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Abstract art as a visual metaphor for modern music is the hypothesis explored here


Art, Language Arts, Music  


K, 1, 2, 3, 4  

Title – Abstract Art as a Visual Metaphor for Music
By – Andrea Harrison
Primary Subject – Art
Secondary Subjects – Music, Language Arts
Grade Level – K-4


    To explore the confluence of visual art and music; to show that one can inspire the development of the other. To introduce young children to the abstract work of Picasso, Kandinsky, and the abstract expressionists as well as to the musical work of Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and the great American jazz legends.


  • Watercolor Paper
  • Pencils
  • Paint brushes
  • Watercolor paints and or paint sticks
  • Containers for water
  • Paper towels
  • Art history visuals — no matter the form
  • Assorted music CDs, not limited to, but including work by Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Charlie Parker, etc.


      After an introduction to the abstract still life paintings of Picasso, students will be asked to consider how artists break the visual world down into simple shapes. They will be asked to analyze Picasso’s images of musical instruments and other objects. Next, they will be asked to look at the work of Kandinsky. They will see how Kandinsky’s work evolved from recognizable image to pure abstraction. They will learn of Kandinsky’s correspondence with the composer Arnold Schoenberg. They will begin to recognize the influence of music on Kandinsky’s imagery.
      Next, students will explore the work of the American abstract expressionists. They will be introduced to the works of Clifford Still, Franz Kline. Jackson Pollack, etc. They will hypothesize on how the music of the time may have influenced these modernist pieces.
      Students will be asked to listen to one piece of music. Interesting selections could be Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”, Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”, Ravel’s “Bolero”, or an equally powerful piece. Jazz music could also be selected.
      Students will then be asked to use watercolor on paper – smaller size is suggested – to create a pure abstraction that is a visual response to the music that has been played. The instructor should make sure that the students address the entire picture plane. The teacher should also ask the students to make sure that the entire paper is covered in color. This lesson provides a perfect opportunity for teachers to review basic watercolor technique.


E-Mail Andrea Harrison !

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