Please feel free to use these materials in any order, or adapt them in any way that you feel best meets the needs of your class and your curriculum. You can decide how much time you would like to devote to this look at Picasso. It could become the center of an entire unit of study on modern art, or simply an activity covering one or two class periods in social studies. We suggest that you complete at least one previewing and one postviewing activity, in addition to watching the video, to ensure that your students get the most out of this project.

These materials were designed for students in grades eight through twelve, but could be adapted for middle grade students.

After viewing this video and participating in the activities in this guide, students will be able to:

  •  give two examples of works Picasso created during his early career and explain their significance
  • identify and describe visual elements of a painting, such as line, color, shape, texture, and composition
  • use this analysis to form and express a personal impression of a work of art

 Using Picasso to enrich mathematics, social studies, and language arts curricula

Classroom Activities




    The Greeks believed that the rectangular shape whose width-to-length ratio came the closest to the golden rectangle was the shape that was most pleasing to the eye. In a golden rectangle, the ratio of its width to length is equal to the ratio of its length to the sum of its width and length. This ratio is called the golden ratio, and it is equal to 0.6183... For example, a 3" X 5" index card has a width-to-length ratio that is close to the golden ratio. This ratio is used extensively in packaging and advertising because it is so attractive to the viewer. Direct your students to explore any of Picasso’s paintings to see if they have a width-to-length ratio that is close to the golden ratio.

    In what proportions are primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) mixed to yield secondary colors (orange, green, violet)? Your class might like to explore this question in an art room, or with the use of a color wheel.

 Social Studies
    The time period we are examining in the Fieldtrip is very similar to ours in many ways. People were facing the end of one century and the beginning of another. At these points in history, people often turn their backs on accepted practices and look toward the future. Can your students find any other similarities between this time in Picasso’s career (1892 - 1906) and the present day in terms of art, culture, politics, etc.?

    Use maps from atlases or Internet resources to explore the geography of Spain and France at the time and the locations where Picasso lived during this period (Malaga, Horta, Gosol, la Coruña, and Barcelona in Spain, and Paris in France). If possible locate a street map of the Montmartre section of Paris and note some of the landmarks in this part of the city that Picasso may have observed every day.

Language Arts
    During Picasso’s early years, his group of friends included many artists and writers of the time. The group included Guillame Apollinaire. Your class might like to research this poet’s work, and compare his innovations in language, such as the use of slogans from posters in his poetry, with those Picasso was offering in art.

    If your students could meet Picasso, what would they say? Brainstorm with your class to find some directions in which the conversation with this great master might go. Follow up this activity by directing students to write a business letter to Picasso, requesting an interview.

    Picasso once said, “...The genius of Einstein leads to Hiroshima.” What do your students think this means? Encourage them to write an essay to explain their thoughts.


Directions: Using your web browser, click on this address:

This site contains a virtual museum of Picasso's art. By clicking on the tiles that are underlined, you will be able to look at these works of art. After you have observed these paintings, answer the questions below on another sheet of paper.

Take a look at these important works from Picasso's early career:

 _____ El Picador
 _____ First Communion
 _____ Portrait of the Artist's Mother
 _____ Portrait of Jose Ruiz Blasco
 _____ The Artist's Sister Lola
 _____ Self-Portrait 1899
 _____ Bullfight 1900
 _____ Le Moulin de la Galette
 _____ The Absinthe Drinker
 _____ Yo Picasso
 _____ Tragedy
 _____ Mask of a Blind Singer
 _____ The Family of Saltimbanques
 _____ At the Lapin Agile: Self-Portrait
            as Harlequin

 _____ Portrait of Madame Canals
 _____ Portrait of Gertrude Stein
 _____ Self-Portrait with Palette


  1. Which paintings have colors and techniques that would place them in Picasso's Blue Period?
  2. Which paintings have colors and techniques that would place them in Picasso's Rose Period?
  3. Which paintings have colors and techniques that show the influence of Picasso's visit to Gosol?
  4. Compare the way Picasso drew the figures in the painting of his mother (Portrait of the Artist's Mother) with the way he drew the figures that are part of The Family of Saltimbanques.
  5. Compare the colors in The Absinthe Drinker to the colors Picasso used in the Portrait of Gertrude Stein.
  6. How are the paintings El Picador and Bullfight 1990 similar? How are they different?
  7. Compare the composition Picasso used in First Communion to the composition of the figures in Tragedy.
  8. To whom do you think Picasso was more flattering: the other people he painted or himself? Support your opinion with examples from these paintings.
  9. Do you like Picasso's more traditional works, such as First Communion, or do you prefer his less traditional paintings, such as Self-Portrait with Palette? Explain your choice by analyzing both paintings in terms of art elements such as color, texture, composition, shape, and spaces, and principles of design, such as balance, variety, proportion, and emphasis.
  10. If you could buy one of these paintings to hang in your room, which one would you choose? Why?

 Directions: The curators, conservationists, and other support personnel who helped create the exhibition of Picasso's early works had a truly monumental job to accomplish. To get some idea about the scope of this work, follow these directions to create your own exhibition. You should keep a log book of the exhibition to keep track of decisions, deadlines, and schedules.

