Connecting a discussion about art to an activity can deepen classroom learning. Through imagination and sensory experience, this activity can build your students’ understanding.
Texture is a dominant element in Gustave Courbet’s La Source de la Loue, ca. 1864. Through thickly applied paint, Courbet created visual texture as seen in the rock formations and water currents in the grotto. In a realistically rendered painting, one gets a feeling that he or she is standing in the scene. Imagining standing along the water, gazing into the dark cave, can serve as the beginning of an exciting exploration for your students.
Through observation, students can imagine what they would experience through different senses if they were inside of a painting. When viewing Courbet’s cave, ask students to describe what they see. Once all observations have been made, ask them to put themselves into the painting. If standing in the rapids, what would they hear? See? Smell? What would they feel? Is the water cold or warm? Then ask them to pretend to walk up to the rocks: if they touched them, how would they feel?
Pretending to be in the artwork engaging with surroundings can build students’ awareness of the elements of the artwork, or feelings evoked from the scenery. Ask your students to pretend that they are explorers about to enter Courbet’s cave. Make a list of things they will need and describe why they are necessary.
While imagining senses can be beneficial to examining an artwork, creating physical environments for students to experience can further their understanding of a sense or sensation. Building texture boxes can engage students in learning texture through feel. This activity connects texture and senses with the cave in Courbet’s painting. Materials that you will need for this activity include:
- Small- to medium-sized boxes with a hole in each lid big enough for a hand to fit through
- Objects that provide examples of a variety of textures (e.g., metal objects, fabrics, cotton, gummy bears, cooked spaghetti, grapes, damp sponges, crunch leaves, tin foil, etc.)
- Glue and/or tape
This activity can be done with a variety of age groups. For younger students, pre-assemble the texture boxes using combinations of different textures. You can attach objects to the sides and bottom of the box. For the activity, divide your class into groups. Give each group a box and tell them to imagine it is a cave. Ask them to touch all of the items in the cave and make notes about how they feel. When exploring the boxes, have groups create a list of adjectives based on what textures they feel. As a group, students can collaborate and create a story about their trip into the cave based on what textures they felt. Each student can draw something that his or her group found in the cave. This drawing can be literal or imaginative. Older students can work in groups to assemble their own boxes using objects they find on their own. Groups can swap boxes with one another and complete the same activities listed above.