Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Reading the Painting

Resource created by Leeds Museums and Galleries | Leeds Art Gallery.

This resource is part of the Museum Snapshot collection - a collection of smaller resources perfect for starters, plenaries or spare moments to explore something fascinating.

Look closely at the painting, what can you see? How does it make you feel?

You might feel as if you are about to step onto a path that will take you up close and perhaps into the henge.

The enormous stones of the henge are pictured in the middle of the painting. Use your imagination to feel the weight of the stones balanced on top of the strong looking uprights that support them.

Stonehenge by John William Inchbold painted in 1873
Stonehenge by John William Inchbold

Apart from the stones and countryside, what else can you see? What time of day is it? Thinking about where the sun rises and sets in the sky will help. If you were there, would you feel warm or cold? What would you hear?

Thomas Hardy in his novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles described what Tess and Angel Clare could hear at Stonehenge…

“‘It hums,’ said she. ‘Harken!’. He listened. The wind, playing upon the edifice, produced a booming tune, like the note of some gigantic one-stringed harp.”

If you look into the painting really closely, you can just see two people sitting in the middle of the the henge. How does this add to the atmosphere the artist has created?

Use the ‘Real time view of Stonehenge’ in the Supporting Links and have a real time look around Stonehenge. Try it at different times of day: when the stars are out; at lunchtime; and as the sun rises...

Stonehenge is on the wiki list 'cultural icons of England' and is described as 'one of the most famous landmarks in the United Kingdom'. It was connected to ideas about 'England' when John Leland, King Henry VIII's Keeper of King's Libraries, explored England and Wales looking for history visible in the landscape.


Activity Ideas

  • Make yourself a henge sculpture from things you find at home. You could use clothes or furniture, or things found in a food cupboard (make sure to ask first!),
  • Make a henge sculpture big enough that you can sit in the middle of it. Make up a ritual to be carried out within your artwork – will you sing, dance, tell a story?