I Speak to Grade Fours about Klimt and Quatrains

I enter the class in the morning quiet, and clip my laminated image of Gustav Klimt’s Tree of Life under two clips at the front board.  We greet, sing O’ Canada, say our morning prayer, take attendance and then practice the letter O in cursive handwriting, upper and lower case.

The Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt

The Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt

First…let’s learn about Quatrains!!!

Quad, Quatrain, Quartet, Quadrant, FOUR!!!  A quatrain has four lines! FOUR LINES RHYMING!

Rhyme Schemes?  Let’s just look at the last words of each line…for now, let’s just forget about the rest!!


YES! ABAB rhyme scheme!  Now, let’s play a game…do lots of them…let’s do it until we get it!  Name the rhyme scheme!

P1150028Today it’s some where around -25 degrees, so you may stay in for your recess break!

This painting, The Tree of Life, was created by an artist named Gustav Klimt…tell me everything that you see in this painting.  Anything you see is alright with me!  And…for everything you see…try to find a rhyming word!  This will be our wall of words to choose from.  Will you write a poem for your own Tree of Life today?  A rhyming quatrain?

First…decide on a title.  Mine is The Blessing Tree!  Ideas? Whispering Tree!  Dancing Tree! Golden Tree!  All good ideas!  Now, write your title down in your notebook so that you don’t forget. This is the title for your own tree poem.  Next, choose a rhyme scheme…whatever one you want!  Print it down the right hand side. (ABAB or AABB or ABCA…whatever you like)  Pick words from your rhyming word lists and place them in the order you want, remembering always that the last word of the very first line of a quatrain will always be named ‘A’.  Now…the final challenge is to add words that come before each of your four ‘last words’.  Let’s edit…let’s look for other words…let’s look for better words.  Now, LET’S GO ENJOY LUNCH!

Buckets of white paint to be shared with a partner…two tbsps. of white tempera should do for this!  Let’s look again at Gustav Klimt’s.  Look at the trunk of the tree.  It is pretty short compared to a lot of other trees.  Look at the limbs and the branches of the tree.  Describe the sort of lines needed to paint these. Let’s look at the word wall….and take some of our own rhyming words…COIL, SWIRL, SPRING.  This is how you dip and wipe your brush and this is how you care for the bristles of the brush.  Now, begin…touching three of your paper edges with long branches of the tree.   Gustav Klimt filled his space with the branches of his tree.

P1140994 P1140993 P1140992 P1140991 P1140990 P1140989 P1140995While you’re exchanging your books in the library, I’ll clean the brushes!

Now, let’s look at some of the repeating patterns used by Klimt. Triangles, eyes, there’s a bird!  There is a station over here with gold paint if you’d like to add some while you work.  Here are some oil pastels.  You can also use your pencil crayons.  Let’s think of a colour family though…colours that repeat some of the paper colours…pink, turquoise, blue, white, red…time to create!

P1150012 P1150011 P1150014 P1150013 P1150006 P1150007 P1150008 P1150005 P1150009 P1150004 P1150003 P1150002 P1150001 P1140999 P1140998 P1140997 P1140996And finally, in pencil first, and then traced again with a fine marker or pencil crayon, your title and rhyming quatrains!  Voila!

P1150015 P1150016 P1150017 P1150018 P1150019 P1150020 P1150024 P1150023 P1150022 P1150021 P1150025 P1150027 P1150031 P1150032 P1150033I was blessed by you today, grade four students!  What wisdom!  What engagement!

Tree of Life: Gustav Klimt

The Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt

I was blessed to have attended an exhibit of Gustav Klimt’s works at the National Art Gallery in 2001.  It was the summer that I met my beautiful niece for the first time and my sister and this amazing babe came along to enjoy this ‘magical’ collection of works.  Here, I include my program cover and a few notes from my journals.

National Art Gallery 2001

Although the exhibit included many of Klimt’s more well-known paintings, the Tree of Life was not in this collection.  It WAS a huge exhibit though with a vast sampling of Klimt’s themes, including a single room filled to overflowing with his landscape paintings.  Because, at home, I was busy painting a landscape exhibit for the commercial art galleries, I was left breathless by this work.

It’s interesting though, in the end, I was moved most by a painting titled Irrlichter (Will-o-the-Wisps) painted in 1903.  The connected information is written here.

“This painting was last exhibited at the Klimt retrospective of 1903 and has only recently been rediscovered.  In German folklore Irrlichter were the fabled inhabitants of moor and marsh.  Toward the end of the 19th century, the figure was revived as an erotic subject in Symbolist literature, a representative soul of nature in an increasingly urbanized society.  Here Klimt depicts the Irrlichter floating through dark, undulating streams of water or the cosmos as guardians of some mystical crystalline light source.”  The painting was luminous!

In Klimt’s approach to the Tree of Life, three worlds surrounding humankind are connected; “those are The Underworld, The Earth, and The Heavens. Its roots are deep into the earth, probably signifying that for life to be sustained, Mother Nature must be involved. The roots then come up to the aboveground and meet into forming the tree’s trunk that is on the earth. The tree’s branches extent to the heavens, and have various type of fruits and flowers on them. These fruits symbolize that life can be born from the tree.”

A beautiful painting, it involves the gilded detailing of Klimt’s Art Nouveau period.