4th Grade – Intro to Orphism with Sonia and Robert Delaunay

4th Grade – Intro to Orphism with Sonia and Robert Delaunay

Description of the Unit – Students will discover Orphism through the work of Sonia and Robert Delaunay, creating their own Orphism-style design, focusing specifically on the dynamics of color.

Activity statement – Artists Sonia & Robert Delaunay pioneered a form of abstract expressionism, Orphism, that invited the viewer to be drawn in and affected by the intensity and relationship of color—daring you to feel as moved by an abstract work of art as you would feel by a representational one (in which the subject itself affected you). This worked by very deliberately playing with the dynamic between the composition of shapes on a format and the colors within those shapes. Sonia Delaunay carried this idea beyond painting into textile design, innovating a new approach to fashion and decor. Sonia and Robert were both inspired by one another’s work and one could say their art was a sort of call and response riffing between the two artists.

A black and white photo of artists Sonia and Robert Delaunay
Sonia & Robert Delaunay

Through the Delaunay’s paintings, students will explore the expresiveness of color, in the same way Robert Delaunay “was particularly captivated by how the interaction of various colors generated impressions of movement and depth without allusion to nature” (https://www.theartstory.org/artist/delaunay-robert/) How can this be done? How can such compositions inspire feelings of surprise and joy? As Sonia Delaunay said, “color is the skin of the world… (and color) brings me joy.”

Sonia Delaunay's painting from 1914, "Electric Prism"
Electric Prism, 1914, Sonia Delaunay
Robert Delaunay's 1939 illustration, "Color Explosion"
Color Explosion, 1939, Robert Delaunay
A 1959 painting by Sonia Delaunay, "Rhythm in Colour"
Rhythm in Colour, 1959, Sonia Delaunay

Goals – Students should…

Understand:

  • The concept of abstract art
  • What makes for a dynamic, active abstract composition when using a variety of shapes

Know:

  • Who the Delaunay’s were, and the basic characteristics of the Orphism movement

Be able to:

  • Identify primary and secondary colors
  • Match complimentary (opposite) primary and secondary colors

Objectives – Students will: Create one Orphism-inspired design in oil pastels

Resources and materials –

  • Examples of work by Sonia & Robert Delaunay
  • White Bristol paper or tagboard in a square aspect (I like 12” x 12”)
  • Multicolored oil pastels
  • Rulers
  • Circle stencil in various sizes

Questions –

  • (While observing the Delaunay Orphism paintings): What do you notice?
  • What colors can you identify?
  • What do you notice about which colors are next to other colors?
  • What kinds of shapes do you notice?
  • What feelings do you notice experiencing as you look at this painting? Why do you think that is? Describe…
  • Do you recognize any images from real life?
  • What colors would you combine in your own painting to give an excited feeling to it? Why?

Evaluation – Did students:

  • Design a piece using a thoughtful, deliberate relationship between colors?
  • Create a compelling dynamic between circles and angular geometric shapes?

Informal:

  • Student questions
  • Group discussions
  • Oral responses to essential questions
  • Elaboration and risk-taking
  • One finished composition
Two Orphism-style oil pastel illustrations by 4th grade students
4th grade art – Orphism-style oil pastel illustrations
Two Orphism-style oil pastel illustrations by 4th grade students
4th grade art – Two Orphism-style oil pastel illustrations
Two Orphism-style oil pastel illustrations by 4th grade students
4th grade art – Two Orphism-style oil pastel illustrations
Two Orphism-style oil pastel illustrations by 4th grade students
4th grade art – Two Orphism-style oil pastel illustrations
4th grade art - An Orphism-inspired oil pastel illustration
4th grade art – An Orphism-inspired oil pastel illustration
4th grade art - An Orphism-inspired oil pastel illustration
4th grade art – An Orphism-inspired oil pastel illustration
4th grade art - An Orphism-inspired oil pastel illustration
4th grade art – An Orphism-inspired oil pastel illustration. It’s interesting to note that sometimes it’s hard for students to go fully abstract and not do some form of representation, as in this sun setting over an ocean.

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