Saturday, February 6, 2010

Henri Matisse Meets Alexander Calder

My Mini Modern Artists have been through Impressionism, Cubism and Klee inspired Abstract-Primitivism. With only 3 more weeks to go in this art session, I have really agonized about which art movements and/or artists to visit in this highly edited journey through Modern Art with my 2nd and 3rd graders. I had initially intended to do a Matisse cut-out project based on his piece, "The Beasts of The Sea." But I was also playing around with an Alexander Calder mobile idea. I decided to combine the two in what I think is a really fun project.
First I went over a brief background of each artist. We discussed Matisse as one of the original founders of the Fauvist art movement. Years later an illness prevented him from standing at a canvas to paint. He then created his "painting with scissors" cut-outs while bed ridden or in a wheel chair. It is perhaps these collages created in the last years of his life, for which he is most widely recognized.
Next we discussed American artist Alexander Calder, "the sculptor who made sculpture move." Calder, with a degree in mechanical engineering, is widely considered to be the inventor of the mobile. After creating a number of toys with articulation in Paris, he went on to have his first show of this new art form. His friend, artist Marcel Duchamp was the first to dub these kinetic sculptures with the French term, "mobile." In addition to mobile and stabile scultptures, Calder created paintings, lithographs, jewelry and tapestry.
To create our mobiles with Matisee inspired cut-outs, the children first layed out pre-cut cardstock shapes(found in the scrapbooking section of craft stores) into their hanging layout design. Next we punched holes where these shapes would be connected using a standard hole puncher.With lots of examples of Matisse's wonderful cut-out work, the children cut out organic and geometric shapes to glue onto their base shapes. I reminded them to think about the play of color and shape combinations. Since this is a hanging mobile, thought must be given to both sides. Colored paper clips are then threaded through the holes joining the shapes in a hanging mobile composition. Lastly, I threaded a thin piece of wire through the top paper clip to act as their hook.
The children had a lot of fun doing this project and each mobile came out completely unique.


  1. I love combining the two artists! Very fun!

  2. These are so beautiful - I love this unit! The combo is a great idea - then the artwork comes out more unique and original to each child. I want to try this with my students!


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