Portrait in Fruit
Grades: K, 1, 2, 3
Related Subjects: English - Language Arts, History - Social Science, Mathematics, Visual & Performing Arts
Class time required: 2 X 40 minute sessions
Author: SDMA Education Department
Download an editable Lesson Plan
File Type: RTF (Choose Save-As when dialogue box appears)
Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593) was born in Milan, Italy. He is most famous for his paintings completed for the Hapsburg Court of Vienna between 1562 and 1587. His distinctive style combined fruit, vegetables, meat, and other organic objects in the form of the human face.
In this two-session lesson, students will examine images of portraits, and discuss the components and their significance. Students will then create a two-dimensional self-portrait in the style of Arcimboldo. The students will also write poetry and conduct a class survey about the usage of fruit and vegetables in their self-portraits.
- Overhead transparencies from the Web site: BBC Children’s art page on Arcimboldo
- Hello Fruit Face! The Paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo by Claudia Strand
- Black construction paper
- Oil pastels (chalk pastels can be substituted)
- Hairspray (if using chalk pastels)
- Print the images listed above onto overhead transparencies
- Go to the BBC Children’s art page on Arcimboldo. Click on any of the Arcimboldo images and save the image to your desktop. Once you have saved the image to your computer, open Word (or a similar program) and import the image. Stretch the image as large a possible on the page and then print onto an overhead transparency.
- Experiment with the oil pastels so that you are familiar with their properties and texture. Practice blending the pastels with your fingers.
- Oil pastels (and chalk pastels) are easily cleaned-up with baby wipes.
- If chalk pastels are used, spray each finished self-portrait with hairspray to prevent smearing.
- As a cost savings, students can create their own sketchbooks by stapling pieces of paper together, and covering the staples with either a ribbon or construction paper glued on as a binding. Students can also hole-punch the paper and tie together with ribbon or yarn.
Session One: Shapes and Fruit
1. Begin a discussion with the students about portraiture: What is a portrait? Where have you seen a portrait? What did the portrait look like? Why do people make portraits? Are portraits drawn from the imagination, real life, or both?
2. Show the students the transparency images. Use the following questions to guide the discussion about the images.
• What is this picture called? (a portrait)
• What can we discover about this person by looking at his/her portrait?
• What other items were painted in the portrait? What does this tell you about this person?
• What does the clothing tell you about this person?
• Why would someone want his/her portrait painted?
• What is the most important color in the portrait? What does this color mean to you?
• How is this portrait different than another? (subject, color, time period, nationality, etc.)
• Does the person in this portrait look like someone you would want to meet? Why or why not?
3. Show the students images by Arcimboldo. As you show the images, provide the students with a brief biography of the artist. Use the following questions to guide the discussion:
• What do you notice about the Arcimboldo paintings?
• Are these portrait paintings?
• How are these portraits different than the others?
• Do you think these portraits were painted from real life or the artist’s imagination? Why?
• Which 2-D shapes do you see in the Arcimboldo portraits? 3-D?
• Which shapes do you see in your own face?
• Which fruits/vegetables could you use to represent your eyes? Your mouth?
4. Hand out the sketchbooks and place the students into pairs. Instruct each pair to brainstorm, in their sketchbooks, the many fruits and/or vegetables they could use to represent the different parts of their faces. If time permits, have the students draw examples of the fruits/vegetables in their sketchbooks.
5. In a debriefing discussion, ask each group to share a few of their answers from their brainstorms.
6. Explain to the students that in the next session they will create a self-portrait using fruits and vegetables.
Session Two: Portrait in Fruit
1. Remind students about the Arcimboldo paintings that they saw in the last session. Ask the students about the components that made these paintings different from other portraits they have seen.
2. Hand out the sketchbooks, oil pastels, and pencils. As a demonstration, show the students how to use the oil pastels, for example, how they can be layered and smoothed together. Allow the students some time to try out the oil pastels in their sketchbooks.
3. Using the brainstorm list from the first session, ask the students to sketch, in pencil, their ideas for their self-portrait.
4. When the students are ready, hand out the black paper for their self-portraits. Students will use the oil pastels to create these portraits.
5. Use the following questions to debrief with the students: How was your portrait similar to Arcimboldo’s portraits? How was your portrait different? Was it fun creating a portrait using fruits and vegetables? Why or why not?
Mathematics: Students can predict possible outcomes for which fruits and vegetables their classmates will choose to portray in their self-portraits. Then, students can tally up the different fruits and vegetables that were used and create a bar graph of the results. Students can also find the mean, mode, median, and average.
English-Language Arts: Students can create self-portrait poems using similes and metaphors involving fruit (i.e., her lips were as red as cherries.)
English-Language Arts: Students can research Arcimboldo’s life and portraits using the BBC Web site, as well as other resources. The students can take their research and write an informational report about the artist and his artwork. The students can also write a fictional story about one of the subjects in Arcimboldo’s portraits.
History-Social Science: Students can research the different types of foods eaten by a particular culture or during a particular time in history (different Native American tribes, American colonist, etc.) and create an “Arcimboldo-style” portrait displaying their research.
CA Content Standards
Third Grade Visual Arts:
1.2 Describe how artists use tints and shades in painting.
1.5 Identify and describe elements of art in works of art, emphasizing line, color, shape/form, texture, space, and value.
