Magazine article School Arts

Art History for the Holidays

Magazine article School Arts

Art History for the Holidays

Article excerpt

Might Picasso have painted Mrs. Claus in a Cubist portrait or in his classic style? What would a Christmas tree designed by Jackson Pollack look like? Henry Moore's tree would surely have had negative spaces. Van Gogh's Starry Night could light up a holiday tree better than any commercial string of bulbs. Balla's menorah would radiate and glow like his street lamp. I can see Chagall's Santa dancing through the sky with a fiddle, while Grant Wood's Christmas couple would be very serious. Would Claes Oldenburg soft sculpture a wrapped gift or a Salvation Army kettle? Georgia O'Keeffe could have forced us to take a fresh look at the poinsettia. Such wild musings became classroom conversation and resulted in a most successful art project.

I was inspired by a student's comment after a slide presentation. In preparation for the holidays we discussed paintings by Giotto, Botticelli, Rubens, and other Renaissance and Baroque masters. Subjects were of a traditional nature: the Annunciation, nativity scenes, Madonna and Christ Child paintings and other sacred images. One student asked, "Don't modern artist do Christmas?" Later, while I pondered this question, I realized that I couldn't locate many examples of such subjects by contemporary painters.

The next morning I explained the class' assignment. "Search through your text, but, only consider artists beginning with the French Impressionists to the present. Study the style of an artist that interests you. …

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