Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Mr. Chagall

(Though I have previously posted this lesson, I repost it today in honor of one of my all time favorite artist's birthdays.)

In art class a few months back we got to study Marc Chagall. This was before my art school website, artist of the week, and do try this at home newsletter so I share with you a little biography and a project based on one of my all-time favorite artists.

Chagall was a Russian Jew born in 1887 in a small Russian village. His family was not pleased with his plans to become an artist. The Jewish belief that it was a sin to make any kind of images was at the heart of this.
(On a side note, if you have ever wondered how the second commandment relates to art then I highly recommend the book Art and the Bible by Frances Schaeffer.)

Back to Chagall. An uncle finally convinced the family to let young Marc be trained at the local art school. Like most visionaries though, his interpretations did not mesh with what was being taught. Marc had to move to St. Petersburg. Soon even this Russian metropolis was too small to contain this huge talent. Paris was where he belonged. Though he had yet to gain any real popularity, his skill and style continued to grow.

It was a unique style and had trouble finding the right audience until a German poet and art dealer arranged an exhibit. The public had finally discovered Marc Chagall.
Unfortunately, right after this on a family visit back to Russia, Marc found himself trapped in the country by the German declaration of war on Russia in 1914. Like the optimist he was though the setback did not deter him and during the next year he completed over 60 paintings and married the love of his life, Bella.

Through his artistic career he illustrated several books, including a series of etchings in Dead Souls, a classic 19th century novel and a version of the Bible. He was heavily involved in the Russian theater and designed sets and costumes for the State-Jewish theater. He even opened an art academy in his hometown village of Vitebsk.

World War II forced the Jewish artist to flee France after her surrender to Germany.
He, his wife and daughter found themselves in New York. It was here that Marc lost his beloved Bella. Chagall and his daughter eventually returned to Paris where he lived and continued working until his death at the age of 97 in 1985.

So many of Chagall's paintings center on the relationship between Chagall and his wife. They portray a dreamy romantic fantasy. Chagall is considered to be a predecessor to the surrealist movement because of the dreamlike quality of his work.
He is sometimes referred to as "the Painter of Dreams." Of course the dreams he painted were the kind we like to have, not the nightmares or Freudian weirdness of other later surrealists like Salvador Dali.
I highly recommend a book about Marc Chagall written for children.

Now for the project.

Material needed

9x12 inch piece of drawing paper

1. Start by having the kids draw (in pencil) a line from corner to corner on their paper diagonally creating two triangles. Then repeat with the other two diagonal corners so that they end up with a large "X" on their paper.

2. In one of the triangles they are to draw the profile of a person. They should try to use the whole triangle for this. In the opposite triangle they are to draw the profile of an animal. Again, trying to use as much of the triangle as possible.

3. In the 3rd triangle they should draw what the person is thinking or dreaming about. In the last triangle they are to draw what the animal is thinking or dreaming about.

4. After they are happy with their drawings they should black line the pencil lines all except for the original "X".

5. At this point they can add color. Encourage the kids to repeat colors. For younger kids this can be achieved by giving them a very limited selection of markers, say only 4.

For an extension of this project the kids can write stories about their pictures.

Some examples...
By Student Age 6

By Student Age 12

By Student Age 8

By Student Age 7

Unit Study Ideas

Geography- Chagall was from Russia, so of course we must learn about Russia!

History- Chagall lived quite a long life, long enough to see two world wars. He was especially affected by the second world war and the beliefs of Nazi Germany toward his Jewish Heritage.
You could go even further back to learn how Jews got all the way to Russia in the first place by studying the Roman Diaspora of the Jews from their holy land after the destruction of the temple.

Science- Chagall was known as the painter of dreams. Learn about how why we need sleep and what happens when we sleep. Learn about sleep disorders and the cycles of sleep, including REM when it is said we dream our most vivid dreams.

Math- Learn how many paintings Chagall painted over his lifetime and then divide that by his age to get an average of how many paintings he painted each year he lived.
You can also calculate the number of miles he traveled in his lifetime moving from Russia to Germany to Paris to New York and back to Paris.

Language Arts- Of course the best thing to do here is
write a story or poem about your painting!
You could also start keeping a dream journal.
Keep a notebook and pencil by your bed so that each morning
you can write down a summary of your dreams before you forget them!
(My daughter has had ideas for so many stories from her dreams.)


1 comment:

Sarah Dawn said...

Oh my, such a joy to find your site. My littlest Caleb is a true artist, but living on the mission field I have difficulty finding ways to encourage his creativity.

Delighted to meet you! Just found your site via CSAHM. I just started this blogging adventure a few months ago, but continue to be amazed at the joy, encouragement, and faith that I find.

Keep writing, the world is reading.

Hugs from this missionary mommy,
Sarah Dawn