2.1 Explore ideas for art in a personal sketchbook.
2.4 Create a work of art based on the observation of objects and scenes in daily life, emphasizing value changes.
4.1 Compare and contrast selected works of art and describe them, using appropriate vocabulary of art.
4.3 Select an artist's work and, using appropriate vocabulary of art, explain its successful compositional and communicative qualities.
5.2 Write a poem or story inspired by their own works of art.
Fourth Grade Visual Arts:
1.5 Describe and analyze the elements of art (color, shape/form, line, texture, space and value), emphasizing form, as they are used in works of art and found in the environment.
5.4 Read biographies and stories about artists and summarize the readings in short reports, telling how the artists mirrored or affected their time period or culture.
Fifth Grade Visual Arts:
1.2 Identify and describe characteristics of representational, abstract, and nonrepresentational works of art.
1.3 Use their knowledge of all the elements of art to describe similarities and differences in works of art and in the environment.
2.2 Create gesture and contour observational drawings.
2.4 Create an expressive abstract composition based on real objects.
2.7 Communicate values, opinions, or personal insights through an original work of art.
Third Grade Language Arts:
2.1 Write narratives.
2.2 Write descriptions that use concrete sensory details to present and support unified impressions of people, places, things, or experiences.
Fourth Grade Language Arts:
2.1 Write narratives.
2.3 Write information reports.
Fifth Grade Language Arts:
2.1 Write narratives.
2.3 Write research reports about important ideas, issues, or events.
Third Grade Mathematics:
1.3 Summarize and display the results of probability experiments in a clear and organized way (e.g., use a bar graph or a line plot).
2.5 Identify, describe, and classify common three-dimensional geometric objects (e.g., cube, rectangular solid, sphere, prism, pyramid, cone, and cylinder).
Fourth Grade Mathematics:
3.7 Know the definitions of different triangles (e.g., equilateral, isosceles, scalene) and identify their attributes.
3.8 Know the definition of different quadrilaterals (e.g., rhombus, square, rectangle, parallelogram, trapezoid).
1.1 Formulate survey questions; systematically collect and represent data on a number line; and coordinate graphs, tables, and charts.
1.2 Identify the mode(s) for sets of categorical data and the mode(s), median, and any apparent outliers for numerical data sets.
Fifth Grade Mathematics:
2.1 Measure, identify, and draw angles, perpendicular and parallel lines, rectangles, and triangles by using appropriate tools (e.g., straightedge, ruler, compass, protractor, drawing software).
1.1 Know the concepts of mean, median, and mode; compute and compare simple examples to show that they may differ.
1.2 Organize and display single-variable data in appropriate graphs and representations (e.g., histogram, circle graphs) and explain which types of graphs are appropriate for various data sets.
Third Grade History-Social Science:
3.2 Students describe the American Indian nations in their local region long ago and in the recent past.
Fourth Grade History-Social Science:
4.2 Students describe the social, political, cultural, and economic life and interactions among people of California from the pre-Columbian societies to the Spanish mission and Mexican rancho periods.
4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power, tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cultural development since the 1850s.
Fifth Grade History-Social Science:
5.1 Students describe the major pre-Columbian settlements, including the cliff dwellers and pueblo people of the desert Southwest, the American Indians of the Pacific Northwest, the nomadic nations of the Great Plains, and the woodland peoples east of the Mississippi River.
5.4 Students understand the political, religious, social, and economic institutions that evolved in the colonial era.
Hodge, Susie. How to Draw Portraits: A Step-By-Step Guide For Beginners With 10 Projects. London: New Holland, 2000.
Hume, Helen D. A Survival Kit for the Elementary/Middle School Art Teacher. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass, 2000.
Simmonds, Jackie. Pastel Workbook: A Complete Course in Ten Lessons. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 2002.
WannaLearn: Education Beyond Schooling
Links to eight free instructional sites about using pastels.
Bell, Julian. Five Hundred Self-Portraits. London: Phaidon Press, 2000.
Zeri, Federico. Arcimboldo, Spring. Richmond Hill: NDE Pub., 2001.
Giuseppe Arcimboldo: Portraits
One of the most bizarre and distinctive painters in the whole of art history, Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593) owes his reputation to the series of composite portraits of heads made up of a variety of objects, both natural and man-made.
Life and Art of Giuseppe Arcimboldo
This Web site includes a biography of Arcimboldo and a gallery of his artwork with descriptions.
Henson, Paige. Drawing With Charcoal & Pastels. Vero Beach, FL: Rourke Press, 1999.
Strand, Claudia. Hello Fruit Face! The Paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo. New York: Prestel, 1999
Roalf, Peggy. Self-Portraits. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 1993.
BBC Children’s art page on Arcimboldo
Page One has a biography and descriptions of several of Arcimboldo’s paintings.
Carmine’s Introduction to Portraits
Easy introduction to portraits, includes images.
Goffstein, M.B. Artists’ Helpers Enjoy the Evening. New York: Harper Row, 1987. A series of four vignettes about five pieces of chalk: “Blanc, Noir, Gris, Bistre, and Sanguine are artists' helpers by trade, and good friends personally." They discuss art at a Paris cafe, visit each other's families and appear at a masquerade dressed "as each other." The book is whimsical and original, even for those unaccustomed to the conventions of artists who frequent Paris cafes.