IN THIS POST: Teaching 10 art movements barely scratches the surface of art history, but it’s a good place to start. These resources (and super fun flash-card project) will take you from the Renaissance to Pop Art in as much or little time as you want.
We have done a lot of art projects in our several years of homeschooling (here are some of our earlier projects), but it was time to give them some context. Enter: teaching art movements.
With thousands of years of human creativity under our collective belt, the challenge was narrowing down which movements and artists to include. I had to decide where to start and where to end and it was not easy.
How I Decided Which Western Art Movements to Teach
I realized at the outset that I was going to follow Western Art. I’ve been pulling together art lessons from a global perspective but that will be for another unit of lessons.
I started by looking at our calendar and determining that 10 was probably our ideal number.
I chose the Renaissance movement for the simple reason that several of the artists and their works are already familiar to the girls. We’d start strong and hopefully build momentum. The activities that we used were a hit, and I wrote them up with links here.
For the end I stuck with the Pop Art movement. Since I don’t have a background in art history I felt comfortable teaching the movements to this point but not moving much beyond to more contemporary ideas and innovations. Plus, it was the last movement covered in 13 Art Movements Children Should Know (more on that in a minute).
But even narrowing it down to these movements didn’t get me to my magic 10 number. There are several movements and styles that emerged from the Expressionist movement alone. My Renaissance starting point ignored Romanesque and Gothic styles, let alone any form of ancient art.
All that to say, feel free to choose different movements to include, to look at one time period and expand it globally, or to start earlier or go later.
Here are the 10 Art Movements that I decided to teach:
I knew I needed to rely heavily on other resources. While I was familiar with many of the paintings we discussed, I was not comfortable teaching the broader movements.
I started by consulting 13 Art Movements Children Should Know by Brad Finger. And I continued to reference the book throughout our lessons – it’s a great resource – but I also needed more depth for our lessons. I loved that this book included color photos, a timeline of world events to show the setting of each movement, and
So, I pulled another resource from our library shelves: History of Art for Young People 5th Edition edited by H.W. Janson and Anthony F. Janson. This one is much more in-depth about the various periods of art development and includes information about how the movements were expressed in other fine art capacities (literature, drama, architecture, etc.). I also renewed this one over and over to have on hand as a resource.
Somewhere between the two – one too brief, the other too deep – I pulled articles and videos and such from Pinterest. I’ll include several of those links in the information below.
Teaching 10 Art Movements
I debated how to write this next bit. Covering in-depth how I presented 10 art movements could make this post unbearably long. Instead, I’m going to write a few sentences about what we looked at, and I’ll link to the Pinterest resources that inspired our activities.
Stay tuned at the end for the best activity that we did to keep all these movements straight and review them throughout the weeks.
Let’s get started.
We focused on Michaelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. In my preparation I learned that there are three ways to do frescoes. That information inspired two attempts at painting in plaster. All our resources are on the post 5 Activities for Renaissance Art Instruction. I also found this article helpful when we talked about da Vinci’s The Last Supper.
By far the best resource and explanation that I found for Baroque Art was this video from Khan Academy called How to Recognize Baroque Art. It left an impression particularly because they compare two David sculptures – and we had just finished talking about Michaelangelo’s David. I also found this article about the differences between Baroque and Rococo to be helpful.
Apparently Rococo could be considered the end of the Baroque period, but it was so distinct in both form and content I thought it needed a separate section. It was also interesting to include how the move to more private living arrangements created space for softer colors and playful pieces. Plus, I had a feeling the light and airy mood of Rococo art would be a welcome break from the heavier and more intense Renaissance and Baroque periods.
Mostly we focused on The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. This article includes a few more examples, and I relied on our book resources for the rest of the content.
Neoclassical art was a move back to traditional content and style. This video about The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David encourages students to figure out what they can about the painting while also giving a small bit of analysis. We also talked about The Statue of Liberty as an example of neoclassical art and an example about art as allegory.
The best revelation from this time period was learning about Angelica Kauffman. Any time I can include women in our discussion of art – especially in the earlier movements – I don’t hesitate. And I uncovered a few female artists in my research for teaching these art movements. Stay tuned for others!
After the orderly, rational, and serene values of the Neoclassical movement, Romanticism brought emotion to the forefront. Subjects could be evocative pieces using nature as focal point or passionate, revolutionary paintings. This article gives a good synposis of the key ideas from this movement. And this article lists ten Romantic Painters and an example of their work.
At this point the girls had picked up on the pattern of one movement embracing structure and order and the next movement favoring a more sentimental approach. Where Romanticism called forth human spirit in myriad expressions, realism turned focus to the mundane, daily moments of life.
But the shift from Romanticism to Realism had another significant change. Realism, for the first time, dignified the working class. No longer were church leaders, the aristocracy, and the nobility the only subjects suitable for painting. Rather, realism turned attention to the lower socio-economic realm.
Style changed as well as content. Images in realism were painted in a way to be as realistic as possible. The painters didn’t seek to embellish or turn away from difficult scenes. This article from Art in Context gives a good overview of Realism.
Plus, there is another female painter to call attention to. Rosa Bonheur had quite a successful career and was noted for her use of animals. We observed one of her pieces and remarked on just how realistic it looked – almost photographic. Learn more about Rosa here.
Another familiar movement. Impressionism has so many artists to introduce and consider. I did discuss Monet, Manet, Renoir, and other well-known names. I also looked at the work of two renowned female impressionist painters: Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot. Here’s another link to ten of Morisot’s best works.
