We read When Pigasso Met Mootisse, by Nina Laden, again this year. Each class responds with intense interest and curiosity when I read this story to them. No one is indifferent! But this year, I continued with actual stories about the artists lives. I read, Henri's Scissors, by Jeannette Winter, and Just Behave, Picasso!, by Jonah Winter, and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. These two books were labeled ages eight and up, so I was risking inattention and much silly behavior by reading them to a group of sixteen fours!
I was surprised and happy by their response to each book. The first book is a very true story about Matisse's shift to paper cutouts as his art. The theme included his old age and death. When I got to that part of the story there was a reverent hush among the children. "He died?", was a question. "Yes", I answered. "He was very old...", was one comment. The illustrator shows Matisse cutting out the stars in heaven, and the children accepted this premise.
The Picasso book emphasizes the wide expansiveness of self-expression in art, and how Picasso changed his art as his need to express himself changed. The children were mesmerized by the idea that, even though people said Picasso should "behave", he didn't. One boy said, "Your art is for you! Nobody else can tell you how to do your art". That was the meaning of the book for him. Others were interested in finding the representational meaning of cubist paintings.
The children have begun following their muses, now. Some are drawing with "shapes", their take on cubism. Others are cutting paper and gluing it down. Because we need a school auction project, we will see where this takes us. I have materials at the ready! My take away from this experience is that even preschool children are grabbed by "big ideas". I forget sometimes. Never underestimate their ability to absorb meaning from their reading. Nothing I did during these readings and activities were "cute". They didn't need to be.
Here are a few pictures of preliminary experimentation before the auction project begins...
Cutting shapes for bigger work