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I have quite a large collection of Art Reproductions, poster size, that I
have collected over the years. It seemed such a waste to keep them rolled
up in my studio for lack of space so I suggested to the elementary school
principal that we choose one each month to hang in the school entrance and
make it a theme study in all the classes.
The first one we chose was a reproduction of a Chagall but with no written
indication of who the artist was or a title. We decided to put it up with
no further explanation and then after a week see how observant the children
The reproduction was a female figure with long black hair and a red dress
and a bouquet of flowers in her hand floating on a deep blue background with
four yellow moons, two green horses in the right hand corner and a very
large red and yellow chicken (or duck?) in the lower left corner.
The fourth grade class wrote a theme on their impressions. The teacher
gathered them all together and gave me a copy and I would like to share
parts of them with you. They are priceless!!!
(This is a translation from Italian so it may not come across as well as it
does in the original language. The school is an elementary school near
"Out in the entrance hall there is something new. I ask myself why did they
put it there? I think it represents the Madonna. In my opinion they put
it there to protect the school. I think one of the classes did it cause
there are paint splashes in it."
"Out in the hall there is a painting that I never saw before. I think it
represents the Madonna with hell underneath and paradise above. I think
some little kids did it and I donDRt know why they put it there. I donDRt
know what it means but I have the impression that it is sad and the painter
was sad when he did it."
"In my opinion it represents fear, happiness, arrogance and goodness. They
put it up in the school entrance to teach us that what life is like: both
beautiful and ugly."
"The painting reminds me of a woman on a pilgrimage walking at night. The
painting is abstract and the artist was inspired by a pilgrim who didnDRt
know what road to take: the one with the horses or the one with the ducks.
The painting gives an artistic touch to the entrance hall of the schoolDH"
"At first glance it seems this painting is not done very well, with colors
applied badly. However the strangeness of a painterDRs art is never ending."
"In my opinion, that painting represents the happiness of going to school
like the animals playing, but with respect for the teacher who is
represented by the women in space. THIS COULD BE A LAW."
"I think itDRs the Madonna but it looks like a mermaid."
"I think the second grade kids did it. You can tell by the way they used
"I like this painting very much but they could have colored it in better."
"I think the painting is a work of art that has been put there to remind us
to love animals and respect them because they are our best friendsDH"
"I think the dominant color is blue, because it stands out in the painting
and makes the other colors stand out and I think the blue could also have
"Who put it there? I think it was Antonio, the janitor, in order to give an
atmosphere of happiness even if in my opinion it looks sad."
"Once I went to an art show with my mother and father and all the paintings
looked like scribbles to me. Then someone asked me "do you really think
they are scribbles?" In all sincerity I said Yes. Then he chose one of the
paintings and explained its meaning to me. I came to the conclusion that
even scribbles have a meaning."
"Its not a bad painting. I believe it was done by children because children
have more fantasy than adults and they can imagine anything they want."
"I think they hung it in the hall because otherwise the entrance would be
very poor, not in the economic sense, but in the artistic sense. It was put
there for another reason too; to allow us to enter into the world of
culture. In the future we can tell our children how beautiful culture is."
"It looks like that painting was done by a four year old child, but, oh
well, who can understand art?"
"To me, that painting was put there by the Principal, to show us that true
art isnDRt drawing precisely, and that true art can even be a piece of
colored paper...Infact that painting isnDRt even painted very well."
"I think the painting was done by a great artist with a lot of fantasy, even
if, to the naked eye, it looks like it was easy to do."
"I think they put that painting up to tell us that in this school there are
good kids and bad kids."
"The painting fills me with happiness and when I look at it and after a
while, and close my eyes, I feel like I am in paradise and its a beautiful
There was a lot more of course but I donDRt want to take up too much space
here. It was interesting how many kids thought it represented the Madonna.
A good example of how your own culture affects your interpretation of
Also an example of how to integrate literature with art. When we then went
on to study Chagall
I made photocopies of parts of ChagallDRs autobiography "My Life" to read in
class. For example where he writes about being so poor he couldnDRt buy
canvas and so painted on sheets, tablecloths and nightshirts. He would buy
a herring and eat the head one day and the tail the next. They then saw
other reproductions of his work and noticed that in his paintings anything
could happen just like in dreams...people floating in the air, blue horses
etc...So we then had a project to remember a dream and paint it. It was a
very freeing experience for them to realize they could let their
imaginations run wild and anything could happen in the paintings they
created. We got some wonderful results.
After that we changed the poster in the entrance hall once a month and did
Van Gogh (his letters to his brother make good reading material), Picasso,
Miro and others. It was quite successful.