Thursday, January 21, 2016

DIY Art History: 20th Century Art

We recently taught a 6-lesson elective on "DIY Art History" to a mixed age classroom (6-13). Each post on this blog describes one lesson.

DIY Art History: 20th Century Art (Lesson Plan) For our final lesson, we covered contemporary art generally - from cubism to expressionism to pop art. We spent a while discussing "what is art?" and discovered our kids were very contemporary in their leanings - when I threw my jacket on the floor and asked if it was art, they all enthusiastically yelled that it was indeed art. 

For the DIY time, we gave them 4 different possible projects with instructions. Most of them went for Picasso portraits, a fun one to do as a pair.


Lesson Plan

  • (Slide) 20th Century Art
    • Today we’ll be talking about the last century of art, which has things that don’t necessarily look like art.
  • (Slide) Cubism lead: Is this art?
    • Violin and Candlestick
    • Q: Is this art?
  • (Slide) Cubism
    • That’s an example of a movement called cubism.
    • “Subject from different points in space and time simultaneously, i.e., the act of moving around an object to seize it from several successive angles fused into a single image (multiple viewpoints, mobile perspective, simultaneity or multiplicity).”
  • (Slide) Picasso: Bread and Fruit Dish on Table
    • This is an example of proto-cubism - the beginnings of cubism
    • Q: How does this look different from the still lifes we saw before?
    • It has a tilted perspective, geometrization, inconsistent viewpoints
  • (Slide) Picasso: Portrait of Woman
  • (Slide) Braque: The Portuguese
  • (Slide) Abstract Expressionism Lead: Is this art?
  • (Slide) What about this?
  • (Slide) Abstract Expressionism
    • Those were examples of abstract expressionism.
    • Cubism was turning into something more abstract
    • Painting to convey the idea/feeling of a thing without necessarily looking anything like the thing.
    • Expressing their inner feelings -- universal inner feelings.
  • (Slide) Mondrian: Gray Tree
    • One expressionist was Mondrian, and we’re going to see a few of his paintings.
    • Q: What is this a painting of? What do you notice about it?
    • It looks almost cubist
    • Reduced color palette, typical of cubists
  • (Slide) Mondrian: Flowering Apple Tree
  • (Slide) Mondrian: Composition
  • (Slide) Mondrian: Composition with Gray and Light Brown
    • Eventually his paintings became grids like this, with no curved lines at all, and that is what he’s most famous for.
  • (Slide) Pollock: The Key
    • Pollock was another famous expressionist.
    • This is an early painting.
    • Q: What do you think this painting is of?
    • It was painted near a river, so that gives us some clues to interpreting the figures, but it’s hard to know for sure.
    • Notice: very gestural, dynamic composition, makes you think of motion
  • (Slide) Pollock: Convergence
    • This is a later painting, one of his famous drip paintings.
    • Q: What is this painting of? What do you think he’s expressing?
    • It’s important to know what was happening in the world then - the US was scared of communism, a type of government. We wanted to assert that we still had free speech and freedom of expression.
  • (Slide) Pop Art Lead: Is this art?
    • Campbell soup painting
  • (Slide) Pop Art
    • Started in the 1950s. What was happening then?
    • Things were starting to get manufactured.
    • Advertisements were big.
    • Conspicuous consumption - buying stuff to show it off.
    • Pop Art was a reaction to consumerism of the times.
  • (Slide) Warhol: Campbell soup can Logos
    • That Campbell soup can was one frame in 32 that Andy Warhol made.
    • Just by putting something in an art museum, it can become art - this forced you to think about something that you wouldn’t think about as art
    • Warhol used rubber stamping to speed up the process, and called his studio The Factory - like the factories of the time.
    • Warhol started having people make his paintings for him - using the same sort of assembly line process that factories used.
  • (Slide) Warhol: Marilyns
    • Q: Do you know who this is? A: The most famous movie star, from the 50s. Like as popular as Taylor Swift.
    • In the past, people made paintings of The Virgin Mary. Marilyn Monroe is the modern Virgin Mary - so idealized. Celebrities are our new idols.
  • (Slide) What is art?
    • Q: How would you define art?
    • Q: What’s your favorite art style?
  • (Slide) Conclusion:
    • We didn’t cover everything-- and we focused on europe. There’s a lot of art in Latin America, Asia, etc.
    • There’s way more art to explore! Go to museums! Go online!
  • DIY time!
    • Let them choose from each of the instructions.


We got most of our supplies from the local SCRAP store in SF, but I've included Amazon links to similar items for convenience.

Additional reading

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