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Lesson Plans

Re: Ask for help

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Robert Alexander Fromme (rfromme)
Wed, 14 May 1997 00:13:06 -0600

At 07:30 PM 5/13/97 +0800, LEE Fung Tuen wrote:
>1. To teach a group of Chinese students around 10-11 years old, will it
>be too difficult for them to learn to do a painting with surrealism?

Some children enjoy talking about dreams and symbolism.

You may want to spend part of a lesson talking about symbols in art from
around the world.

You could also try to get some discussion started between the students
concerning theories from science concerning why we dream and why we seldom
remember the majority of what we dream. If you really want to live
dangerously you can try to get the kids to talk about some of the strangest
dream situations or experiences they can remember. ( Keeping the age of
your students in mind, you should set the ground rules first so that you can
avoid the disruption of any dreams which should have been "X rated". ) The
reason I suggest students thinking about dreams in connection with a lesson
about the abstract surrealist, Miro, is because of an interesting
relationship between science, dreams, abstraction and the surrealists.

You may want to try connecting the history of science with the history of
art by introducing Sigmund Freud (the father of modern psychology) and then
talk about his early interest in dreams. The seeds of surrealism can be
found in his theories and their effect upon artists in Europe at that time.

You may also want to mention that the early 20th Century was a time of
reaction and experimentation as seen in the work of the artists of Dada.
The position they took in reaction to the blood and devastation of the First
World War was "if the logic and reason of the Western World has taken us to
this absurd horror, perhaps we should try the absurd and see if it will take
us to something humane and reasonable." The Spirit of Dada lingers in
Surrealism where composition can begin in chance, shapes hint hidden
meanings up from below human consciousness, the place Freud called the

Surrealism took two direction. one dealt with the subconscious and the world
of dreams in very representational ways...Dali, etc. while the other
direction dealt with abstraction and subconscious association of
compositional elements (line, shape, color, value, texture, light, time,
etc. etc.).....Miro, etc.

>2. My pupils are very concerned in understanding what the artist (Miro)
>has drawn, they felt very unhappy to see only symbols, lines and shapes
>instead of real figures, any solution?

Another direction you might like to take here is to give the young students
a history lesson in abstraction or non-objectivity in art:

Music without words (the abstract organization of sound in time) is easily
accepted and enjoyed by us all, yet the Russian, Kandinsky, wondered why we
could not come to enjoy the pure abstract organization of visual elements
in space as well. Of course Kandinsky was not a surrealist but his work is
relative because he, like the Surrealist Spaniard, Miro, was one of several
artists of the times who were driven in the direction of non-objective
images or abstraction.

Like Kandinsky and Miro, Dutch artists Mondrian and van Doesburg of the "de
Stijl" were also interested in abstraction, These Dutch artists searched for
a "Universal Language". These artists turned completely from traditional
artistic conventions and they artists wanted to develop a totally new
vocabulary of form. Rather then depicting a certain subject, they aimed at
communicating with the viewer through the manifold (at the same time,
subtle) variation of a few elementary compositional devices (such as the
horizontal versus vertical, small versus large, light versus dark and the
three primary colors).

The point we need to make is that "abstraction" was "in the air" in the
early part of our century. Miro and the other Abstract Surrealists can be
related to other artists from other movements who were also exploring

If, in defense of Miro, you really want to get into the history of
abstraction and the trend toward modern art, you can move back to the early
1800s and try to get the students to think about the impact that the
invention of the camera must have had upon artists who prided themselves
upon their representational ability and their technical skills with realism.
The new invention proved to force many artists of the next generation to
search for other values and communicative aspects to visual art where
representational effects were not given priority. The trend toward
abstraction was a natural development in response to the changes which came
with the invention of photography. The role of the artists shifted from
skill at creating the illusion of our world as seen through the painting as
window into reality to skill at organizing meaningful form (composition) on
the surface of that window. For Miro, the meaning (content) of the abstract
images were bound to the veiled symbolism of our subconscious.

You can talk to your students about the trade with Africa and the stylized
forms of primitive art which were to have an effect upon the young European
artists exploring abstraction.

We must not forget the role of Japanese woodcut prints which were flat,
decorative and powerful visual statements created without the traditional
modeling, linear perspective and realism of Western traditions. Many of the
photographs and paintings showing the homes and studios of these artists
show these prints in the background suggesting they they were valued and
collected by these artists who were to change the history of art.

You can also mention the various new theories of science in the early part
of our century concerning color and light. Here science was to play a role
in the direction toward abstraction. The Impressionists and
Post-impressionists with their interest in light and color theory can be
seen as providing critical steps from tradition to change where line, color,
shape and texture could express much more then a simple illusion of our world.

Hope this helps.

Bob Fromme