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Art Appreciation for 3rd Grade: Circles

Art Appreciation for 3rd Graders •

Art History 3rd Grade -

This is so cool! We’re exploring composition in these paintings, with ‘circles’ being the main idea. Kids will become aware of a technique that artists use to keep your eye moving around the canvas.

Introduction (for the presenter): 

All artists use color, shape, and line in their work; these are called the elements of art. In kindergarten, first, and second grades we have asked the children to identify the colors, shapes, and lines that they see.

In this program they will come to understand that an artist can choose to arrange the work as a whole around a circle. Rather than just identifying shapes, we will be looking for the underlying design or plan in the work. The way an artist arranges the lines, colors, and shapes is called the composition. In this program, the design or plan is based on a circle.

A HolidayA Holiday, Edward Potthast, 1915, Art Institute of Chicago

Questions to Ask the Children:

  • Where is all the action on A Holiday?
  • What is the most interesting part of the painting?
  • Do your eyes stay in one place or so they move around the painting? Why?
  • Do you go to the beach in clothes like these?
  • Look at the people in the background. How are they dressed?
  • When do you think this was painted? Why?
  • What kind of weather is it?
  • Where are we, the viewer?
  • Are they aware their picture was being painted?

Background Information (for the presenter):

The children in this painting are arranged in a circular pattern on the canvas.

Each of the children is looking onto the group of children or into the painting. Their eyes direct our eyes around the painting. Notice how the boy on the right is running towards the group of children. These two children keep our eyes from leaving the painting; they keep us looking around the picture.

Edward Henry Potthast (1857-1927) was an American artist who is best known for his beach scenes. He painted with loose brush strokes and tried to capture the light and mood of a scene rather than every little detail.

circus fernando

In Circus Fernando: Ringmaster, Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, 1888, Art Institute of Chicago

Questions to ask the children:

  • Do you see mostly curved or straight lines?
  • Are there any straight lines?
  • Where is all the action taking place? Why?
  • Who is the rider looking at?
  • Is the ringmaster in control of the action? Why?
  • Do you think the horse is moving fast?
  • Is there an audience? Is there any movement in the audience?
  • Where do you think the artists is?
  • What would happen next?

Background Information (for the presenter):

This painting contains a lot of excitement and tension. Toulouse-Lautrec has achieved this through his composition. We look first to the horse and rider then around to the ringmaster. The ringmaster’s whip leads us right back to the horse and rider. The artist has used al the curved lines to direct our eyes around the picture.

All the action is contained by the ring. Compare the stillness of the spectators to the activity inside the ring: the movement of the horse; the rider looks like she is about to change positions; the ringmaster’s coattails make him look like he’s moving; the clown is jumping, the curve of the whip; the eye contact between the rider and ringmaster.

This painting is at the Art Institute of Chicago. Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) was a French artist. Because of a bone disease, Lautrec was stunted in growth and had a deformed appearance. He is famous for painting posters and carnivals and the nightlife of Paris.

Toulouse-Lautrec had a love for horses. His father had many horses and was an excellent rider. Lautrec was from a wealthy family. He chose to be an artist; his family was not happy with his choice and didn’t want to associate with him because of it.

lion hunt delacroix

Lion Hunt, Eugene Delacroix, 1861, AIC

Questions to ask the children:

  • Where does all the action in this picture take place?
  • How does the background add to the action?
  • Why do we feel so much action in the Lion Hunt?
  • What kind of animals do you see?
  • What sort of clothing are the people wearing?
  • Does this look like something you’ve seen before?
  • Where would you hunt lions?
  • Does this look like something that took place last week or a long time ago?

Background Information (for the presenter):

Eugene Delacroix was an artist/reporter for the French government. He painted Lion Hunt after seeing hunters looking for lions in northern Africa. After his travels in northern Africa, Delacroix was fascinated by lions and often went to the zoo to study the lions in depth.

In this painting, the artist has arranged the hunters, horses and lions in a circular  pattern. Start with any man or animal and notice how each figure is linked to the next to form a circle. Our eye looks from one figure to another in a circular manner.

This painting contains a lot of action: the racing clouds, the rough ground, the snarling lions, the charging horses, the powerful hunters, etc. The circular pattern keeps our eye moving constantly around the painting. It helps us to actually feel the movement that Delacroix has painted. Artists often use circular lines or circular compositions to show and contain the action.

Prefer a Powerpoint presentation? Here it is: 3-Circles

Here are the rest of the K-5Art History for Kids presentations. I will update them weekly, so check back every Friday!

Written by Joanne Gonzales

Joanne Gonzales has a passion for getting creative. Whether she is making personalized DIY gifts or taking part in larger arts and crafts projects, she puts her all into making new and beautiful things.

She lives with a group of close friends and believes in the natural way of life. Joanne has built an outdoor arts and crafts gallery that overlooks the countryside in her hometown, which is where all of her creations come to life.

Art started off as a hobby, but over time Joanne has mastered her skills and sold some of her favorite pieces. She works full time as a florist and has done for many years. It helps keep her creative juices flowing and she hopes to one day open her own florist shop with a twist.


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