Grades/Level: Upper Elementary (3–5)
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts
Time Required: Single Class Lesson
One 50-minute class period
Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education Staff

For the Classroom


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Background on French Decorative Arts

Lesson Overview

Students will analyze the form and function of a table made in the 1700s. Each student will choose a decorative object and discuss its historical context, functions, and design. Students will learn the term appropriation, the contemporary art practice of borrowing elements from a preexisting work of art to create a new work of art. They will appropriate an image of a decorative arts object by using it in a piece of furniture that reflects the student’s identity and contemporary tastes.

Learning Objectives

Students should be able to:
• interpret and analyze the function and design of decorative arts objects;
• appropriate and redesign a decorative art object made about 300 years ago so that it is reflective of their identity and contemporary tastes; and
• orally demonstrate understanding of a work of art, using visual evidence to back up their ideas.

Materials

• Image of Writing and Toilette Table, Jean-François Oeben
• Image of Rococo Paneled Room, unknown artist
• Construction paper, vellum, and assorted paper
• Scissors
• Colored pencils
• Markers
• Glue
• Masking tape
• Teacher reference: "Background on French Decorative Arts"
• Teacher reference: "Unlocking an 18th century French Mechanical Table" (video)

Lesson Steps

1. Display an image of Paneled Room by an unknown artist. Lead a discussion about the room using the following prompts:
• Describe what you see.
• What words would you use to describe the room?
• Consider the observations of your classmates. What can you infer about the owner's identity?
• What can you infer about the tastes of wealthy noblemen who lived about 300 years ago?

2. Tell students that the room is decorated with a style associated with the Rococo movement. Briefly introduce the style of Rococo. Tell students that Rococo emerged as an artistic movement and style in France in early to mid-1700s. The movement emphasized ornamentation through asymmetrical designs, gold, and curves. In terms of interior design, Rococo rooms were designed as complete works of art with ornate and elegant furniture, sculptural objects, ornamental mirrors, and tapestry, which complemented the room’s architecture and reliefs. Explain to students that this is a Rococo room that was once a part of an upper-class Parisian townhouse in 1775.

3. Tell students that they will now focus on one object in the room. Display an image of Writing and Toilette Table by Jean-François Oeben. Have students look closely at the image and then discuss the work using the following prompts:
• What words would you use to describe this object?
• What do you think this object was used for? What led you to say that?
• What does the function and design of the object say about the owner's identity?
• Ask students to compare and contrast the object to a similar object they have in their homes. What are the similarities and differences?

4. Have students choose from among the following objects in the Rococo Period Room:
Commode by Bernard van Risenburgh II
Four-Panel Screen by Savonnerie Manufactory; woven after designs by Alexandre-François Desportes, painter
Writing Table (bureau plat), attributed to Joseph Baumhauer
Side Table by an unknown artist
Two Armchairs and Two Side Chairs by an unknown artist

In pairs, have students look closely and analyze the functions and designs of their chosen objects.

5. Introduce the concept of appropriation as a contemporary-art practice in which artists use existing images or forms in a new work of art. (Learn more about appropriation on the Web site "Collection: MOCA's First Thirty Years" at http://www.moca.org/pc/viewArtTerm.php?id=2.) Have students think about how they would appropriate their object of choice by including it in a contemporary piece of furniture that is reflective of their personal identities and tastes.

6. Using the variety of art materials and supplies available, tell students they will add to or subtract elements from the decorative object to reflect their identity, tastes, values, and practical needs or imaginative wishes. To prepare for the art activity, have students discuss in small groups or partners responses to the following questions:
• Think about where you live, your neighborhood, and where you go to school. What kinds of colors, patterns, or symbols could represent your identity?
• Consider your hobbies, relationships, and neighborhood. You could think about your current interests and daily life, and also what you imagine or dream. How could you redesign the object so that it represents your ideal piece of furniture? For example, if you like to listen to music when you do your homework, where can the speakers go? Or perhaps your dream chair is made of cotton candy.
• Where would you use and display your object?
• Who would be able to use your object?

7. After students share ideas with one another, give them time to create their works of art.

8. After each student has created his or her newly appropriated object, have a class discussion about how different or similar each student's contemporary object is to the original French design.
• What is different or similar about your new object compared to the original?
• What can your object tell us about who you are, what you like or do not like, and what your values are?
• How is everyday life different for a nobleman living 300 years ago versus students' lives today?

Paneled Room / Unknown artist
Paneled Room, Unknown artist, about 1755

Assessment

Students will be assessed on their understanding of how decorative art objects reflect the identity and tastes of an object's owner. They will also be graded on their completion of the project and on participation in class discussions.

Extensions

• Have students form a group of two to three. Ask them to work collaboratively to design one space to house all group members' appropriated objects.
• Have students write a story about their object.

Standards Addressed

Common Core Standards for English Language Arts

Grade 3
Reading: Informational Texts
3.1 Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

Speaking and Listening
3.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
3.2 Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Grade 4
Reading: Informational Texts
Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

Speaking and Listening
4.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Grade 5
Reading: Informational Texts
5.1 Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

Speaking and Listening
5.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools

Grade 3
Role and Development of the Visual Arts
3.1 Compare and describe various works of art that have a similar theme and were created at different time periods.

Diversity of the Visual Arts
3.4 Identify and describe objects of art from different parts of the world observed in visits to a museum or gallery.

Grade 4
Role and Development of the Visual Arts
3.1 Describe how art plays a role in reflecting life.

Derive Meaning
4.2 Identify and describe how a person's own cultural context influences individual responses to works of art.

Make Informed Judgments
4.5 Describe how the individual experiences of an artist may influence the development of specific works of art.

Grade 5
Communication and Expression Through Original Works of Art
2.7 Communicate values, opinions, or personal insights through an original work of art.