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Lesson Plan: Urban Life and the Natural World

A large stained glass window in a dark wood pointed-arched window frame depicting an autumn landscape with distant mountains and a flowing stream in the foreground

Louis Comfort Tiffany (American, 1848–1933)
Autumn Landscape
Leaded Favrile glass; 132 x 102 in. (335.3 x 259.1 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Robert W. de Forest, 1925 (25.173a–o)

Collection Area: American Art
Subject Areas: English Language Arts, Geography, Science, U.S. History, Visual Arts
Grades: High School
Topic/Theme: Art as a Primary Resource


Students will be able to:
  • identify the strengths and limitations of various artistic mediums; and
  • use art as a lens to explore the relationship between rural and urban life in the United States during the 1920s.

National Learning Standards

English Language Arts
NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.7 Evaluating Data
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

NSS-G.K-12.5 Environment and Society

NS.K-12.5 Science and Technology
NS.K-12.6 Personal and Social Perspectives

U.S. History
NSS-USH.K-12.7 Era 7: The Emergence of Modern America (1890–1930)

Visual Arts
NA-VA.K-12.2 Using Knowledge of Structures and Functions
NA-VA.K-12.4 Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures
NA-VA.K-12.6 Making Connections between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines

Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.*
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.*
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

*Art as text

Questions for Viewing

  • Take a moment to look closely. What do you notice? What associations come to mind?
  • This work was created by Louis Comfort Tiffany, an artist renowned for both his versatility and craftsmanship. Though Tiffany started out as a painter, he eventually shifted his focus to decorative arts. What aspects of this work seem to draw upon his experience as a painter?
  • What possibilities might stained glass offer that paint does not?
  • Beginning in 1890, Tiffany experimented with new approaches to creating stained glass, a medium that had changed little since the Middle Ages. What sets this work apart from stained glass windows created during the Middle Ages?
  • This work was created in the early 1920s for the landing of a grand staircase in the home of a Boston real-estate dealer named Loren Delbert Towle. How does this image compare to the view you see out the windows of your home? Why might someone choose to install stained glass instead of a clear window?
  • Though Towle came from a farming family, like many young adults of his generation, he was attracted to life in the city. What might this work suggest about Towle's feelings toward his early years spent in the lake and mountain country of Newport, New Hampshire?


Activity Setting: Classroom or Museum
Materials: Reproductions of two or more American landscape paintings from different time periods
Subject Areas: Geography, U.S. History, Visual Arts
Duration: 30 minutes

Compare and contrast landscape imagery produced during two or more periods in American history. As you look, consider the relationship between figures (if any) and their surroundings, the viewpoint the artist selected, the focal point of the composition, and how the use of materials shapes your impression of the scene. Share your observations with a peer, noting evidence of change and continuity.


Burns, Sarah, and John Davis. American Art to 1900: A Documentary History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.

Frelinghuysen, Alice Cooney, and Monica Obniski. "Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933)." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (July 2007)

Groseclose, Barbara S. Nineteenth-Century American Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Jaffee, David. "America Comes of Age: 1876–1900." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (April 2007)

Objects in the Museum's Collection Related to this Lesson

Albert Bierstadt (American, 1830–1902)
The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak
Oil on canvas; 73 1/2 x 120 3/4 in. (186.7 x 306.7 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1907 (07.123)

Charles Sheeler (American, 1883–1965)
Oil on canvas; 24 x 29 1/8 in. (61 x 74 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1949 (49.128)

Author: Claire Moore
Affiliation: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Date: 2010

Detail of a stone face

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