Art History:   Grade 2 Lesson 3

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Art Periods

  Art & Observation - Shapes, Forms and Lines



  1. Scipio the Negro, Paul Cézanne, French (1839-1906) Reproduction print

    Paul Cézanne, perhaps the most important artist of Post-impressionism,  has been a leading influence on 20th century art. He was born in Aix-en-Provence and began to paint despite his father’s objections. His early painting, influenced by Delacroix and Courbet, was characterized by the use of dark, intense color. Then through his association with Monet, Renoir and especially Pissarro, he adopted an Impressionist technique and he participated in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1574. Cézanne sought to make something solid of the Impressionist vision. He was not content with the rendering of superficial outer reality and his painting became a quest to reveal the inner structure of nature. His much quoted remark that all forms in nature are based on the cone, the sphere and the cylinder, suggests the geometrical orientation that was reflected first in his still lifes and later in portraits and landscapes. This approach had its successors in the Cubist style of Picasso and Braque. Yet within this geometrical view of reality there is tremendous vitality in the painting of Cézanne, and in his originality he goes far beyond any set theories.

    Because Cézanne drew very slowly, he liked painting apples and rocks. Once when he painted from a model, he was noted as saying “Sit like an apple.” Poor Scipio the Negro, had to sit quietly for so long. Cézanne simplified the forms of
    the model‘s body and the space around him, until we can almost see geometric shapes. Rectangular back, round head and shoulders, muscles in the arm, rectangles of the legs, black triangle of space under the chair, large, almost triangle of black space behind Scipio. The table is a large white rectangle if it is finished with the imagination. Even though the shapes are alive with lights and shadows, the painting is rather flat. The shapes and their relationships were most important.

    This way of seeing and painting was new and exciting in the time of Cézanne. Other artists in later years learned much by studying Cézanne's work. Look at the felt—board design. Now look at Marini‘s Presentation in Blue. Do you think Cézanne's work had any influence on Marini? Both artists knew how to create a pleasing picture by the manner in which they placed the shapes. Matisse is another example of an artist playing with shapes and their relationship.

    bulletCézanne biography


  2. Felt Board and Shapes


  3. Presentation in Blue, Marino Marini, Italian (1901-1980), Reproduction print.
    Marino marini was an Italian painter, engraver and sculptor. He was born in Pistoria arid studied art in Florence. For many years he concentrated on painting and engraving, but, later turned to sculpture. Marini's subject matter, in all three media, includes horses, riders, and nudes, represented in a strongly simplified classicizing style.
    bulletMarino Marini Museum, Florence - bio and pics


  4. Turning Stake Boat, Thomas Eakins, American (1844-1916), Cleveland Museum of Art Reproduction print.
    Thomas Eakins was one of the most important realist painters in America. Born in Philadelphia, he studied art at the Academy of Fine Arts there, and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Although he came in contact with the end of the French Romantic movement, he remained a realist throughout his life. Upon his return to America in 187O, he taught painting and anatomy at the Pennsylvania Academy. His early works often represented outdoor sporting activities,
    sculling, shooting.

    Eakins: Biglin Brothers, Turning the Stake

    Thomas Eakins carefully planned his paintings. This picture was selected as an example of carefully placed lines. Follow the lines of oars and boats as they zigzag across the water to two rowers. The strong horizontal of the land and strong vertical of the flag gives a feeling of calm (as well as the peacefulness of the water).

    Compare with next print-



    Eakins Bio and links to pics


  5.  Still Life #2, James Robert Valerio, American (contemporary), oil on canvas 93 x 116", Whitney Museum, reproduction poster.

    Look at all the shapes we cars find in nature! James Valerio has made these shapes look like real vegetables by using light and shadow. Note the dark side and light side of each vegetable. Where is the light coming from? The textures, which are created by smaller shapes on top of the larger, also help the vegetables come alive. Note all the different textures.

    This artist who enjoys bright colors and strong shapes is James Valerio The STILL LIFE (a painting of inanimate objects) is indeed big. Almost 8’xlO’ - (compare with a wall or door.) If you saw the real painting, you would be amazed at the size of the fruit - larger than real life, yet the artist has carefully made the objects look real. Although he used bright colors, notice the grays in the shadows and creases of tablecloth.

    James Robert Valerio, Born in chicago in 1938 studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. He exhibits widely and has won many awards. He is now an art professor at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.

  6. Vue de Cordeville, Vincent van Gogh, Dutch (1853-1890), Reproduction print

    see also Grade 2 lesson 6



Last month we talked about color. Color, together with line shape, texture and space are as important to the artist as his other tools of pigment, pencil, paper, brushes, etc. This month we’ll look for line and shapes.

Shape - Form

Feel your head - it’s a rounded shape with three dimensions. How can an artist tell us about that shape on a flat surface of paper?
  1. He can use light and shadow on the form to create the illusion of depth. 
  2. He can flatten the shape and tell us only about that shape in relation to the forms around it (including the form of the space around the rounded head).

A sculptor or architect is always working with three dimensional form — but today, we're concentrating on painters.


If YOU touch your head on the surface and let your fingers follow around the form, you can see and feel there is no such thing as lines. Yet, when the artist describes nature, he must use lines.

Here are some ways an artist may use lines:

  1. He may use lines as lines, i.e.. fat, thin, wiggly, smooth, etc. (in three dimensions, the lines trick the eye.)
  2. He may use lines as shapes — two dimensional or three dimensional
  3. Lines may show up as boundaries where color~. meet.
  4. Lines may create patterns.
  5. Lines can be used to direct our eyes to important areas of a picture.
  6. Line can give different feelings, i.e. diagonal for movement, horizontal for peacefulness. A subtle line - the mere suggestions of line - can create mystery, gentleness.
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