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11-B James McNeil Whistler, The Peacock Room, 1876-1877
Evgenia Platonova


Skills covered:
Visual interpretation
Logical reasoning
Critical thinking.

General goal:
To develop students’  ability to prove their point of view giving convincing arguments.

 Specific objectives:

  • Vocabulary extension for a topic evaluation adjectives
  •  Expressing point of view giving convincing argumentation
  •  Getting  additional information through listening
  •  Expressing opinion

Language development:

    • Vocabulary extension
    • Listening for specific information
    • Reading for details
    • Argumentative writing (expressing opinion)

Materials / Visual aids:

  • The pictures by J. Whistler’s The Peacock Room (printed or demonstrated though a projector)
  • The printed saying ‘Beauty is only the matter of taste”(app.a)
  • Text for listening ( app.c)
  • Text for reading. (app.e)
  • Handouts for lesson activities
    • List of adjectives (app b)
    • Listening task (app.c)
    • Texts for reading (app. e)
    • Assessment  (app.g)

Instructional Procedures:


Type of work

Time (minutes)

Warm-up activity  “ Which scarf is more beautiful?”

All class work


Brainstorm the word ‘beauty’

All class work


Lead-in activity ’Discussing controversial  statement  (appendix A)

Group work


Discussing  pictures of  The Peacock Room

Teacher-students work


 Vocabulary extension  activity,( appendix b)
Vocabulary extension game

Individual work


Tell me what you see



Listening for gist ( appendix c)



Reading for specific information

Group work


Extra-class writing (Argumentative writing) Why is The Peacock Room beautiful?

Teacher students


Lesson assessment



Total                   11 activities



Warm-up activity

After greeting the teacher asks students which of the 2 scarves would they choose (the scarves or two other objects are prepared beforehand with the idea if contrasting them, f.e bright-modest ,funny-dull,etc)
The students choose, giving their arguments, and the teacher asks if the chosen scarf is more beautiful than the other. When the discussion arises, the teacher offers to make a brainstorming exploring the notion beauty

Brainstorming activity

The spider-gram with the core word BEAUTY is written on the blackboard and all possible adjectives and other words and phrases are written down.

Discussing a cotroversial statement
When a brain storm has reached a stage of a pause the teacher offers to discuss a well-known saying ‘Beauty is only the matter of taste’ and offers to discuss the statement in group and present the result to the class. No less than 3 groups are organized to have the range of opinions and the time is limited for the task-3 minutes.

Discussing pictures of the Peacock Room

The teacher shows three pictures of the Peacock Room and asks students  if the room is beautiful and why. After that the teacher offers to give the answer avoiding the word beautiful and spreads handouts with praising adjectives. When the students have looked through  handouts and found suitable words they are asked.

Adjectives remembering game

The teacher offers a game but before starting a game all handouts with adjectives are collected.
The student who gave the most number of adjectives is the winner.

Tell me what you see

The teacher pays students’ attention to the pictures again and asks the students what do they see in the room
Possible answers- glassware, vases, a fireplace, a picture of a woman, peacocks, lamps.

The teacher- What do you think the room was used for?
Possible answers- dining, dancing, as a living room, as a guest room.

The teacher- Why do you think the peacocks are on the walls?

Possible answers- because they are beautiful, they are artist’s favorite birds, it was the order.

The teacher- I think you need some  background information to understand this work better

Listening for gist

The teacher announces that now the students will get some background information about The Peacock Room  and while listening they must fill in the task list
Handouts ( appendix d) are spread and the teacher reads text ( appendix c) once
After listening all answers are discussed.

Reading for specific information

The teacher explains that this is a time-limited task. While reading students must find answers  to all questions ( handouts f)
Students are given 3 minutes for reading. After that all additional information is discussed.

Extra-class task

The teacher explains that a home assignment is to write an essay (100-120 words) explaining
‘Why is the Peacock Room’ beautiful?

