Fernand Léger, French
Oil on canvas
7 feet 7 inches x 9 feet 9 1/2 inches (231.1 x 298.4 cm)
A. E. Gallatin Collection, 1952
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This lesson, although aligned with Career, Art, and Twenty-First Century standards, can be easily adapted for any core subject area.There is no greater way to forge connections across disciplines than the use of Critical and Creative Thinking skills. Sophisticated thinking creates satisfied, successful, and life-long learners. Of the many skills demanded from today’s professionals, creative thinking is the most frequently mentioned; and brainstorming is key to the development of creative thinking. Abstract art, which is open to many interpretations, challenges viewers to think in new ways and can provide a rich starting point for creative brainstorming.
Pennsylvania Academic Standards:
Arts and Humanities 9.3.B – Criteria for Critical Response to art
Career Education 13.3.C – Group Interaction in Career Advancement
New Jersey Academic Standards:
Twenty-First Century Standards 9.1.B – Brainstorming for Creativity and Innovation
Art Standard 1.4 – Aesthetic Responses & Critique Methodologies
Grade Level:For Grades 7–9, with adaptations for elementary and high school.
Art Images Required:Click on the titles below to view images on the Museum’s website. Images that are available from ARTstor are indicated with an ID Number or Phrase; use this to search for the corresponding item in the ARTstor database.
- The City by Fernand Leger, French; ARTstor ID Number: 1952-61-58
- Night Sea by Edna Andrade; This image is not available on ARTstor
- Hydrangeas Spring Song by Alma Thomas; ARTstor ID Number: 2002-20-1
- Red and Orange Streak by Georgia O’Keeffe; This image is not available on ARTstor
Background:Students will need to be introduced to the brainstorming process before applying that process to the works of abstract art listed above. If your students are already comfortable with the brainstorming process, you might want to skip to Step 5 in the Lesson Process below.
- Break the class into groups of four or five students. Each group should have a large piece of paper to record their work. Describe for them the following situation: You are driving down the highway and you notice a single shoe lying by the side of the road. Ask each group to list four possible explanations for the shoe (i.e., it fell off the foot of someone hanging his/her feet out of the car window).
- Once the class has finished this, have them continue the brainstorming process until they come up with sixteen more possible explanations (for a total of twenty).
- When the groups have finished, discuss as a class to compare their responses. Have one group list their first five explanations and ask which other groups have the same explanations (most groups will have the same responses). Next, have the groups share their last three explanations, noting which other groups also have the same responses. (very few of these last explanations will be repeated).
- (EXPLANATION) The brainstorming process allows us to tap into our creative thoughts. Notice how the items from the beginning of the lists typically include the obvious responses. It is only when we are forced to continue after those obvious responses that we arrive at the more creative ones. Also note that each group typically writes quickly for a minute (the obvious responses), then experiences a period of frustration (while the brain “re-sets”), after which there is a slow but steady stream of more creative responses. The bottom line: thinking creatively often requires that we experience that period of frustration. Otherwise, we are likely to come from the brainstorming process with only the most obvious (and usually most uninteresting) responses.
- Replace each group’s writing paper and give each group a copy of the painting The City, unless you choose to display the image to the class. (NOTE: The images listed above can be used in any order, or you may assign different images to different groups. The City, however, provides a more “approachable” first piece.)
- Ask each group to consider what the artist may have been attempting to communicate. Students should consider such questions as: what ideas might the artist have been exploring? What did the artists want to convey to the viewer? They are to list five responses.
- Discuss these responses as a class. Select several and try to discuss the art using the response selected. What do these responses tell us about ways we can approach abstract art?
- Display or give the groups copies of Red and Orange Streak. Follow the same process as with The City. Discuss. Are there any responses which seem to apply to both paintings? If ideas are sparse, ask whether any of their responses involves color choice, composition, or the arrangement of lines and shapes. This may lead to additional ideas.
- From their brainstorming, each student should write a brief essay attempting to interpret a work of abstract art. You may want to start with one of the remaining pieces: Hydrangeas Spring Song or Night Sea.
- Present a work of abstract art to the class, using techniques from the brainstorming session to discuss the object.
- Provide additional information on these works. (This information can be found on the Museum website. When you click on one of the titles, look for the “teacher resources” tab in the upper right corner.) Use this additional information to refine and add depth to the discussions.
- Additional works can be added, either in class or as homework. (Hydrangeas Spring Song or Night Sea may be assigned as homework.) Students can also be given the task of making their own selections.
For more information, please contact Education: School & Teacher Programs by phone at (215) 684-7580, by fax at (215) 236-4063, or by e-mail at .