We did one activity to go along with learning about Impressionism. Based on Monet’s Lily Pond series, we used painter’s tape to outline a bridge on a plain piece of paper. Then, using fingerpaints we attempted to create a landscape to surround the bridge.
The full instructions and details are here. Yes, I realize this activity was originally geared toward younger children but we had a great time making our wanna-be masterpieces.
Our efforts were pretty good, I think.
Plus, finger-painting is fun regardless of your age. Still, I was very grateful for the easy-clean-fingerpaints that Crayola makes!
Even though Realism is considered the first movement in modern art, the distinctiveness of all the movements that fall under Expressionism is an unmistakable separation from traditional content and style.
There are several movements that could fit under the Expressionist movement. I opted to introduce my girls to Cubism and Surrealism.
For cubism we looked at artists Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. For this lesson we looked at various examples and the girls identified the forms that were suggested through the cubist approach. It wasn’t their favorite lesson, but it was good exposure.
For a quick activity, I used the coloring page found here. The girls colored while I talked. Though it wasn’t the most innovative of activities we had some conversations about how to color sections and whether to break them into further smaller sections.
Okay, so my kids weren’t surrealists either. Still, when we thought about these works a bit like dreams it made more sense. Surrealists aimed to reflect how people think without the intrusion of reason, moral oversight, or sentiment — just thought. Salvador Dalí is the most recognized painter and we looked at The Persistence of Memory and his Elephants.
We also talked about Frida Kahlo. She did not necessarily identify as a Surrealist, but often she is included in their mix. Two examples of her work that we looked at are: Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird and Roots.
This was our last official movement. Pop Art was at the forefront of the artistic world in the 1950s-1980s (and onward to some extent). Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein are two familiar contributors. Warhol is known for making multiple images of the same commercial item (soup cans and coca-cola bottles, for example) and for images of celebrities in vivid colors. Roy Lichtenstein is familiar for his comic-book-esque art using a dot technique and primary colors.
It was not only the subjects that made Pop Art different; it was also the use of more commercial process for creating the pieces.
Conveniently, our lesson for Pop Art came right before Valentine’s Day and we were able to create some memorable Pop-Art-ish Valentines in Lichtenstein style. The Free Download and idea are at HappyStrongHome.
Retention & Review Activity
Maybe you noticed that we didn’t do a separate activity for every movement that we covered. Some of that was related to time, but mostly it was because we were working on a project concurrently.
It occurred to me early in the planning process that retaining even a small portion of all this information was going to be a challenge. When I teach units I don’t expect my girls to remember every detail, but I do want them to develop a familiarity that they can nurture and develop as they engage with other information. Learning about art movements was no different.
Enter: DIY Art Movement Flashcards.
This was so much fun. It counts as my one good idea per homeschool year (I assume that’s about my average).
I designed a template of a page with four quadrants outlined by four frames. Then, for each art movement I made a “back” for the flash card.
The back of the flash card for each movement has the title and artist names of a few examples from the movement. Also, there are a few notes at the bottom to remind students of key ideas or motivations behind the movement.
So that’s the product.
How to Use DIY Art Movement Flashcards
Then, each girl (and myself) picked one object. I picked trees. My oldest daughter picked hearts. My youngest daughter picked cats.
As we went through each movement they drew/designed the front of the corresponding flash card using their object as the focal point.
The different directions that the project took surprised me. And the surprise led right into a good conversation. “How does that represent (insert movement name)?” The description revealed a lot about what they remembered and understood. The cards they created reminded them of key details or ideas about each movement.
Sometimes, for mine in particular, I would re-create a famous painting to help me remember. With a tree standing in where a person had been in the original. My other approach was to draw a tree that included some elements of the movement to help me remember what it was known for.
So each day that we worked on the flash cards we were having conversations about the various movements, what we remembered, and what art pieces were examples.
Review! Review! Review!
(And it paid off on a field trip when one of the girls remarked on a sculpture and another noticed a painting and were able to make a meaningful guess as to what movement it represented).
FREE Download & Instructions
And now to set you up for success in teaching art movements to your students – or even just helping them review!
Click HERE to download the DIY Flashcards to use in your learning environment. These flash cards cover Renaissance to Pop Art and include examples and traits listed on the back of each movement.
The instructions are simple.
I used cardstock paper. My printer doesn’t like double-sided printing with cardstock so I loaded each page one-by-one using the directions below.
- Print the first page of the flashcards (the page with the blank frames)
- Put it back in your printer so that the other side can be printed
- Select the page of movements (page 2, 3, or 4)that you want to print on the other side
- Repeat steps 1-4 for the other 2 pages with movement details on them
If you have a “print 2 sides” or “double-sided” printing, then you should choose the first page and the second page. Next, the first page and the third page. Finally, the first page and the fourth page.
2 pages will have 4 different movements on them.
1 page will have double the last 2 movements.
Cut out the flashcards on the edges of the frames.
If you are okay to keep the flashcards stacked (i.e. you don’t want to put a hole in them to tie together), then you’re good to go after you cut them out!
If you want to put a ring in the top of the flashcards to keep them together or to add a ribbon, then line up a hole puncher in the top left corner. You may have to punch holes one-by-one. Line up each one with the hole-y card just before it.
Feel free to use any medium available to you.
I printed ours on cardstock so that the girls could use markers. One daughter did and the other daughter used colored pencils. Whatever is most comfortable for your students.
Congratulations — you’ve made it to the end of teaching art movements! Hopefully this gives you enough to launch your own lessons and creativity.
I would love to see pictures of your flashcards anytime! Load them in the comments or tag me in your Instagram post (@rebeccarvincent).
Ready! Set! Create!