Lesson assessment

Students are given handouts with a questionnaire ‘My favorites of the lesson’ and fill it in.

Appendix B

The Peacock Room

Adjectives for description

Spine chilling
Mind boggling



Appendix C.

The Peacock Room

Text for listening


The Peacock Room was once the dining room in the London home of Frederick R. Leyland, a shipping magnate from Liverpool, England. Originally designed by the interior architect Thomas Jeckyll to display Leyland's extensive collection of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain, the room was radically redecorated in 1876 and 1877 by the American-born artist James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), whose painting The Princess from the Land of Porcelain hung over the mantel. Although he was at first merely asked for advice about what color to paint the shutters and doors, Whistler took over and eventually transformed the entire room into a "harmony in blue and gold," adorning its shutters with gorgeous golden peacocks and painting every inch of the ceiling and leather-covered walls with a pattern of peacock feathers. Leyland was shocked by the unauthorized redecoration and refused to pay the full amount that Whistler demanded for his efforts. In response to the contentious lawsuit that ensued, Whistler painted two peacocks squabbling over a bag of coins at the far end of the room--and he never saw his masterpiece again.

Appendix D

The Peacock Room

Listening task

1. It was ………………………

The dining room

The living room

The guest room

2. It was situated ……………….

In Paris

In London

In New York

3. The owner was ……………………




4. The name of the room was …………….........

Golden room

Porcelain room

Peacock room

5. The collection was of …..……………... porcelain




6. The picture above the mantel piece showed ………………….




7. The main coloring of the room was ………………….


Greenish blue


Appendix E

The Peacock Room
Text for reading

Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room[56] is Whistler's masterpiece of interior decorative mural art. He painted the paneled room in a rich and unified palette of brilliant blue-greens with over-glazing and metallic gold leaf. Painted in 1876-1877, it is now considered a high example of the Anglo-Japanese style.
Unhappy with the first decorative result by another artist, Leyland left the room in Whistler's care to make minor changes, "to harmonize" the room whose primary purpose was to display Leyland's china collection. However, Whistler let his imagination run wild, "Well, you know, I just painted on. I went on—without design or sketch—putting in every touch with such freedom…And the harmony in blue and gold developing, you know, I forgot everything in my joy of it."[57]
Upon returning, Leyland was shocked by the "improvements". Artist and patron quarreled so violently over the room and the proper compensation for the work that the important relationship for Whistler was terminated. At one point, Whistler gained access to Leyland's home and painted two fighting peacocks meant to represent the artist and his patron; one holds a paint brush and the other holds a bag of money.[58]
Whistler is reported to have said to Leyland, "Ah, I have made you famous. My work will live when you are forgotten. Still, per chance, in the dim ages to come you will be remembered as the proprietor of the Peacock Room."[57] Adding to the emotional drama was Whistler's fondness for Leyland's wife, Frances, who separated from her husband in 1879.[59]
Having acquired the centerpiece of the room, Whistler's painting of The Princess from the Land of Porcelain, American industrialist and aesthete Charles Lang Freer purchased the entire room in 1904 and had it installed in a room in his Detroit mansion. After Freer's death in 1919, the Peacock Room was permanently installed in the Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.. The gallery opened to the public in 1923.[60]

(Detail of the Peacock Room, Freer Gallery of Art,
Washington, D.C.
) Wikipedia

Appendix F

The Peacock Room
Questions for a reading text
Answer True or False
1.The Peacock Room is  Whistler’s masterpiece of canvas painting.
2.The style of  the room decoration belongs to Anglo- Japanese style.
3.The Peacock Room was carefully designed  and planned.
4.The patron was amazed by Whistler’s work and very grateful.
5.The artist was very well paid for his job.
6. Leyland’s wife was not very fond of her husband.
7 The Peacock Room can be visited in Freer Gallery in Detroit.
7. The Freer Gallery was opened for public in 1924,

1.F 2.T.3.F 4. F. 5.F. 6.T. 7.F. 8,T.