Adventures in Art History Art Adventures    

Lesson 30: Lions in the Desert

by Henry Ossawa Tanner

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    Adventures in Art History Art Adventures    

Lesson 30: Lions in the Desert

by Henry Ossawa Tanner


Study the painting for one week.

Over the week:

  • Look at the painting.
  • Read the synopsis.
  • Study the vocabulary words.
  • Read about the artist.
  • Practice reciting the names of the artist and the painting.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.
  • Study the review questions.


In 'Lions in the Desert,' Tanner shows lions camouflaged by a desert landscape. At first only one or two lions catch the eye, but upon closer examination, three lions appear. Tanner painted 'Lions in the Desert' while he was in the Middle East. He didn't actually see any lions while painting, but later added them back in his studio.


Desert: A dry, barren area of land.
Landscape: A wide view of an area of countryside or land.
Camouflage: Hide or disguise the presence of someone or something.
Middle East: Region in western Asia and northeast Africa that includes the nations on the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey (


Henry Ossawa Tanner painted 'Lions in the Desert.'

  1. Henry Ossawa Tanner was born in 1859 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. See his picture below.
  2. Find Tanner's state of birth (PA) on the map of the continental United States below.
  3. His father was a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. His mother was born a slave, but escaped through the Underground Railroad to the North.
  4. He studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he was the only black student. As a painter, Tanner was considered a realist, painting things as they are collectively perceived.
  5. Tanner suffered mental anguish from the racism he experienced in America, which he described in his autobiography. Consequently, he left America for Paris, France, where he lived for the remainder of his life. Find France on the map of Europe below.
  6. He died in 1937 in Paris, France at the age of 77.


Activity 1: Can You Find It?

During the week, study the painting and find the following:

  • Three Lions
  • Sand Dunes
  • Sky
  • Clouds
  • Mane

Activity 2: Narrate the Painting

  • After studying the painting, narrate the scene shown in the painting aloud using your own words.

Activity 3: Complete Vocabulary Activities

  • While studying the vocabulary words, point them out in the painting.
  • Define each of the vocabulary words in your own words.

Activity 4: Act Out the Painting

  • One day this week, pretend to be lions stalking through the desert dunes.
  • The dunes are very steep, so they have to climb up and up and up (perhaps up a couch, with the couch as the dune).
  • It's very hot, so they are probably panting.

Activity 5: Color the Painting   

  • Click the crayon above, and complete page 38 of 'Kindergarten Art History Coloring Book.'


Question 1

Who are the characters in the painting?
1 / 3

Answer 1

The lions.
1 / 3

Question 2

How many lions are in the painting?
2 / 3

Answer 2

2 / 3

Question 3

What is the setting of the painting?
3 / 3

Answer 3

Outdoors in a desert.
3 / 3

  1. Who are the characters in the painting? The lions.
  2. How many lions are in the painting? Three.
  3. What is the setting of the painting? Outdoors in a desert.


  1. 'Henry Ossawa Tanner.' Wikipedia. n.p.