Henri Matisse and M.C. Escher are the featured artists this month, as students continue their study of the elements of art. A hands-on art lesson (one per artist) follows each of the art study lessons. Students should enjoy these opportunities to create cutouts in the style of Matisse and explore tessellations in the manner of Escher.
Matisse cut-outs, "Icarus"
BM 35x22 $25
BT 35x22 $25
IC 35x22 $25
MMOA 35x22 $14.95
Matisse cut-outs, "Beasts of the Sea"
NGA 30x60 $25, 29x44 $20
SW 22x28 $9.50
M. C. Escher prints
BT, IC, PW, BM, IM
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10028-0198
Bruce McGaw Graphics
389 West Nyack Road
West Nyack, NY 10994
800-221-4813, Fax: 800-446-8230
Bruce Teleky, Inc.
New York, NY 10012-4436
800-835-3539, Fax: 212-677-2253
147 10th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
800-532-2333, Fax: 415-626-2481
3601 E. Broadway
Tucson, AZ 85716
800-795-5714, Fax: 602-795-1685
5034 N. Pkwy. Calabasas
Calabasas, CA 91302
800-535-5335, Fax: 818-222-9222
National Gallery of Art
Publications Mail Order Dept.
2000B South Club Drive
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301-322-5900, Fax: 301-322-1578
Third Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 12 - Matisse
Some activities are adapted from Month by Month Masterpieces: Explorations of 10 Great Works with Step-by-Step Art Projects by Bobbi Chertok, Goody Hirshfeld, and Marilyn Rosh.
Hear about Matisse's life.
Observe Matisse's use of color.
Answer questions about one (or more) of his cutouts.
Reproductions of Matisse's collages, ideally Icarus and/or Beasts of the Sea and/or Snail
For Optional Activity
Paintbrushes; drawing paper; pencils, chalk or crayons
Mason, Antony. Matisse: Famous Artists. Hauppage, NY: Barron's, 1995.
Beautifully organized and provides a story of the artist's life, the artist's technique, and diagrams the size of the artworks. A section on the cutouts, highlighting color and shape is included. A most appealing read aloud.
Peppin, Andrea. Nature in Art. Brookfield: Merlion, 1991.
Matisse's Snail is included on page 21, along with a discussion of shape.
Raboff, Ernest. Henri Matisse (Art for Children). New York: Lippincott, 1988.
Written in an appealing style for students, Raboff includes reproductions of Matisse's early sketches, paintings and sculpture (including several housed at the BMA). While Matisse's collages are not included, this still makes a worthwhile introduction to the artist and his art.
Rodari, Florian. A Weekend with Matisse. New York: Rizzoli, 1992.
Wonderful photographs and reproductions highlight this imaginary visit with Matisse. Featured are Icarus (on the cover), many line drawings, paintings, cutouts and photographs of the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence. Great for read aloud.
Yenawine, Philip. Lines. Museum of Modern Art, New York: Delacorte, 1991.
Cleverly presented, artists' uses of lines are featured. Matisse's The Red Studio and The Swan are included.
Chertok, Bobbi, Goody Hirshfeld and Marilyn Rosh. Month-by-Month Masterpieces: Explorations of 10 Great Works with Step-by-Step Art Projects. New York: Scholastic, 1996.
A poster-size reproduction of Beasts of the Sea is included with directions for an art activity.
Essers, Volkmar. Henri Matisse 1869-1954; A Master of Color. San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 1997.
Contains a chronology with wonderful photographs. The chapel at Vence is featured as well as several reproductions of Matisse's cutouts.
Faerna, José Maria, ed. Matisse (Great Modern Masters). New York: Harry Abrams, 1995.
Includes Icarus on p. 53 and Beasts of the Sea on p. 56.
Jacobus, John. Henri Matisse. New York: Harry Abrams, 1983.
Contains Snail and many earlier paintings.
If you are unable to secure any large reproductions of Matisse's cutouts, do at least use the reproductions in one of the Suggested Books to introduce the students to Matisse's work. When possible, point out other examples of collage in the illustrations students may have seen in books. The art of either Ezra Jack Keats or Eric Carle would be most appropriate.
