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: Pablo Picasso

I feel kind of glazed over today as I’m fighting a cold (yes you can get them in the summer, even in the desert apparently) and it’s been a rather long day. Aside from that, I have managed to get a fair amount of work done so far this week since Sunday, so I am pleased with that.

This Kids Cafe was pretty cool because I only knew the basics about Picasso, so I got to learn a lot as well. He does have the longest name of any historical figure (that I’m aware of at least). I knew he was the father, so to speak, of Cubism, but I didn’t really know anything about his other art periods. I also had no idea that he even did sculpture, collages or etchings. He had an amazingly large body of work. The kids had an interesting time with the Picasso-style portaits, and I did have a few takers for the Cubist guitars as well.

KC Pablo Picasso – March 27


Self-Portait, 1901

  • “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. ” Pablo Picasso
  • Biography
    • Born Oct 1881 in Spain
    • He was named after various saints and relatives: Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso.
    • When he was 7 yrs old, his father (who was also a painter) gave him training in figure drawing and oil painting
  • First Major Paintings
  • Le Picador, 1889
    • 1st painting at 9 yrs, Le Picador 1889 – a man riding a horse in a bullfight
    • First Communion, 1895
    • 1st major “academic” work was First Communion, 1895 which featured his father, mother and younger sister kneeling before an altar – he was 15 yr old when he finished it
  • Background Info
    • At age 13, Pablo studied art in Madrid and then went to Paris when he was 19. In 1900 Paris was considered the art capital of Europe.
    • Paris Opera House circa 1900
    • In 1905, American art collectors Leo and Gertrude Stein began to collect his work and helped to make him famous. It was through them that he met fellow artist Henri Matisse and the two became lifelong friends.

      Aside from paintings, Picasso also created ceramic and bronze sculptures, drawings, etchings and poetry. He was also famous for doing collages (gluing previously unrelated things together with images), like his friend Matisse.

    • His work is divided into 4 major periods
  • The Blue Period (1901-04)
    • These were sad paintings done in blue and green colors
    •  Old Guitarist, 1903
      • The Old Guitarist, 1903
    • The Rose Period (1905-1907)
      • These were happier and done in orange, red, oranges and beiges
      • Les Baladins (Mother and Child, Acrobats) 1904-05
        • Les Baladins (Mother and Child, Acrobats), 1904-05
      • The African-Influence Period (1908-1909)
        • African artworks were being brought back to Paris museums after the French Empire established colonies in Africa
        • Picasso liked the expressive style of the African masks and sculpture
        • Head of a Woman, 1907
          • Head of a Woman, 1907 and Dan Mask
        • The Cubism Period (1909-1921)
          • He is famous for being the co-founder (with Georges Braque) of Cubism, a style of painting where the subjects are broken up and re-painted in an abstract form
          • Three Musician, 1921
            • Three Musicians, 1921
        • Other Famous Works
        • Girl Before a Mirror, 1932
          • Girl Before a Mirror, 1932
          • Guernica, 1937
            • Guernica is one of Picasso’s most well-known works and was created in response and in protest to the 1937 bombing of the Basque village of Guernica in Northern Spain during the Spanish Civil War. The large, 25.6 ft wide and 11 ft tall mural emphasizes the horrors of war and the suffering inflicted on innocent civilians.
            • Guernica, 1937
            • scale of Guernica
              • Guernica and Scale of Guernica pic for comparison
          • Dove of Peace, 1949
          • Dove of Peace, 1949

Activity: either Picasso Portraits ( or Guitars (

Below are my examples of both the Guitar and Picasso portrait. I liked the guitar better. I had some examples of Cubist facial features (found somewhere online, can’t remember exact source) as well laminated to help the kids decide what to use for the portraits, featured below my examples:

Picasso Guitar example         Picasso Portrait example


Picasso Portrait details