4th Grade – Cubist-inspired Portrait and Figure Studies

4th Grade – Cubist-inspired Portrait and Figure Studies

Cubist-inspired Figure & Portrait Studies

Description of the Unit –

Students practiced aspects of traditional figure study, learning to draw facial features, hands and feet. Students then built on their experience to explore the Cubist approach to the figure, and used what they learned about Cubism to create a cubist-inspired portrait or figure collage their earlier drawings.

4th grade “Cubist” portrait collage

Problem/Activity statement –

Students practiced drawing the features of the face, as well as hands and feet, by observing their own, their classmates, and finally, using artistic renderings that broke down each feature into lines and shapes so that they could approach drawing them in the same way. After spending several lessons on this practice, students were introduced to the Cubist movement (referencing cultural and historical contexts while observing several paintings) and observed and discussed in particular the depiction of the body and face in Cubist works. Taking their cue from Cubism, students created a collage using their realistic feature and figure drawings and assembling them into a more Cubist-styled depiction of the figure.

4th grade “Cubist” portrait collage

Goals –

Students should…


  • How to recognize lines and shapes within various facial and bodily features in order to more easily draw them
  • The Cubist perspective vis-à-vis the representation of reality (especially the representation of multiple perspectives in Cubist figure and portraits paintings)


  • How to approach drawing representationally using line and shape

Be able to:

  • Articulate basic ideas and intent behind Cubism
4th grade Cubist figure study collage (student chose to fill in entire background on her own)

Objectives –

Students will:

  • Practice drawing facial features, hands and feet. (The idea is for students to approach each feature as a series of shapes, and they should have at least a half dozen different drawings of eyes, ears, noses, mouths, hands and feet so they may later pick from among these for their Cubist collage)
  • Explore gesture and movement in figure study
  • Explore the impetus of Cubism
  • Create a whimsical figure or portrait collage using their drawings of facial features, hands and feet (mixed media)

Resources and materials –

  • Mirrors
  • Regular paper or colored construction paper for facial features, hands and feet
  • Pencils
  • Large poster board or other large paper, any color
  • Colored markers
  • Chalk pastels
  • Colored pencils
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Optional: step-by-step drawing exemplars for facial features, hands and feet
  • Prepared presentation on Cubism
4th grade “Cubist” portrait collage

Questions –

  • What shapes do you see in an eye (nose, ear, mouth, hand foot)? (Have student(s) demonstrate.)
  • To draw an eye (nose, ear, mouth, hand, foot) what shape would you start with? (Have student(s) demonstrate.)
  • What would happen if you approach drawing each feature upside-down?
  • What would be the last thing you would draw? Why?
  • What for you is the hardest part of a human body to draw ? Why? How could it be easier?
  • What do you notice (when observing certain Cubist examples of portraits an figure studies)?
  • What do you think of (X painting)?
  • How do these paintings make you feel? Why?
  • What do you notice about these paintings of people?
  • How did they depict the human form? Why, what were they trying to communicate?
  • What was the objective of the Cubists?
  • What are the characteristics of a Cubist painting?

Evaluation –

Did students:

Understand the concepts of using line and shape to draw bodily features?

Use their understanding of these concepts to approach their drawings?

Did students use their skills of perception to discuss with clarity what they observed of their drawing process?

Articulate some of the basic ideas that emerged from the Cubist movement and its philosophy?


  • Group discussions
  • Oral responses to essential questions
  • Personal focus and risk-taking
  • One completed Cubist-style figure study
4th grade “Cubist” portrait collage

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