Students should be able to recall the story of Icarus and Daedalus studied in Second Grade. If students do not recall the story you may wish to share it, if you choose this cutout. Any of the following books would be good sources for the story:
D'Aulaire, Ingri and Edgar Parin. D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths. New York: Delacorte, 1962.
Low, Alice. The Macmillan Book of Greek Gods and Heroes. New York: Aladdin Books, 1985.
Rockwell, Anne. The Robber Baby: Stories from the Greek Myths. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1994.
Yolen, Jane. Wings. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1991.
Write the name Henri Matisse on the board. Tell the students that he is famous for being an artist who made an impact on the art community by using color in a new and exciting way. Read to the class about Matisse's life from the Mason, Raboff or Rodari books or tell them the following:
Henri Matisse was born on December 31, 1869 in France. He grew up and trained to be a lawyer but soon found it to be dull work. He took art lessons with the hope that he would be less bored, but sketching and drawing didn't do much to interest him. Then something happened that captured his attention and forever changed the way he looked at life.
At the age of 20 he developed appendicitis. To help amuse him while he was recuperating, his mother gave him a box of paints. Matisse was thrilled with the colors and delighted in trying unusual placements. He painted things in colors that no one else had ever used. He put colors side by side in ways that artists had not tried.
Matisse decided to seriously study art. He studied traditional art and practiced in the style of the Old Masters, but he didn't feel free with his work until he met two artists who, like him, saw new uses for color. Matisse and these artists became known "Fauves" which means "wild beasts" because of the outrageous way they used vivid colors--placing them in such a way that very sharp contrasts occurred. Matisse enjoyed his new freedom and practiced his art as he traveled through Europe, North Africa and the South Pacific Islands. The things he saw on these travels greatly influenced his work.
In addition to painting with bright colors, Matisse was known for his use of line. He practiced with brush strokes in the air before he ever put his brush to the canvas, wanting to be sure that the line was perfect. He made large brush strokes by attaching his brush or a piece of charcoal to a long pole so that he could stand a distance away from his work.
Matisse became ill in his later years and was forced to stay in bed or move about in a wheel chair. He stopped painting, but he began another wonderful chapter in his career. Matisse began to cut out shapes and put them together to make collages. He called this "drawing with scissors." These collages were incredible because they had exciting colors and a variety of shapes in balanced compositions.
Matisse created many beautiful paintings, sculptures, and cutouts during his lifetime, including the designs and artwork for the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence. He continued creating his wonderful art until his death on November 3, 1954.
Show the students photographs of Matisse from one of the Suggested Books. Let them see the young Matisse and Matisse in his later years. If his self-portrait line drawing is available, show it as well.
Before you show the students Matisse's cutouts, show as many of his paintings as possible. Let them see his use of vivid color and his attention to details and designs.
Display and tell the name of the Matisse cutout or cutouts you have available and ask the following or similar questions.
How many colors do you see? (four - blue, black, yellow, red)
How many shapes? (three different types)
What does Matisse show in the picture? ( a figure, stars, feathers, Answers will vary.)
Which color did you see first? Why did that happen? (Answers will vary.)
Does there seem to be movement in the picture? (yes)
Do you recall the story of Icarus and Daedalus? What are the shapes around the figure?
(see Teacher Background; feathers)
What is the red oval in the figure? (his heart)
Beasts of the Sea
What shapes do you see? (rectangles, squares, curving shapes)
How does Matisse balance the picture? (larger shapes on bottom, smaller on top)
What do the white cutouts do? (break up the picture, draw our eye to the background, Answers will vary.)
Do any of the shapes remind you of something you'd see underwater? (Answers will vary.)
Are the colors of the cutouts cool colors or warm colors? (mostly cool)
What shapes do you see? (rectangles, squares)
How has Matisse arranged the shapes? (in a circle or spiral)
What does that arrangement do? (looks like a snail shell, causes the appearance of movement, Answers will vary.)
Did you see any particular color first? (Answers will vary.)
Are the colors bright or dark? (bright)
How did Matisse balance the shapes? (sizes of shapes vary, Answers will vary.)
*If you are able to show more than one of the cutouts ask the students
to compare and contrast them regarding color, movement and balance.
Tell the students that in the next lesson they will have a chance to try making a cutout collage.
