Kids Cafe Art Lecture: Piet Mondrian

I’ve been getting ready for my next Tween Book Club. The first one was last Thursday and we only had one kid and one parent show up, though it was still a pretty good discussion of the book. We will have to work on Ice Breakers for next time.  Apparently part of this is due to the fact that no one could figure out where it was, though it was marked on the info sheet, and also because the homeschool writer’s group I distributed a bunch of flyers to apparently already is involved with two other book clubs. Ah well. I am trying my best this time to get as many of age kids a flyer as possible. I have managed to get a couple of kids to check out a book so far. I’ve also been working on finishing off the DiscoveryTimes (Preschool Storytime plus STEM) till the end of the month, when I will hopefully get a bit of a break. Kids Cafe, mostly just admin stuff, has been stressing me out, but I’m feeling better about it now as I’ve finally got things sorted.

This lecture on Dutch artist Piet Mondrian was another example of a modern artist who I have, of course, heard about but never really studied at any length. While I didn’t love the stuff he was most famous for (i.e. the grid-patterned paintings), I did gain a new appreciation for him and especially liked the concept behind one of his most famous paintings, Broadway Boogie Woogie. I had originally picked Mondrian because of the easy accompanying activity.Yes, you can do a super simple activity with duct tape, but the kids and I ended up doing an example using crayons/colored pencils and large pre-cut squares. Mine used primary colors only, but the kids got more creative with color use.

Piet Mondrian

Mondrian - View from the Dunes and Piers, Domburg 1908

View from the Dunes with Beach and Piers, 1909 [this was my favorite piece that I found for this lecture]

  • Biography of the Artist
    • Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan was born in the Netherlands in 1872
      • He changed his name to Piet Mondrian between 1905-1909
    • Mondrian was exposed to art at a very young age because his father was an art instructor and his uncle was an artist.
    • He started out as an elementary school teacher and painted in his spare time.
    • He started out as a landscape painter and painted the fields, farms and canals around Amsterdam.
  • Influences: Impressionism
    • Van Gogh’s Almond Tree, 1890
    • Van Gogh - Almond Tree, 1890
    • Mondrian – Avond (Evening): The Red Tree, 1908
    • Mondrian - Avond- Red Tree, 1908
  • Influences: Pointillism
    • Georges Seurat The Circus Parade, 1889
    • Seurat - La Parade du Cirque, 1889
    • Mondrian’s Sun, Church in Zeeland, 1910 [my second favorite piece of his]
    • Piet Mondrian - Sun, Church in Zeeland, Zoutelande Church Facade, 1910 at Tate Modern Art Gallery London England

      Piet Mondrian – Sun, Church in Zeeland, Zoutelande Church Facade, 1910 at Tate Modern Art Gallery London England

  • Paris – 1911
    • Mondrian moved to Paris in 1911. There he was influenced by the Cubist style of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, and his work started including more geometric shapes and were less biomorphic (drawn from nature and more curvy)
      • Picasso’s Ma Jolie (My Pretty Girl), 1911-12
      • Picasso - Ma Jolie (My Pretty Girl), 1911-12
  • Abstraction Starts – 1912
    •  Mondrian – Grey Tree, 1912
    • Mondrian - Grey Tree, 1912
    • Mondrian – Still Life with Ginger Pot, 1912
    • Mondrian - Still Life with Ginger Pot, 1912
  • The Netherlands – 1914-18
    • Mondrian moved back to the Netherlands from 1914-18, during WWI, and after meeting another Dutch artist who used only primary colors, he began to develop his own painting style.
      • In 1915, he created a new art movement called “De Stijl” or “The Style”, aka “Neo-Plasticism”
        • Colors were applied in patches and the horizontal and vertical lines were absolutely straight (there were no diagonal lines). These paintings were not readily accepted by the public.
  • Composition with Color Planes, 1917
  • Mondrian - Composition with Color Planes, 1917
    • Here, Mondrian has moved away from the dark Cubist colors of yellows, grays, and browns, opting instead for muted reds, yellows and blues – a clear precursor to his later palette that focused on primary colors.
  • Paris – 1919-38
    • After the war, he moved back to Paris and began to produce the grid-based abstract paintings with primary colors for which he is best known.
      • Composition with Large Blue Plane, Red, Black, Yellow, and Gray 1921
      • Mondrian - Composition with Large Blue Plane, Red, Black, Yellow and Gray, 1921,
  • New York City – 1938-44
  • New York City I, 1942
  • Mondrian -New York City I, 1942
    • He used strips of colored paper and moved them about on the canvas to get the effect he wanted before he painted it
    • This is the start of a new phase of Mondrian’s work, i.e. the black lines and rectangles of primary colors have disappeared, replaced by primary colored lines interweaved with each other.
  • Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-43
  • Mondrian - Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-43
    • He loved NYC’s architecture and was fascinated by a kind of jazz, called boogie-woogie
    • It was one of his most famous paintings. Mondrian replaced the black grid that had long governed his canvases with predominantly yellow lines that intersect at points marked by squares of blue and red. These bands of color, interrupted by light gray, create paths across the canvas suggesting the city’s grid, the movement of traffic, and blinking electric lights, as well as the rhythms of jazz.
  • Final Remarks on Mondrian
    • Created about 250 paintings in his lifetime, and was famous during his lifetime
    • Died in 1944 of pneumonia
  • Activity: Easy Hand-Drawn Mondrian Squares
    • Supplies: White paper, 7” x 7” square cardboard template (could also use posterboard), pencils, crayons (black, red, yellow, and blue)
    • My example (I used markers and a sharpie)
    • Mondrian1
    • Another example (not sure if this was done by kid or one of our interns)
    • Mondrian2

