Art Mystery Lesson Plan: Bow Gallery at Krannert Art Museum

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Front page news in the Champaign-Urbana Courier about artwork theft at Krannert Art Museum, May 8, 1967.
Front page news in the Champaign-Urbana Courier about artwork theft at Krannert Art Museum, May 8, 1967.

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Winslow Homer, Cernay la Ville—French Farm, 1867. Oil on panel. Gift of Merle J. and Emily N. Trees 1940–1–3
Winslow Homer, Cernay la Ville—French Farm, 1867. Oil on panel. Gift of Merle J. and Emily N. Trees 1940–1–3
Teacher Resource
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Introduction

People often ask if any artworks from Krannert Art Museum have ever been stolen. Well, the answer is yes!

About 50 years ago, someone broke into the museum in the middle of the night and stole 6 artworks. The theft even made headlines! Take a look at this copy of a 1967 newspaper that says “Six Masterpieces Stolen At Krannert Art Museum.”

  • Why would someone steal artwork from a museum?

  • What do you think they would do with those artworks?

  • Luckily, all six paintings were returned to the museum. We never learned who stole them, but we do have one of the stolen artworks on display right now in this gallery!

    • Looking around, which artwork do you think it might be?

    • Why do you think that?

Artworks

Cernay la Ville – French Farm

Winslow Homer, 1867

Oil on panel

View it online: Cernay la Ville—French Farm

 

Materials

  • Art Mystery grid
  • Art Mystery clues
  • sample label
  • Clipboards
  • Pencils

Art Mystery Game

  • We are going to play a little game to find out which artwork was stolen and returned. You will each receive a grid showing details of many of the artworks in this gallery. The stolen artwork is included on this grid along with other possibilities.
  • In addition to the grid, you are going to receive another piece of paper with clues on it. Each clue will eliminate artworks from your grid. After you read each clue, you are to cross off the artworks that not longer match the clue.
  • After you have read through each clue and crossed off artworks that do not match, you should have only have one artwork left. That artwork is the stolen artwork! Please check in with me to find out if you got the correct answer. If you find out you are correct, please keep the answer secret! We don’t want to spoil the game for anyone who is still working!
  • Before you get started, I wanted to review some information that will be helpful for one of your clues. To the right of each artwork, there is a label that has information about that artwork. For example:
    • First line – artist’s name
    • Second line – what country the artist is from and the years he or she was alive
    • Third line – the title of the painting and the year the painting was made
      • “ca.” means “circa” which means “about” – this means we are not actually sure of what year the artwork was made, but based on what we do know, we think this is about right
      • If there is a range of years, this could mean a couple things - it may have taken the artist several years to make the artwork, or we have a general guess that the artwork was made during this range of years
    • Fourth line – the materials the artist used to make the artwork
    • Fifth line – who gave the artwork to the museum
    • Sixth line – the number the museum gave the artwork as an easy way to keep track of all of its art, we call it the accession number
  • Lastly, please remember our museum rules:
    • Please walk, this is not a race! Take your time to really look at the art.
    • Stay two paces away from the walls and cases.
    • Do not point at the artwork with your pencil or clipboard. Hold them carefully so you do not drop them.
  • As students finish, have them sit on the benches and create their own set of clues for a different artwork on the grid. Alternatively, ask students to be helpers for any students that are stuck.

 

Conclusion

  • Once everyone has finished, gather students around the Homer painting. Ask students:
    • What do you think of the thieves’ choice?
  • Let’s go back through a few of the clues and think about the reason behind them.
    • Why do you think they took paintings and not sculptures?

Reason: It is easier to secretly carry around two-dimensional art rather than three-dimensional art.

  • Why do the paintings not include people?

Reason: Many of the paintings with people in them are portraits. People usually only want to have portraits of people that they know or who are part of their family. Why would someone want a picture of someone they do not even know!

  •  Why did they only take such small paintings?

Reason: It is difficult to secretly carry around large paintings.

  • Stealing art from a museum is not a good idea! Why do you think the thieves decided to return the stolen artworks?
    • When people want to buy or sell artwork, they typically go to an art gallery, which is like a store that sells art.
    • When a theft happens at a museum, it makes the news around the entire world. The FBI and international police get involved on the case and it becomes nearly impossible to sell the artwork.
    • Art galleries are informed when artwork has been stolen. They know that if someone comes in wanting to sell them something from the stolen art list that they need to inform the police. They cannot buy or sell stolen art or else they will also become part of the crime too!
  • In addition, over the last 50 years, museums have gotten much better with security.
    • I’m sure you’ve noticed our many security guards throughout the museum. They not only make sure that visitors behave appropriately around the art to protect it, but they also do checks to make sure all of the artwork is in place.
    • In addition, there are cameras located throughout the museum, so that if anyone does anything wrong, it is caught on camera.
    • Also, people are not allowed to bring in big bags into the museum. There are a few different reasons for this rule. It prevents people from accidentally bumping into art with their bag. But also, this rule prevents them from thinking they can quickly take something off the wall and hide it in their bag.
  • If there is extra time, take students to the Trees Gallery to show them the Coin Collector by Joos van Craesbeeck, another of the six artworks that was stolen. Or see it online: The Coin Collector