Attach a paintbrush to a yardstick or pointer and allow one student (or several if you have additional materials) at a time to try painting this way. Be sure to set this up in an area where there is little traffic because students may have difficulty managing the extension. The activity can be made virtually clean-up free by having the students use water for paint and the chalkboard for a canvas.
The rest of the class can try practicing brush strokes in the air. Suggest a simple shape for them to paint (or draw) and have them try producing it in the air several times before trying it on paper.
Third Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 13 - Design: Collage
Create a paper collage.
Identify the differences between Matisse's collages and those of Carle and Keats.
Colored construction paper
Black and white construction paper
Devonshire, Hilary. Collage. New York: Franklin Watts, Inc., 1988.
Useful information coupled with wonderful photographs of patterns and paper collage.
Robins, Jim and Philip Steele. Step-By-Step Collage. New York: Kingfisher, 1993.
Introduction to collage with artwork in the style of Matisse, mosaics are also included.
Books that contain collages
Carle, Eric. The Tiny Seed. New York: Picture Book Studio, 1991.
________. The Very Hungry Caterpillar. New York: Putnam, 1981.
________. Animals, Animals. New York: Scholastic, 1991.
Keats, Ezra Jack. The Snowy Day. New York: Viking, 1962.
________. A Letter to Amy. New York: Harper, 1968.
________. Peter's Chair. New York: Harper, 1967.
This lesson should follow the lesson on Matisse. After their study of his cutouts, students should recognize how the use of color, shape, size, line, texture and space affects their work. Balance should also be referenced in this lesson.
Remind the students of the collage(s) by Matisse they saw. Ask: What was the title? (Answers will vary. Icarus, Beasts of the Sea, Snail) Did you know, from the title, what to expect in the picture? (not always) Why? How would you describe Matisse's cutouts? (Accept any thoughtful answer that references color, shape, etc.) Have students recall that the collages showed movement and had striking colors, but you couldn't always tell exactly what the picture was supposed to be.
Share some of the collages by Ezra Jack Keats or Eric Carle so that students can recall the differences in their work and Matisse's. Ask: What is different about the collages of Keats and Carle, compared to those by Matisse? (While the textures may vary, the most significant difference is that Keats and Carle's shapes look like specific things (people, animals, etc.) and Matisse's usually do not.)
Tell the students that they will be creating collages in the style of Matisse. Remind them that his pictures are balanced, either through the size of the shapes or through the use of color. Have students recall that he shows movement in his collages as well. Stress that a person, animal or object is often simply implied with a cutout shape. For example, Snail is made up of square and rectangular pieces of paper; Icarus has one leg that is much larger than the other.
Remind the students that Matisse lets us use our imaginations when we look at his work.
Suggest several titles--circus, autumn, giants of the forest [trees], dance--that students
might wish to use for their collages. Remind them that it is possible for a number of people to use the same title, as they will each interpret it in his or her own way.
Quickly review the elements of art (color, shape, size, line, texture and space) and discuss each. Tell the students to think about how these elements will affect their collages. Remind them that a collage can have depth (3-D) just as a painting can.
Distribute materials and encourage the students to move their cutouts around the paper until they decide on a pleasing arrangement. Only then should they glue the shapes onto the page. When the collages are completed and dry, allow the students to display and talk about their own.
Third Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 14 - Escher
Recognize Escher's use of perspective (depends on print).
Identify a pattern in the print (depends on print).
Be introduced to the term tessellation (depends on print).
Reproductions of Escher's tessellations or illusions
Peppin, Andrea. Places in Art. Brookfield: Merlion, 1991.
Perspective, light and mood, color and movement are all discussed. Only one print of Escher's is included and is not suitable for study by the entire class because of its size.
The World of Escher contains information on Escher's life, reproductions of his prints and a gift shop.
While Escher's work can be found gracing a number of items from T-shirts, to note cards, to wrapping paper; no public library book source could be located. The website listed above provides a variety of his artworks but obviously the Internet is not available in all classrooms. If you were able to secure a print from the source mentioned in last month's overview, customize any questions and comments in this lesson to that print.
Escher's illusions are frequently included in optical illusion books (Drawing Hands and Ascending and Descending, especially), however the size of the reproductions are usually not adequate for class study.
