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Louise Nevelson's Royal Game I, 1961

Louise Nevelson (American, born Ukraine, 1899–1988). Royal Game I, 1961. Wood, painted gold, 69 x 51 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches (175.3 x 130.8 x 21 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1962 (K1962:9). © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Monochromatic Assemblage

Featuring Louise Nevelson's Royal Game I, 1961

Featuring Louise Nevelson's Royal Game I, 1961 

Conceptual Basis

Royal Game I, 1961, is a golden monochromatic assemblage composed of found materials that the artist Louise Nevelson collected around the city. Nevelson transforms these random bits of wooden furniture, scrap materials, and frames into a unified and harmonious sculpture. In this lesson, students will learn about the artist and her compositions, and create their own found-object assemblage sculpture. 

Featured Work

Louise Nevelson
(American, born Ukraine, 1899–1988)
Royal Game I, 1961
Wood, painted gold
69 x 51 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches (175.3 x 130.8 x 21 cm)
Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1962 

Lesson Objectives

  • Become familiar with the artist Louise Nevelson and her monochromatic wooden assemblage sculptures
  • Increase awareness of composition, shape, and texture to create variety and unity sculptures
  • Create a monochromatic assemblage using found materials inspired by Louise Nevelson
  • Support the understanding of basic art elements and principles


  • Found objects
  • Shoe box
  • Glue (strong or hot glue)
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrushes

Background Information for Teachers

About the Artist 

Louise Nevelson (1899–1988) was born in Russia and immigrated with her family to the United States. Her desire to become an artist was present at a young age and, according to Nevelson, “From earliest childhood, I knew I was going to be an artist. I felt like an artist.” Nevelson moved to New York City and studied at the Art Students League of New York in the 1930s. Excelling in her studies and work, Nevelson had her first solo exhibition by 1941. Well known for her sculptural instillations using monochromatic wooden objects found around the city, Nevelson created her sculptures in different sizes using a variety of materials. Nevelson’s technique to create the assemblages was inspired by Cubism and different cultural influences. Nevelson would paint her assemblages one solid color, including black, white, or gold. By painting her assemblages she would obscure the identity of each object while creating unity throughout her work.

About the Art

Royal Game I, 1961, is a monochromatic assemblage consisting of three large rectangular boxes containing numerous pieces of wooden found objects. Oval picture frames, flat geometric shapes, intricate furniture limbs, and other oddities are fit together in each of the separate rectangular sections. Some objects appear to overlap or are slightly hidden within the assemblage, including a ladder and bedposts. Objects within the works are layered on top of one another, adding additional depth in each section of the assemblage. A smaller box containing further objects is positioned inside of each of the rectangular boxes. 

While the assemblage appears to be unsystematic, Nevelson’s composition is balanced and harmonious. Nevelson repeats different shapes inside of the assemblage, including circles, rectangles, and triangles. A variety of textures are seen throughout each rectangle box, including flat, smooth, splintered wood, and curved edges. The monochromatic gold paint creates unity in the sculpture, as well as a sense of sophistication or royalty that is reflected in the title, Royal Game I.

Vocabulary for Students

sculpture: a type of artwork made by adding or abstracting material to create a form that can be seen from multiple sides

composition: a way in which something is put together or arranged

assemblage: a form of sculpture composed of found objects

found object: a natural or manufactured object that is used as an element of an artwork

monochromatic: an artwork that contains one color

unity: principle of art; occurs in an artwork when the elements of art are harmonious

variety: principle of art; when an artwork contains different forms or elements

Discussion Excercise

The following questions can be used when discussing Louise Nevelson’s Royal Game I:

  • What shapes do you see? What shapes repeat?
  • Can you identify any materials or objects that are being repurposed in this sculpture?
  • If you wanted to re-create this yourself, what would you do first? Second? Third?
  • Why do you think that the artist chose Royal Game I for the title of this assemblage?

Artmaking Activity

Prior to the artmaking activity, instruct students to search for small objects over a period of time. These found objects can have different textures, materials, purposes, shapes, or sizes. Remind students that Nevelson’s assemblages were made from wood that she would find.

Students should arrange found objects in their shoe box. Instruct students to try creating different compositions based on the placement, layering, or overlapping of their objects. Once students have created a preferred composition, they can begin gluing down their found objects. Once the glue has dried, students will paint their entire shoe box and its contents a monochromatic color using acrylic paint. Paint should be applied two to three times over all the materials.

Lesson Tips

  • This lesson can be tailored for different age levels and can create various interdisciplinary connections. For a science connection, students can learn about nature and create an assemblage with objects such as twigs, flowers, leaves, shells, or rocks found on a hike.
  • Older students can also create assemblages based on themes, such as their interests.

Optional Reflections and Lesson Wrap-Up

  • A short writing assignment or reflection about their artmaking process can give teachers insight for the next time students do this lesson.
  • Students can stack their assemblages together to create a large collaborative sculpture similar to many of Nevelson’s three-dimensional works.

New York State Learning Standards and Core Curriculum Standards

  • New York State Learning Standards for the Arts: 1, 2, 3
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening: 1, 2, 3
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Mathematical Practice: 1, 4, 5, 6
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language: 1, 3
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading: 1, 2, 3

Teacher Example

Example of finished artwork based on lesson plan
Example of finished artwork based on lesson plan. Artwork and lesson plan by School Program Coordinator Kelly Macagnone and Education Intern Ashley Cancel.


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