing River or Trouville. Make sure each speaker uses visual evidence from the paintings to justify their statements.

Ask students to consider perceptions of rural and urban areas today and then choose images (photographs or artworks) they feel illustrate contemporary rural and urban life. Students should be able to describe why they chose their images and compare perceptions of rural and urban areas from circa 1900 and from today.

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