Every year, as part of our Take One Picture programme, we invite primary schools nationwide to focus on one of our paintings and respond creatively to its themes and subject matter, historical context, or composition.
For the 2020 exhibition, schools responded to 'Men of the Docks' by George Bellows.
Men of the Docks
Depicting workers on the docks of New York's frozen East River, the skyscrapers of Manhattan and a vast ocean liner towering in the background, 'Men of the Docks' was chosen for the cross-curricular themes and subjects which can be explored: from cities and 20th-century New York, to immigration, working animals, and the riverfront as a place of work.
Inside the exhibition
Featuring works by children from 37 different primary schools across the country, the exhibition showcased the richness of children's creative responses to Bellows's painting – from model ships and polluted cityscapes to family interviews and letters home.
Download the PDF of works in the exhibition including full descriptions about each work.
Download Family Trail activities, created by our Young Producers, and inspired by some of the children's works.
Parkhill Junior School, London, 10–11 year-olds
The children looked at their local area and noticed a big difference between the new buildings and older ones. They created paintings to show different views of Stratford.
The Urban Dockland
Darrick Wood Infant and Nursery School, Kent, 4–5 year olds
Have you ever wondered what a version of 'Men of the Docks' based in London would look like? This Reception class created their own.
Building New York
Glendower Preparatory School, London, 7–11 year-olds
The school’s art club built a huge model of New York, complete with the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge.
Wellington Prep School, Somerset, 5–6 year-olds
Concentrating on the colours in the painting, this class carefully ripped the correct tones from magazines to create their collages.
Wellington Prep School, Somerset, 6–7 year-olds
After sourcing boxes from local shops, students learnt how to create nets for 3D shapes and built these towering skyscrapers.
St Mary’s School, Hampstead, London, 8–9 year-olds
Children made a workman’s jacket by repairing scraps of fabric and sewing them together. The lining of the jacket is covered in poems about how the men might be feeling.
Ramsgate Art Primary School, Kent, 7–8 year-olds
The children acted out the jobs that the men would have been doing at the docks. They held their poses and ‘drew’ around each other using torches.
Caroline Chisholm School, Northampton, 10–11 year-olds
Work horses like those in the painting used to wear brasses as symbols of protection, so students from Caroline Chisholm School designed and made their own.
Ramsgate Art Primary School, Kent, 9–10 year-olds
The children focused on what the docks would have sounded like and made their own soundscapes. They then noticed that the waveforms looked like cityscapes.
Rectory Farm Primary School, Northampton, 8–9 year-olds
These portholes show sights people may have seen from the ship when travelling to New York for the first time.
Tudor C of E Primary School, Suffolk, 5–7 year-olds
Focusing on the horses and different materials that would have been used around the docks, the children made bunting including sections of hessian sacks.
Downshall Primary School, Essex, 8–9 year-olds
Teachers arranged for visits from the Royal National Institute of Blind People and the local police to show how working animals still help us today.
A Welcoming Tea Party
Preston Park Primary School, London, 7–8 year-olds
How do you welcome someone who has arrived from abroad? Children from Preston Park Primary School decided to make a tea party complete with table, chairs, tableware and cake.
A Careful Cargo
Ide Primary School, Exeter, 4–10 year-olds
This carefully packaged cargo was created by children from Exeter after they discovered that glass bottles were made locally for produce arriving at Exeter Quay.
A Sea of Faces
Stoke Bishop C of E Primary School, Bristol, 7–8 year olds
Each child imagined the backstory of someone arriving in New York and made a cardboard sculpture of them to create a 'Sea of Faces' installation.
Mab’s Cross Community Primary School, Lancashire, 9–10 year-olds
Children imagined they were dockworkers who had moved to New York and wrote letters home telling their friends and families about their experiences.
Changing Hammersmith Frieze
West London Free School Primary, London, 9–10 year-olds
Students decided to find out how their city had changed over the last 100 years and created a frieze to show local buildings.
Wooden Dockland Panels
Stivichall Primary School, Coventry, 4–5 year-olds
Reception classes at Stivichall Primary School explored different materials and each made one panel of this wooden dockland scene.
Portholes and Banners
George Betts Primary Academy, West Midlands, 4–11 year-olds
After investigating weathering and rusting, the children made portholes and included designs embroidered onto circles of fabric.
Men of the Docks’ Whispers
Cleveland Road Primary School, Essex, 9–10 year-olds
Students from Cleveland Road Primary School made an annotated diorama to show what the men might have been saying.
