Circa 1920s, Watercolor on Paper,
17.5 x 14.75”, Gift of Isabelle Johnson Estate
More Info


Isabelle Johnson was the first significant Modernist painter in Montana. She had a career in art that spanned over sixty years. Born in Absarokee in 1901, Isabelle’s rich Montana heritage enhanced her artwork throughout her career. After studying art on both sides of the country, she returned to the Stillwater in 1961 to continue painting and to ranch. She painted not only what she saw in the land but also how the land made her feel. Although Isabelle Johnson painted for herself and never for the market, she saw success as an artist. Her art is in the collections of many museums throughout Montana. Isabelle Johnson died in May 1992. Her family’s ranch is now part of the Tippet Rise Arts Center. It continues to be a cultural destination, just as it was during her lifetime, for both visual art and music.

YAM Art Suitcase


Questions for Viewing:

First, always take a few moments to really look at the artwork.

VTS Questions

  • What do you think is going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What else do you see in this picture?

Additional Questions

  • Do you think this painting is a landscape? Why? Why not?
  • How is this different from other landscapes?
  • Where do you see a foreground, middle ground and background? (see Kevin Red Star video for reference)
  • What is closest? What is further away?
  • Do you think this painting is “realistic” or “expressionistic”? What do those words mean?
  • What type of lines do you see in this painting?
  • Do you see any patterns? How many times does it repeat?
  • What shapes do you see?

Art Vocabulary:

  • Landscape: All the visible features of an area of countryside or land.
  • Pattern: A design in which lines, shapes, forms or colors are repeated.
  • Foreground: The area of the artwork that appears nearest to the viewer.
  • Middle Ground: Generally, the focus of a painting. It is the space in between the foreground and the
  • Background: The area of the artwork that appears furthest from the viewer.
  • Realism (Realistic Art): Art painted in a representational almost photographic way.
  • Expressionistic or Expressionism: Art in which the image of reality is distorted in order to make it expressive of the artist’s inner feelings or ideas. (https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/e/expressionism)

Art / Math Vocabulary:

  • Tessellation: Tiling over a plane with one or more figures such that the figures fill the plane with no overlaps and no gaps.

Lesson Plans: Watercolor Pencils, Nature Tessellations

Lesson Overview: Using and exploring watercolor pencil techniques, students will make a four piece tessellation using line, shape and pattern to create a repetitive work of art that is inspired by their surroundings.


National Standards:

Visual Arts

  • VA:Cr1.1.4a: Brainstorm multiple approaches to a creative art or design problem.
  • VA:Cr2.1.4a: Explore art-making techniques and approaches.
  • VA:Cr2.2.4a: When making works of art, utilize and care for materials, tools, and equipment in a manner that prevents danger to oneself and others.


  • CCSS.4.MD.C.7:Recognize angle measure as additive.
  • CCSS.4.G.A.3:Recognize a line of symmetry for a two-dimensional figure as a line across the figure such that the figure can be folded along the line into matching parts. Identify line-symmetric figures and draw lines of symmetry.
  • CCSS.8.G.2: Understand that a two-dimensional figure is congruent to another if the second can be obtained from the first by a sequence of rotations, reflections, and translations; given two congruent figures, describe a sequence that exhibits the congruence between them.

Montana Standards:

  • Anchor Standard #2: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work. Apply research to art-making for the purpose of communicating about constructed environments.


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