Write the name M. C. Escher on the board and tell students the following.
Maurits Cornelius Escher was born in June 1893 in the Netherlands. He was a graphic artist who made drawings, watercolors, woodcuts and lithographs of the most amazing buildings, illusions and repeating patterns. Although he never formally studied mathematics or science, he was greatly respected by mathematicians and scientists because of his abilities with lines, angles, perspective and pattern. Escher died in March 1972.
Ask students if they recall how a woodcut is made. They may remember that Hokusai's The Wave is a woodcut. Ask for a volunteer to describe the process or tell them how a woodcut is made. (Remind them that cuts are made into a block of wood and then ink is applied to the raised areas and a print is made.) Tell the students that a lithograph, which is also a print, is made from ink applied to an image on a stone or metal plate.
Display the Escher print you have secured and select appropriate questions from those provided.
Ascending and Descending
House of Stairs
If you have selected one of Escher's illusions (several mentioned above), allow the students several minutes to study the print. Tell them to look carefully because with Escher's art, things are not always as they seem.
Point out his use of perspective and how he shows views from above, below, front and back all in one picture. Have the students consider that our minds try to make sense of the picture and figure it out. It is almost as though we think our eyes are playing tricks on us. We keep looking, positive that we can "figure it out." Remind them that illusion (write on board), the name we give to this kind of art, is the same name we give to magic tricks. We try to figure them out as well--sure that our eyes cannot be tricking us.
Have the students consider that when a woodcut or lithograph is made, the artist has to cut away material or block it from being seen. Ask them to imagine how difficult and time consuming it must have been for Escher to produce what they see.
Ask how many students like the illusion and then have volunteers share the reasons they find Escher's art appealing. Ask: When you look at his illusions do you find them soothing and calm or do they make you anxious as you try to make sense of them? What do you think Escher's reason for making them was?
Day and Night
Sky and Water
If you have selected one of Escher's tessellations (several mentioned
above), tell the students to look at the print and imagine that it is a
puzzle. Ask them if they can distinguish the individual pieces. Have they
noticed that shapes can remain the same and portray two different things?
Have they noticed that a shape can change slightly and become a totally
Tell the students that some of Escher's prints look very different if you focus on the dark shapes, or on the light shapes. Mosaic is such a print. What appears to be negative space (background, unused) is actually another set of animals. Point out to the students that when we look at the print we tell our eyes to focus on one set of shapes or the other.
If you show the print Lizards (or Reptiles), show the students how every part of the picture is covered with the shapes. One shape fits into the other, just like a puzzle, so that there is no empty space. The artist who makes this kind of artwork has to think very carefully about how one piece can interlock with the other. Tell the students that this is called a tessellation (write on the board). It is an arrangement of repeating shapes that fit together to fill a space without overlapping or leaving empty space. Remind students that they may have seen very simple tessellations of tiles covering a floor or wall.
Ask for student response to the print you have selected. Do students like the work? Why? Do their eyes travel over the work making sure that there are no gaps or uncovered spaces? Is making a tessellation easy or difficult? Why?
Tell the students that they will have an opportunity to try their own tessellations in an upcoming lesson.
Third Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 15 - Design: Pattern
Describe a tessellation (repeating pattern).
Create (or color) a tessellation.
Tessellations for transparencies and coloring (attached)
Steps in making a tessellation shape (attached)
Overhead transparency markers
Pattern blocks (those designed for use on an overhead would be excellent)
This lesson is intended to be used after the study of M. C. Escher's work (Lesson 14). If you were unable to obtain any of his prints, use this lesson and ignore any references to the prior lesson.
Students are given the opportunity to create a tessellation in this lesson. If you think this would be too difficult or time consuming for your students, you may wish to simply have them color the tessellations provided. If possible, let students attempt interlocking a least a few of the shapes, either on paper, or using pattern blocks.
Write the word tessellation on the board. Ask if anyone recalls the definition (an arrangement of repeating shapes that completely fill a space without overlapping or leaving empty space). Ask students if they can recall any area that is covered by a tessellation (tile on the bathroom or kitchen floor or wall, wood patterns for floors, etc.).
