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PICASSO'S GUERNICA: Mind & Motivation of the Artist
GRADE LEVEL: 9-12

TIME ALLOTMENT: Two to three 45 minute class periods

OVERVIEW:

The PBS series SIMON SCHAMA'S THE POWER OF ART analyzes Picasso's Guernica as a rare political piece in the body of Picasso's work. The purpose of this lesson is to evaluate Picasso's move into the political realm and the historical event that prompted this move. The teacher will compare historical events and images from 1937 to current events. By eliciting the images of September 11 and comparing them to the imagery and events of Guernica students will emotionally connect to the past and be given an insight into the mind and motivation of the artist.

This lesson requires that students have studied the work of Picasso exempting Guernica. Before using this lesson in a classroom, students should understand the evolution of Picasso's many periods in the context of history and art. They should NOT have studied Guernica.

As a culminating activity, students will study the work of Picasso and his transition from apolitical to political artist. Students will analyze the painting for imagery, line, composition, color, shape, mood and subject.

SUBJECT MATTER:

Art History/English/World History

LEARNING OBJECTIVES:

Students will be able to:
  • analyze a painting and evaluate the role of imagery, line, composition, color, shape, mood, art history and subject;
  • discuss the element of time, events and interpretation;
  • identify similarities between events of the past and the present;
  • discuss the changing language of art and the role of politics in art;
  • and understand the role of the artist in society.
STANDARDS:

Advanced Placement Art History Curriculum Tie-Ins
Course Description available online at:
http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/courses/teachers_corner/2177.html

Visual Art National Standards
National Standards: The National Arts and Education Network, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/teach/standards.cfm

Standard: 3:
Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas

Standard: 4:
Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures

Standard: 6:
Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines

MEDIA COMPONENTS

Video:
  • SIMON SCHAMA'S THE POWER OF ART: PICASSO

Web Sites:
MATERIALS

For the class:
  • Computer monitor or computer connection to television/projector for clip viewing
For each student:
For the teacher: PREP FOR TEACHERS

Prior to teaching this lesson, you will need to:

Bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom, or upload all links to an online book marking utility such as www.portaportal.com.

Preview all of the video clips and Web sites used in the lesson to be certain that they are appropriate for your students, currently available, and accessible from your classroom.

Download the video clips used in this lesson onto your hard drive, or prepare to stream the clips from your classroom. QuickTime is needed to view the video clips. If your classroom computer does not have it, download QuickTime for free at www.quicktime.com.

Prepare your projector and/or TV with internet connection (if available) to stream the video segment from SIMON SCHAMA'S THE POWER OF ART for your class

Copy the student organizers for individual and group use.

Download and copy the New York Times article "The Art of Aftermath, Distilled in Memory; Work Inspired by Sept. 11 May Take Time," Mel Gussow, Published: November 14, 2001. This can be downloaded at: http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F70A14FA3A5C0C778DDDA80994D9404482

When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements.

INTRODUCTORY ACTIVITY

Objective:

  1. Before beginning this activity ask students what they remember about September 11, 2001. What happened? Who was involved? As a class have a brief introductory discussion.

  2. Distribute Student Organizer #1 to the class.

  3. Have students write in STUDENT ORGANIZER #1 their memories of September 11, 2001. Ask them to write visual memories they experienced personally or through the media. Ask them to use visual vocabulary words such as "shape," "form", "line", and "color" to describe their imagery.

  4. Break students into small groups of 2 or 3.

  5. Ask students to discuss their answers in their small groups. Remind the students to use their STUDENT ORGANIZERS to guide their discussions and to be sure they talk about which listed vocabulary words reminded them of images from September 11 and why.

LEARNING ACTIVITY #1

  1. Distribute Student Organizer #2 to the class.

  2. Explain to the students that you are going to take them back seventy years to the time before WWII.

  3. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to watch the video segment and determine what the similarities are between September 11 and Guernica? Ask the students to list their observations in Student Organizer #2.

  4. Play the segment from SIMON SCHAMA'S THE POWER OF ART: PICASSO. This segment describes the historical events of Guernica.

  5. Immediately after viewing, have the students share their responses with the class. The teacher should write their responses on the black/white/smart board.

    Some of the similarities students should notice are:

    • Two unsuspecting civilian populations.
    • A beautiful day in which people were going about their daily lives
    • The disbelief, shock and surprise of both civilizations.
    • The unprecedented nature of both violent attacks

    For teacher's reference; general information about Guernica from SIMON SCHAMA'S POWER OF ART: PICASSO.

    • Guernica is a small town fifteen miles from Balboa in the North of Spain.
    • Guernica is the ancestral homeland of the Basques. The Basques are a group of people with their own language, culture and identity.
    • The Basques people were anti-Franco.
    • Guernica was in the middle of a civil war.
    • Over five thousand bombs were dropped by German and Italian aircraft flying in formation over Guernica.
    • Along with the dropping of bombs, pilots shot at the Basques people with machine guns.
    • This event destroyed the town of Guernica - it was literally leveled to the ground.
    • Guernica was not a military target, this attack was used as a message to send Spain and the rest of the world that "this is what we can do and this is what we will do."
LEARNING ACTIVITY #2

  1. Briefly review with the students the non-political nature of Picasso's pre- Guernica subjects. Ask the students; what was the subject or focus of Picasso's work before his creation of Guernica?

    Possible student answers include:

    • the female
    • the still life
    • the self portrait
    • art history
    • aesthetics

  2. Remind students that the historical event of Guernica compelled Picasso to create a highly charged political piece for the Spanish Pavilion at the 1937 World's Fair in Paris.

