Fun & Recreation in Art

By Carroll, Colleen | Arts & Activities, September 2009 | Go to article overview

Fun & Recreation in Art


Carroll, Colleen, Arts & Activities


Ask young people why they love art class and many will emphatically reply, "It's fun!" With that in mind, we introduce this year's Clip & Save Art Print theme: "Fun & Recreation in Art." Students will see that, since ancient times, artists have explored the human need to play.

Indeed, the selections for this year's theme reach back as far as ancient Egypt, with a facsimile image of a tomb painting depicting Queen Nefertari playing the game of draughts (known as "checkers" in the USA). Students will marvel at the unusual way in which the queen is playing this game akin to chess: without an opponent!

This image will offer excellent pathways into discussions about the ancient Egyptians' belief in an after-life, and would be a perfect opportunity to partner with the general education teachers or social studies teachers to liven up a unit on ancient Egypt or ancient cultures.

Moving forward to medieval Europe, students will be fascinated by Children's Games (1560), by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Unlike most medieval paintings, this work looks modern by comparison in both composition and subject matter, which falls squarely into the category of genre painting--images of people at work or play depicted in a realistic manner.

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Web site (www.metmuseum.org), 'The foundations of genre painting in Europe were laid most remarkably by the great Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca. 1525/30-1569) in the 16th century. Bruegel's inhabited landscapes and scenes of peasant life are lively and unsentimental depictions of common occurrences, such as weddings and village fairs."

Students will want to spend hours lingering over the reproduction of Bruegel's painting, identifying the many games represented by the artist and discovering those that are still being played by children to this day.

Late 19th-century Japanese printmakers working in the Ukiyo-e style also created many images of people at play, relaxing, participating in leisure activities and generally enjoying the pleasures of life. Among the Art Prints this year will be one of these images, by the Japanese master Kobayashi Eitaku (1843-1890), depicting children building a snowman, a favorite activity of people in snowy climates throughout the world.

The French Impressionists, particularly Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir, created many paintings of people enjoying the outdoors. Scenes set in parks, gardens and beaches were favorite and oft-painted subjects of these French artists, and still charm people to this day.

American painter, Thomas Eakins, enjoyed depicting people at play or engaged in sporting events, such as The Biglin Brothers Racing (1872), in which the brothers are shown competing in a regatta. …

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