  1. Decide on what the focus for your exhibition. Are you going to look at one artist or a group of artists? Will the art you exhibit be created by students from your school, or more prominent artists? Will you collect art already existing, or commission works from artists you know? Will you choose a theme for the exhibition? Will you include paintings, drawings, sculptures, or all three?
  2. Collect the art work you are going to include in your exhibition. Make cards to display near each work of art, giving its title, the artist, the medium, and the date it was created. You might also want to create cards for exhibition visitors to read about the purpose of your exhibition.
  3. You might want to create a catalog of the works of art in your exhibition, listing all the art that appears in it. If you have access to a scanner or a camera, you could also digitize the images and use pictures of the art itself in the catalogue.
  4. Locate a space for your exhibition, and make the proper arrangements to make sure you have permission to use the space. Decide on the order in which you want to display the art you are featuring, and how you want to display them. Decide how people will walk through the exhibition. Decide when the exhibition will be open, and assign personnel to be present when visitors are there.
  5. In order to make people aware of your exhibition, you should create a publicity campaign. This can include anything from an announcement on your school public address system to an add in the school newspaper -- to flyers and a mention on local television programs. Perhaps you might want to use one of the works of art that will appear in the exhibition as a main graphic on all the publicity materials you distribute.
  6. You might want to keep track of the number of visitors to the exhibition, or give them a brief survey to ask their reaction to your work.
  7. After the exhibition, clear the space you have used and return all art work to their owners, perhaps with a thank you note for the use of their works.
  8. After the exhibition, write a reaction to your experience in your log book. You should comment on what worked, what didn't, and your personal impressions of the exhibition.

Visual Inventory

  1. What do you see? What is going on? How would you describe this work to someone who is not able to see it?
  2. Can you name or list objects, places and/or people in this work?
  3. How would you describe shapes, spaces, colors, and textures in this art work?
  4. What interests you about this work? Is there a focus to the work? What would you remember most about this work?
  5. Does this work remind you of something you have seen or experienced before?
How the Parts Work Together
  1. What art materials, media, and techniques has the artist used in creating this work?
  2. What are some dominant shapes, expressive forms, color schemes, and textures that carry the significance of this work of art?
  3. Has the artist done anything special with the use of the elements of art (line, color, shape, texture, value)?
  4. Is this work ordered? Does it have balance? Or is it chaotic or disturbing? What makes for the order or chaos? Would you use words such as ‘unity,’ ‘variety,’ ‘contrast,’ ‘balance,’ movement,’ or ‘rhythm’ to describe the formal characteristics of this work?
  5. Is this work well-executed? What evidence can you give to support quality of execution and technique? What gives the work its uniqueness?
Interpretation: Theme and Meaning
  1. What is your general impression of this work? What do you suppose this work is about?
  2. What did the artist want us to think about? Why did the artist create this work? What would you ‘title’ this work?
  3. Do you think the artist has successfully gotten his/her message across?
  4. Does the work evoke any feelings? How does it make you feel? What about the painting makes you feel the way you do -- the theme, the use of color, shapes, or other techniques the artist used?
  5. Has the artist used symbolism to convey meaning other than what you see in the painting? Would you want to know more about this work?
  1. How successful is this work of art? What is some of the evidence for your judgement?
  2. Does this work make you want to see more of this artist’s work? How does this work compare with other works by the same artist?
  3. What is the importance of this work of art in the context of the other art that was being created at the same time?
  4. If you could, would you like to own this work of art?
  5. Would you want to learn what others have said about this work of art? Could you wait to make a final decision on this work until you had completed that kind of research?

From the National Gallery of Art

The Education Department of the National Gallery of Art has prepared a teacher’s guide to accompany their summer exhibit. This is available at their web site at under "exhibitions." Additional resources for educators, including several free-loan films, are available from the Department of Education Resources, Extension Programs Section, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 29565

On the Internet

 This project web site includes lots of information for teachers and students, along with a bulletin board for comments and thoughts about Picasso's art.

 The homepage of the National Gallery of Art can lead you to a wealth of resources on Picasso and other artists working during this same period

 An incredibly breathtaking and comprehensive site, Museo Picasso Virtual, is sponsored by Dr. Enrique Mallen, Department of Modern and Classical Languages at Texas A&M University. Materials available in English, Spanish, French, and Catalan.

 This site contains extensive links to everything Picasso on the web. Be sure to follow its links to Claude Picasso’s site at and WebMuseum at

 An enormously rich and well-constructed site for arts educators, full of paintings, lesson plans, and activities

 Another must-see site for the arts educator; lists National Goals for all the arts

 This is the hompage for World Wide Arts Resources, which includes ArtDaily, the first art newspaper on the net


 Picasso: the Man, his Works, the Legend (Grolier Interactive)

 Le Louvre: The Palace and Its Paintings, (BIG Interactive Entertainment)



 Picasso The Early Years 1892 - 1906, edited by Marilyn McCully, Yale University Press, 1997

 This is the National Gallery’s exhibit catalogue, a not-to-be-missed collection of all the paintings in this unprecedented show

 A Life of Picasso, Volume I: The Early Years 1881-1906, John Richardson,

Random House, 1991

 Picasso’s friend and biographer, Richardson is considered to be one of the most knowledgeable writers concentrating on Pablo Picasso

 Instructional Methods for the Artroom, edited by Andrea Nyman, National Arts Education Association, Reston, Va., 1996

 A ready collection of information for classroom teachers, for new teachers, or for faculty who are concerned with implementing effective instructional methods of teaching in the art classroom

How to Visit a Museum. David Finn, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1985

first glance || vantage point || reflections
take a look || point of view || practiced eyes || focus on...
in your eyes || timeline || Electronic Fieldtrips Home