In this lesson, students will learn about personification through Fernard Léger’s sculpture The Walking Flower, 1951. With emphasis on various ways to create an artwork such as a sculpture, relief, or drawing, students will create their own work of art capturing movement.
The Walking Flower, 1951
26 1/2 x 20 1/2 x 15 inches (67.3 x 52.1 x 38.1 cm)
Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1969
- Become familiar with the artist Fernand Léger
- Learn about personification depicted through artwork
- Reinforce the understanding of the differences between two-dimensional and three-dimensional work
- Increase awareness of movement in an artwork
- Create a two-dimensional drawing, additive drawing, or a three-dimensional sculpture depicting personification
- Support the understanding of basic art elements and principles
- Coloring materials (makers, crayons, colored pencils, paint, etc.)
- Cardboard or thick base paper
- Air dry clay
- Acrylic or tempera paint
- Clay or papier-mâché materials
- Acrylic or tempera paint
About the Artist
Fernand Léger (la-ZHAY) was born in 1881 in Normandy, France. Originally trained as an architectural draftsman, Léger moved to Paris in 1909. After his experiences in the Engineer Corps of the French Army during World War I, his painting style was influenced by both modern styles such as Cubism, and by his interest in machinery and an industrial utopian society. Léger became known for his distinctive paintings using a polished-looking, machine-like tubular treatment of all forms, including the human figure. In his work, Léger favored the use of primary colors and bold forms. Léger moved to the United States during World War II, but returned to France in 1945, and concentrated on his lifelong effort to integrate architecture, painting, and sculpture. From that point on, he primarily created monumental art, stained glass, mosaics, and murals.
About the Art
The Walking Flower, 1951, is one of only a few freestanding sculptures that Léger made during his career. It was created in Biot, France, where he moved in 1949 and began working in ceramics. The cheerful-looking flower has six petals. The flower is shown posed in mid-stride on two petals, provoking debate as to which of the other four petals might be arms or a head. The sculpture is painted with five glazes on the front—yellow, red-orange, green, black, and off-white. The design on the back is similar, but painted in black and off-white only.
sculpture: a type of artwork made by adding or subtracting material to create a form that can be seen from multiple sides
three-dimensional object: an object that has height, width, and breadth
personification: the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to an object or animal
form: element of art—a three-dimensional figure
movement: element of art—when the elements of art create the allusion of motion in an artwork
Breaking down the different layers of meaning in an artwork allows students to build abstract thoughts based on concrete observations. It is an interactive way to teach visual literacy in your classroom. This can be done with groups or independently. This activity can segue into the artmaking activity.
After viewing the sculpture The Walking Flower, 1951, have students stand arm’s length apart. Ask students to mimic the flower’s stance. What might be the next movement for the flower? Have students perform the flower’s next move. Discuss verbs with students and ask for different examples of verbs (run, sit, jump, etc.). Have each student pick a verb to act out with a pose. Working in groups, students can guess each other’s chosen verb.
Personification is used in movies, television shows, books, and publications. Ask students to think of different well-known characters that are personified animals or objects. How are they portrayed differently than the real-life animal or object? Students can create a compare-and-contrast chart about the similarities and differences of the personified character and the animal or object it was inspired by.
This project can be created in different ways. Students can create a two-dimensional drawing of their flower, an additive drawing, or a three-dimensional sculpture.
Using pencils, markers, or crayons, students can create a drawing of a flower depicting movement, similar to the artwork by Léger. This project can also be used as an activity before working with students to create a shallow relief or three-dimensional sculpture.
On cardboard or thick paper, students can create a shallow sculpture of a flower. Students can begin by drawing their movement and flower. Using papier-mâché materials or clay, students can add areas of clay onto their drawings to make certain areas of the work stick off of the baseboard, defining areas such as the flower and main subjects of the work. Students can complete their art by painting their clay and baseboard.
Students can build up their sculpture using clay or use papier-mâché materials to create a three-dimensional flower sculpture. When dry, students can paint their sculpture.
- In a short writing activity, students can create their own song or poem about their personified flower. Encourage students to reflect upon the mood of their artwork based on the pose or movement of their subject. Students can even give their work a title. The writing assignment and artwork can be hung and displayed together.
- Students can create this project adding personifying qualities to a variety of subjects.
- New York State Learning Standards for the Arts: 1, 2, 3
- College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language: 1, 2, 3
- College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading: 1, 2, 4
- College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing: 1, 2, 3, 4
- College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Mathematical Practice: 1, 3, 5, 6