The Turning Road, L'Estaque, 1906
André Derain, French, 1880–1954
Oil on canvas
Canvas: 51 × 76 3/4 in. (129.5 × 194.9 cm) Frame: 58 1/4 × 84 9/16in. (148 × 214.8cm)
Gift of Audrey Jones Beck

Habits of Mind

  • DEVELOP GRIT Develop endurance / grit / desire to rework ideas / open to a range of ideas and solutions/ possess self-discipline and self-confidence

Painting Landscapes

Discussion through works of art encourage how to approach ambiguous and complex ideas, thoughts, and feelings. The MFAH offers a democratic space where students and teachers can develop, practice and articulate these habits of mind. Remember that the quality of the conversation is what is important, not finding the artist’s “answer.” Slow down and take the time to make careful observations. Talk about what you notice, and try to avoid jumping to conclusions and interpretations. Be sure to give enough time for silent looking and thinking.

Curriculum Objectives

•  Distinguish landscape paintings from other types of paintings.

•  Classify colors as warm and cool.

•  Express individual ideas and feelings through painting.






Develop Grit

Connecting to the Work of Art

This landscape painting was inspired by Derain’s visit to L’Estaque, a town in the south of France.  The monumental canvas presents an idyllic country scene with swaying trees and people going about their daily activities.  The painting’s title comes from the road that curves through the landscape from the lower right.


The most striking features of this painting and of Derain’s style are the bright, vivid colors and the emphasis on curving lines and forms.  Rather than using the colors that trees, roads, and people have in real life, Derain chose hot pinks, yellows, oranges, and reds, which create a sense of heightened emotion.  The intense energy of the colors contrasts with the serene view of nature.


In the foreground, large, flame-colored trees with writhing trunks reach to the top of the composition.  The bending lines of the trees echo the arc of the turning road.  Derain thus unified his composition with both the bold colors and the rhythmic lines that animate the entire painting.


Although Derain’s parents wanted him to become an army officer or an engineer, he was determined to be a painter.  In Paris, where he began his art studies, he met Henri Matisse and, following Matisse’s example, began to use brighter colors.  In 1905, after four years of military service, Derain joined Matisse in the south of France at Collioure.  There they painted a series of brilliantly colored, sun-drenched Mediterranean landscapes.  In Paris later that year, Derain exhibited these canvases with works by Matisse and other artists who painted in a similar style.  The bright color used so freely led one critic to call the group “Les Fauves,” or “wild beasts”.  The term Fauve is still applied to these artists and to the style they developed. 


  • What words would you use to describe this painting? Why?

  • Describe the types of lines you see.Pretend you are holding a paintbrush and “draw” some of those lines in the air. What types of brushstrokes did the artist use?

  • Are some types of lines repeated?Observe and explain.

  • Describe the setting. What types of buildings and pathways do you observe?

  • What areas of the painting does your eye move toward?Why?

  • Compare the foreground with the background.What do you see? Explain the differences and similarities.

  • What might some of the people portrayed in the work of art be doing? Why do you draw those conclusions?

  • What colors do you see?Use the color words on the sides of your crayons to describe the colors in more detail.

  • Find a color and use your eyes to follow it throughout the painting.How would you describe all the areas you found that color?

  • Where do you see warm colors? Cool colors? Use a color wheel to compare.

  • Are warm and cool colors used together to paint one object/subject? Explain with examples.

  • Describe the trees. How are the trees in this painting different from natural trees? How are they the same? Why do you think the artist would paint the trees that way?

  • How would this work of art be different if the artist used only one or two colors?

  • Display The Turning Road, L’EstaqueHave students identify objects in the painting.  Explain that this type of subject matter is called “landscape.”

  • List the warm and cool colors in the paintings in two columns.  Compare and contrast.  Discuss the concept of warm and cool colors.

  • Have students pretend they are in The Turning Road and describe how they feel and why.


  • How do the mixture of colors make you feel? Explain.

  • What is the tone, or mood, of the painting? Use evidence from the work of art to support your reasoning.

  • How does the artist create a sense of energy in the work of art? What areas do you think are the most energetic?

  • Do the brushstrokes and the bright colors complement or detract from each other? Elaborate.

  • Describe parts of this landscape painting that remind you of a landscape you have seen.

  • How does the artist show he used his imagination in this landscape?

  • Refer to the dimensions of the painting. How would you describe its size?Compare its size to something in your classroom.

  • Why do you think the artist would paint this landscape on a large canvas? How does that affect your thoughts about the work of art and the artist?

  • Imagine some people who might think that trees should only be painted realistically, like in nature.What might they say about this work of art? A group of people did think that the colors this artist, Andre Derain, used were so “wild” that they called him and his friends “wild beasts”, or “fauves” in French.A new style of art was named after their use of wild colors: fauvism. Have you seen other works of art painted in this style of fauvism? Search the MFAH for other examples.

  • The title of this work of art is: The Turning Road, Estaque. Estaque is a town in France that inspired Derain to paint this.Do you think that is a suitable title? Explain. If you were to choose a different title, what would you choose? Why?


•  Discuss landscapes that are familiar to the students: parks, their schoolyard, their backyard, etc.

•  Compare and contrast objects students see outside with similar objects in the painting.

•  Have students paint a familiar landscape.  

•  Display the students’ paintings, and have students compare them to The Turning RoadAsk students if they used mostly warm colors or cool colors and why.

The Learning Through Art program is endowed by Melvyn and Cyvia Wolff.

The Learning Through Art curriculum website is made possible in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

All Learning and Interpretation programs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, receive endowment income from funds provided by the Louise Jarrett Moran Bequest; Caroline Wiess Law; the William Randolph Hearst Foundation; The National Endowment for the Humanities; the Fondren Foundation; BMC Software, Inc.; the Wallace Foundation; the Neal Myers and Ken Black Children’s Art Fund; the Favrot Fund; and Gifts in honor of Beth Schneider.