Our 'Men of the Docks'
SS Peter and Paul RC Primary School, Tyne and Wear, 10–11 year-olds
Using photographs taken of their local waterfront, Year 6 made their own version of 'Men of the Docks'.
New York Skyline and Suspended Ships
RGS The Grange, Worcester, 9–10 year-olds
Inspired by Hew Locke’s 'Suspended Armada', these balsa wood ships were hung in front of a printed New York skyline.
What’s in their Pockets?
Sir John Sherbrooke Junior School, Nottingham, 7–11 year-olds
Year groups worked together to create a project showing what might have been in the pockets of Bellows’s dockworkers in 1912 versus school children today.
Sponge and Roller Portraits
Little Hallingbury C of E Primary School, Essex, 5–7 year-olds
The children noticed that the men’s faces are painted with only a few brushstrokes, so they used rollers and sponges to create a similar effect.
Hats of Hope or Hats of Hopelessness?
The Priory C of E Primary School, London, 6–7 year-olds
Do you think the men in the painting are hopeful or hopeless? These hats show the emotions that might be running through their heads.
Headlands Primary School, Northampton, 8–9 year-olds
Inspired by the buildings in the painting, Year 4 learnt how to create texture in clay and used glazes to create ceramic skyscrapers.
St Martin de Porres Catholic Primary School, Luton, 7–8 year-olds
The children felt that the men’s shoes might not be good enough to protect their feet from the cold winter weather, so they made new shoes from ModRoc.
Our ‘First Thoughts’ Drawings
SS Peter and Paul RC Primary School, Tyne and Wear, 4–5 year-olds
After looking at the painting for the first time, Reception class recorded their first thoughts in a collaborative class book.
Import and Export, 1912 and 2019
St Martin de Porres Catholic Primary School, Luton, 9–10 year-olds
This ship shows the type of cargo that would have been transported in 1912 versus today. Cargo from 1912 includes sacks of coal and coffee, whereas the modern examples include cars and a helicopter.
Clay Men of the Docks
Grange Park School, Kent, 11–13 year-olds
Paying close attention to their body language, children from Grange Park School created their own men of the docks from clay.
Acrostic Poems and Descriptive Writing
Oakwood School, Surrey, 8–11 year-olds
The children imagined being one of the men in the painting and wrote about their experiences.
Gunthorpe Primary School, Peterborough, 6–7 year-olds
The class discussed pollution problems in busy cities and experimented with different ways of representing pollution in their cityscapes.
Portraits and Passports
Redlands Nursery and Primary School, Nottinghamshire, 8–9 year-olds
Year 4 learnt about the experiences of families moving to New York in 1912. They developed their own characters and made each one a passport.
Bellows the Horse
Hill Top CE Primary School and Nursery, Bradford, 6–10 year-olds
Students made a life-size horse by experimenting with fabric and different printing techniques. They called their horse ‘Bellows’.
Beecroft Garden Primary School, London, 10–11 year-olds
Year 6 researched examples of people migrating to London. They learnt about the Empire Windrush and made their own version of the ship.
Kingswood Parks Primary School, Hull, 7–8 year-olds
The children made personalised sashes to help keep track of their suitcases on a long journey.
Billy the Pony
Kingsway Community Primary School, Warwickshire, 6–7 year-olds
After meeting a real pony called Billy, Year 2 made observational drawings and thought about what the horses would have been able to see through their blinkers.
Ellis Island Photographs
Rhodes Avenue Primary School, London, 10–11 year-olds
Students recreated scenes of people arriving at Ellis Island and imagined they were experiencing the same feelings of fear and hope.
'We are the Men on the Docks’ Work Song
St Martin de Porres Catholic Primary School, Luton, 5–6 year-olds
After finding out that workers would sing songs to keep in time, children wrote their own work song with rhyme and a repeated refrain.
Horse Information Booklets
Tudor C of E Primary School, Suffolk, 5–7 year-olds
The children wrote and illustrated information booklets about horses, and added a contents pages to help their readers find information quickly.
Kingsway Junior School, Hertfordshire, 9–10 year-olds
Year 5 investigated light, shade and perspective before making tonal drawings of the painting.
‘Rags to Riches’ Animation
Holy Trinity CE Primary School, London, 8–9 year-olds
Children decided to tell the story of the man in the shadows from the moment he ‘walked off the canvas.’
Family Immigration Interviews
Kenmont Primary School, London, 7–8 year-olds
Many students did not know why their parents or grandparents had moved to the UK, so they decided to ask their families about their experiences.