Kids Cafe Art Lectures: Wassily Kandinsky

Wassily Kandinksy was my fifth art lecture for Kids Cafe. As I’ve said in this previous post, Kids Cafe is a program that the library does and partners with a local food bank, St. Mary’s and the USDA. It provides a snack or meal to local area kids who might not get one and adding an enrichment activity. The activity doesn’t have to be fancy, just vaguely educational. I have an undergraduate degree in Art History, so I like to do little art/history lectures and then a craft/activity afterwards. It can be quite challenging at times, trying to squeeze an entire artists life or a time period into 20 or less slides, and 10-15 minutes. I enjoy the challenge though. Most of the time I pick an artist based off the activity, or personal interest. Here is my first post on the Color Wheel and Pop Art, the second on Australian Aboriginal Art, the third on Shapes and Henri Matisse, and the fourth on Dale Chihuly.

Kandinsky was another artist I knew next to nothing about, so I was fascinated to know more. I usually don’t like modern art, but there are exceptions. I prefer Kandinsky’s early work before he went all abstract. I had a lot of fun doing the activity, and it was harder than it would seem to not repeat colors and find colors that you wouldn’t normally use with each other.

Kid’s Café: Wassily Kandinsky – Feb 6

  • Introduction: Welcome to Kid’s Café. My name is Miss Rachel and we’re going to learn a little about art. Today we’re going to be talking about painter Wassily Kandinsky (pronounced Va-SEE-lee Kan-din-skee)
  • Today we’re going to learn a little about the artist himself
    • Born in Russia 1866 – died in France 1944
    • Discovered he had the ability of see sounds and hearing colors. According to him, “Color is a power that directly influences the soul…Color is the keyboard…The artist is the hand that plays.”
    • Kandinsky took drawing and music lessons from an early age
    • He became a law professor in Germany and then decided he wanted to be an artist at age 30, after seeing an exhibit on Claude Monet, the French Impressionist painter
      • The Impressionists used color and light to show their subjects rather than painting in fine details.
    • He was also influenced by the Pointillism movment, which use small dots of color to make up the final artwork.
      • Examples of Impressionism and Pointillism
        • Impressionism: Monet – Haystacks at Giverny, in evening sun, 1888
        • Monet - Haystacks at Giverny, the evening sun - 1888
          • Pointillism: Luce – Morning Interior, 1890
          • Maximilien Luce - Morning Interior, 1890
      • Examples of his work during this time period
        • Colorful Life, 1907.
        • Colorful Life, 1907
        • Cemetary and Vicarage in Kochel, 1909
        • Cemetary and Vicarage in Kochel, 1909
      • The Blue Rider, 1903 – was one of the first of his paintings to use emotion to express color rather than going completely from nature
      • The Blue Rider, 1903
      • About 1909 Kandinsky began to think that painting didn’t need a particular subject, but that shapes and colors alone could be art. Over the next several years he would start to paint what would become known as Abstract Art; he became one of the founders of this art movement (aka Abstract Expressionism)
      • Kandinsky felt that he could express feelings and music through line, colors and geometric shapes in his paintings.
        • For example, he thought that yellow had the crisp sound of a brass trumpet and that certain colors placed together could harmonize like chords on a piano.
        • The shapes he was most interested in were the circle, triangle, and the square. He thought the triangle would cause aggressive feelings, the square calm feelings, and the circle spiritual feelings.
        • Example
          • Composition VII, 1913 – Many of his paintings used names as if they were songs or musical works like Composition and Improvisation – this was also so people didn’t read too much into the meaning of the titles. He named the paintings he considered the most accomplished “Composition”. He only named ten of his paintings this way.

Composition VII, 1913

  • Activities: Kandinsky Concentric Circles
    • Supplies: white/black construction paper folded into eighths, crayons/oil pastels – could also use rough cut paper circles in many different colors [I ended up folding a regular piece of white paper into fourths and using crayons to make the circles]
    • We will create our own versions of Kandinsky Concentric Circles – My version below

My Kandinsky Circles