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Vegetatin' portraits.

After making it through a sequence of skill-based assignments, it's time for the art teacher to present lessons that really challenge, excite and explore new areas of learning and creating.

Guiseppe Arcimboldo was a sixteenth-century Austrian court painter who created portraits with non-human forms, such as vegetables. In 1580, he painted The Gardener, the painting that I first chose to show my fourth grade students. We talked about what the students saw, why the artist may have chosen these particular materials, and finally, we speculated on the title of the painting. All answers were welcomed. Many students came up with Farmer," Grower," and finally, "Gardener." They also requested to see the slide upside down, and were amazed that it looked quite normal that way. We then looked at a reproduction of The Gardener and also Arcimboldo's Summer.

I divided the class into six groups of four students, and gave each group a set of identical vegetables: carrots with tops, scallions, radishes, green beans and small cucumbers. The students arranged their vegetables on black oaktag, and experimented with various arrangements till they found the one they liked the best. After about fifteen or twenty minutes of work, their portraits were complete. I photographed all of it, and part of the following week's lesson was to look at slides of the gallery of vegetable portraits. No two portraits were the same.

It was a day of learning and involvement with a new artist and artwork; it was a day of discovering that art can be created out of almost any material. The students were motivated and enthused, and their results show it.
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Author:Wood, Joan E.
Publication:School Arts
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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