  3. Distribute Student Organizer #3 to the class.

  4. Project the image of Guernica on a screen for the class found at http://www.westpointgradsagainstthewar.org/images/guernica.jpg.

  5. Lead a class discussion that delves into the nature of the following aspects of Guernica. Ask students to track their answers to the following questions in their organizer during the discussion.

    What is your first impression of this painting? How is this created?

    Possible student answers include:

    • discomfort
    • chaos
    • organic, biomorphic shapes
    • jagged and curved lines
    • black and white
    • expression
    • dismembered bodies

    What imagery do you see? Why did Picasso use this?

    Possible student answers include:

    • Woman and child/Mary and Jesus
    • Bull/Ancient symbol of male fertility and bull fighting
    • Candle and light bulb/ illusion to God as well as the modern and ancient world

    How has Picasso interpreted the events of Guernica?

    Possible student answers include:

    • Timeless - many of the images and emotions seen in the painting can easily be associated to an event in the past or present.
    • Sacrificial - the painting shows people and animals dying and being killed. The images are used as a statement to show that people were "sacrificed" for a political message.
    • Cyclic - images, lines, shapes and forms are repeated throughout the work to help convey the level of destruction and death that occurred at Guernica.

  6. At this point the teacher must point out to the students that, even after Guernica, Picasso did not address political subjects - it took this one cataclysmic event to draw someone who was basically not very political into this realm. This was the only time Picasso focused a political subject.

LEARNING ACTIVITY #3

  1. Have students assemble back into their small groups of 2 or 3 students.

  2. Instruct students to research Guernica further at: http://www.pbs.org/treasuresoftheworld/a_nav/guernica_nav/main_guerfrm.html

  3. Before the students view the Web site, provide them with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them "what other meanings can you find in three other areas of the painting?" Students should find and record the meaning of three more aspects of the painting.

    Possible student answers based on the article may include:

    • "Guernica challenges our notions of warfare as heroic and exposes it as a brutal act of self-destruction."
    • "to raise consciousness about the threat of fascism."
    • "any symbol can hold many, often contradictory meanings"

  4. Ask each group to report their findings to the class. As the students are reporting their findings make sure to discuss Picasso's choices in the face of such a tragedy mentioned in the article. Excerpts from the above article are posted below for your reference.

    • "Hoping for a bold visual protest to Franco's treachery from Spain's most eminent artist, colleagues and representatives of the democratic government have come to Picasso's home in Paris to ask him to paint the mural. Though his sympathies clearly lie with the new Republic, Picasso generally avoids politics - and disdains overtly political art." He painted the mural anyway.

    • He could have made the symbolism in Guernica obvious but instead he chose to use symbolism that was ambiguous and could be interpreted differently by each viewer." Picasso remarked, "It isn't up to the painter to define the symbols. Otherwise it would be better if he wrote them out in so many words! The public who look at the picture must interpret the symbols as they understand them."

CULMINATING ACTIVITY

  1. Distribute copies of the article, "The Art of Aftermath, Distilled in Memory; Work Inspired by Sept. 11 May Take Time" by Mel Gussow. Have students silently read the article.

  2. Ask students to imagine what kind of art may have been created in reaction to this event. Record their answers on the board.

  3. When students are done show them the art work "The Cycle of Terror and Tragedy: September 11, 2001," by Graydon Parrish. Discuss Parrish's reaction to September 11, 2001. This can be found at: http://www.newcriterion.com/weblog/uploaded_images/parrish-707457.jpg

  4. Discuss this piece with the students. Answer the following questions.

    • What is your first impression of this painting? How is this created?

      Possible student answers include:

      • Discomfort (can be seen with the blindfold, facial expressions and body distortion.)
      • Chaos (movement, smoke, buildings collapsing)
      • Organic, biomorphic shapes (billowing clouds, flowers, rounded
      • Blindfold (loss of a sense, don't understand or know what is happening.)
      • Grey (dark, sense of doom)
      • Expression (screaming, pain)
      • Cowering figures (submission, fear)

    • What imagery do you see? Why did Parish use this?

      Possible student answers include:

      • Woman and children
      • Two men
      • Triangle

    • How has Parrish interpreted the events of September 11 and do you see a similarity to Guernica? Possible student answers include:

      • Timeless - many of the images and emotions seen in the painting can easily be associated to an event in the past or present.
      • Sacrificial - the painting shows people dying and being killed. The image of the two blindfolded men makes the viewer feel that they are going to be killed as a statement. It has a religious feeling.
      • Cyclic - images, lines, shapes and forms are repeated throughout the work to help convey the immense level of destruction and death.

  5. Distribute Student Organizer #4 to the class.

  6. Ask students to imagine what kind of art they would or could create in reaction to September 11. Have students complete Student Organizer #4.

  7. Have a class discussion based on their responses.

    Possible discussion questions could include:

    • What type of material or medium would you use to create your piece?
    • How large a work would you create?
    • What colors would you use?
    • Would you include sound or written word in your work?
COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS

Have students interview their family members about their memories of September 11 and what they think would be appropriate responses to the events of September 11 in the art community.

Have students visit area memorials to September 11.

CROSS CURRICULAR EXTENSIONS

  • ENGLISH/WRITING: Students can write journal entries, art reviews, or research papers using the lens of the political. They could be asked to view art from a political or propagandistic viewpoint and discuss its effectiveness.

  • HISTORY: Students can be taught the history of WWII and Spain using this lesson, by researching more about the political conflict that was occurring before, during, and after Picasso's creation of Guernica.


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