Discussion Guide for William Theophilus Brown’s Untitled (Industrial Cityscape)
UNTITLED (INDUSTRIAL CITYSCAPE), 1987–1988.
William Theophilus Brown (American, 1919–2012)
Acrylic on canvas, 54 x 60 in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of James R. and Suzette M. Smith, 2008.50.
Students have been learning about producers and consumers, land use and resources, and other basic economic concepts. Although this outline is intended for grades K-3, it could easily be adapted to other grades studying these topics.
Students will discuss an urban place where food could be processed. The discussion will help them focus on what a processing/distributing facility could look like. Students will also discuss the artist’s purpose for creating the piece.
the visual appearance of a city or urban area; a city landscape.
About the Artist:
William Theophilus Brown painted recognizable subject matter, especially the human figure, to convey the personal and often introspective exploration of self at a time when non-objective painting dominated. Like his partner Paul Wonner, Brown was an intimate of David Park and a luminary of Bay Area Figuration.
Brown’s industrial cityscapes composed from on-site sketches and photographs of Alameda, Oakland, and San Francisco are a continuation of Brown’s appreciation for the broad, massing of forms and serene settings. His cityscapes executed over a period of five years, from 1985–90, make the urban environment’s abandoned pockets similarly mysterious.
• What are we looking at?
• What colors and shapes do you see? How would you describe them?
• Can you name any objects in this painting?
• Is this scene indoors or outdoors? How do you know?
• Is this a rural place or an urban place? What makes you think that?
• Would people come here to work or to play? Why do you think so?
• One thing that might take place in a place like this is packaging food that comes from farms so it can be taken to stores. What do you see in the painting that people who work here might need?
• How do you think the artist feels about this place? What makes you think that?
• Why do you think the artist didn’t include people in the painting? How would it be different with people in it?
• Why do you think the artist wanted to make this painting?
• What is something you like about this artwork?
• Where do you think would be a good place to display it?
• What kinds of jobs might people do here?
• Could you say something about this painting using one of our vocabulary words?
Display the painting Untitled (Industrial Cityscape) by William Theophilus Brown. Give students a moment to look at the painting, and then guide a discussion about it, focusing on your intended lesson objective. Below is a series of possible questions using the “Describe, Analyze, Interpret, Judge, Connect” process.
Plan ways to extend this experience. Students could write about the piece, create a poem or artwork related to it, dramatize a concept, etc. Be sure to connect it to your topic of study. Display the artwork in the classroom for a few days if possible.
Creating (VA:Cr1.1; VA:Cr1.2; VA:Cr2.1; VA:Cr2.2; VA:Cr2.3; VA:Cr3); Presenting (VA:Pr4; VA:Pr5; VA:Pr6); Responding (VA:Re7.1; VA:Re7.2; VA:Re8; VA:Re9); Connecting (VA:Cn10; VA:Cn11)
ELA: College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading (R.CCR.1; R.CCR.2; R.CCR.4; R.CCR.5; R.CCR.6; R.CCR.7; R.CCR.8; R.CCR.9); College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing (W.CCR.9); College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening (SL.CCR.1; SL.CCR.2; SL.CCR.3; SL.CCR.4); College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language (L.CCR.1; L.CCR.3; L.CCR.4; L.CCR.6)
- History/Social Studies
- Visual Art
- LGBTQ+ Artist