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Picasso ... In 3-D.

Over the years, Picasso has been a familiar figure in my high school arts curriculum. The topics of Cubism and Picasso's Blue and Rose periods initiated lively discussions in my studio art, drawing, and painting classes. The creative results have been quite successful in the past, but also very two-dimensional ... until now.

In the spring of 1999, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City featured an exhibit titled Picasso--Painter and Sculptor in Clay. This wonderful exhibit not only demonstrated Picasso's humorous and playful side, but it did so in a medium not typically associated with the artist. A field trip to the museum proved to be a perfect introduction for my ceramic students into the three-dimensional world of Pablo Picasso.

A fact not known to my students at the time was that Picasso didn't wheel throw his own pottery. Rather, he would render drawings that clearly showed his intent and create sculpture from previously thrown ceramic parts. Later, once the professionally made pieces were thrown and leather-hard, Picasso would cut, assemble, alter, and glaze them. The results were ceramic ware that combined the process of drawing, sculpture, and painting all in one.

The Assignment

Students create their own ceramic sculptures based on the work and processes demonstrated by Picasso.

The Procedure

Before visiting the museum, classroom discussion focused on Picasso--his life, his artistic styles, the part he played in history and in art history, and the media he used. Copies of the New York Times art review were distributed and read out loud in class. Picasso's hand-building technique, as well as the assistance he received from a professional potter, were also discussed.

Once at the exhibit, students were given drawing paper and pencils to use to sketch images that they found particularly interesting. By sketching these images, the concepts of form, function, and "art for arts sake" were reinforced visually for the students. Once back in the classroom, students used their sketches as inspiration to come up with their own Picasso-inspired sculpture. In keeping with the theme of the exhibit, students were required to include at least one animal or human image in their sculpture. Since this was a final exam project, students had approximately ten to twelve forty-two-minute periods to complete the assignment.

Each student in this foundation ceramics class had had a brief introduction to the potter's wheel. However, two students who were particularly interested in the wheel had gone on for further study. Because of their proficiency on the wheel, these two students were asked to be the professional potters for the class. (This assignment could also be realized by using a combination of hand-buildingtechniques; however, it may take longer.) Once the rest of the class completed their original sketches, they put in their order of parts to the two students working on the wheel. Using buff and warm brown stoneware clays and working collaboratively with the students throwing on the wheel, the rest of the class altered their array of wheel-thrown segments. Students' use of both the additive and subtractive methods helped them to create whimsical plates, wall hangings, and free-standing sculptures. Underglazes and the sgraffito technique of decorative design were then added to their leather-hard sculptures.

Once bisque fired, students added any additional glazing designs to their sculpture. A coat of clear transparent glaze was applied using a spray gun and a compressor, and the work was low fired to cone 06.


Utilizing museums and cultural institutions that are afforded to us is essential in offering students a comprehensive arts curriculum. There's nothing like seeing a piece of artwork in person, especially after being introduced to it in book or slide form! The Picasso exhibit not only provided inspiration for a final-exam project, but was a lesson in art history, cooperative learning, and art appreciation.


Students analyze relationships of works of art to one another in terms of history, aesthetics, and culture, justifying conclusions made in the analysis and using such conclusions to inform their own art making.

Claudia Papazian is an art educator at Westlake High School in Thornwood, New York.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:ceramic sculptures
Author:Papazian, Claudia
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Apr 1, 2001
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