Display a pattern block (any shape works) and tell the students that by repeating that shape you will be able to cover an area. If a quantity of blocks are available, demonstrate this or allow groups of students to cover an area with multiples of one block. (Demonstrating this on the overhead would be especially effective.)
Remind the students that Escher did not use geometric shapes like triangles, diamonds and hexagons in his work, but that he designed shapes that could be repeated to create a pattern. Ask students to name other shapes that are not available as pattern blocks, that could still interlock to produce a tessellation (arrowheads, crosses, octagons, etc.). Ask why a circle could not be used (cannot interlock). Are there other shapes that cannot work? (any shape that does not permit interlocking)
Display a tessellation transparency. Students may respond that the lines appear crooked, or the transparency seems crooked. Remind them that these are illusions that occur as our eyes and brain make sense of what we see. Demonstrate, if necessary, that the lines in the herringbone pattern are indeed parallel.
Have the students recall the requirements for a pattern to be a tessellation (repeating shapes covering a space, interlocking, no empty space). Tell them that it is possible to create a repeating shape that is not geometric, as Escher did, but you need to be very careful and precise when you do the cutting. (If you wish, demonstrate how this is possible by following the steps on
the attached sheet.)
Have students recall that by using dark and light colors in his prints, Escher tricked our eyes into seeing two different pictures in one. We first saw one and then the other. Demonstrate that it is possible to color alternating shapes in the tessellation to produce a different look.
Distribute materials and direct students to either repeatedly trace a pattern block to create a tessellation, or have them color one of those provided. (If students create the tessellation, suggest that they match the edge of the shape they use to either the top or the bottom of their paper in order to keep a straight line.) Suggest that students use color combinations of yellow and purple; red and green; or orange and blue. Remind them that a particular color pattern must be maintained as well. If students become frustrated trying to cover the entire page, use your judgement and cut down the size of the page, pointing out to the students that the amount of area covered is not as important as it is for the pieces to interlock and leave no blank space.
Display the tessellations when complete with a sign that says "In the Style of Escher."
Steps in making a tessellation shape (and a tessellation)
1. Begin with a square (other geometric shapes also work).
2. Cut a shape out of one side of the square.
3. Attach that shape to the opposite side from which it was removed.
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3, if desired (this may be done many times).
5. Trace the shape again and again, interlocking each one with the one before.
Carle, Eric. The Tiny Seed. New York: Picture Book Studio, 1991.
________. The Very Hungry Caterpillar. New York: Putnam, 1981. (0-399-21933-1)
________. Animals, Animals. New York: Scholastic, 1991. (0-590-43640-6)
Devonshire, Hilary. Collage. New York: Franklin Watts, Inc., 1988. (0-531-10556-3)
Keats, Ezra Jack. The Snowy Day. New York: Viking, 1962. (0-670-65400-0)
________. A Letter to Amy. New York: Harper, 1968. (0-06-023109-2)
________. Peter's Chair. New York: Harper, 1967. (0-06-65400-0)
Mason, Antony. Matisse: Famous Artists. Hauppage, NY: Barron's, 1995. (0-8120-6534-4)
Peppin, Andrea. Nature in Art. Brookfield: Merlion, 1991. (1-56294-173-9)
________. Places in Art. Brookfield: Merlion, 1991. (1-56294-172-0)
Raboff, Ernest. Henri Matisse (Art for Children). New York: Lippincott, 1988. (0-397-32238-0)
Robins, Jim and Philip Steele. Step-By-Step Collage. New York: Kingfisher, 1993.(1-85697-921-0)
Rodari, Florian. A Weekend with Matisse. New York: Rizzoli, 1992. (0-8478-1792-X)
Yenawine, Philip. Lines. Museum of Modern Art, New York: Delacorte, 1991. (0-385-30313-0)
Chertok, Bobbi, Goody Hirshfeld and Marilyn Rosh. Month-by-Month Masterpieces: Explorations of 10 Great Works with Step-by-Step Art Projects. New York: Scholastic, 1996. (0-590-25101-5)
Essers, Volkmar. Henri Matisse 1869-1954; A Master of Color. San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 1997. (1-57145-127-7)
Jacobus, John. Henri Matisse. New York: Harry Abrams, 1983. (0-8109-1326-7)