Inspired by Masks


During Halloween week we explored the history of masks through several cultures and periods. We also looked at an artist that was greatly influenced by African masks, Pablo Picasso ( 1881 – 1973). He was a Spanish painter and sculptor, who spent most of his adult life in France. Regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, he is known for co-founding the Cubist movement, which evolved from the influence of African art.

On his first trip to the Musée d’Ethnographie in Paris, Picasso turned left by mistake, entering the African art galleries and stumbling upon the sacred Dan masks of West Africa. His art and the art world to follow was forever changed. During the early 1900s, the aesthetics of traditional African sculpture became a powerful influence among European artists who formed an avant-garde in the development of modern art. In France, Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and their School of Paris friends blended African sculptures with painting styles derived from the post-Impressionist works of Manet, Cezanne, and Gauguin. While these artists knew nothing of the original meaning and function of the West and Central African sculptures they encountered, they instantly recognized the spiritual aspect of the composition and adapted these qualities to their efforts to move art beyond the style that had defined Western art since the Renaissance. The influence spread to America, and most of the big-name artists of the 20th century were also influenced by African masks and carvings.

PROJECT:When given the opportunity, I say go for the wild and wacky and that is what they did. The students created very colorful interpretations inspired by Picasso portraits and world masks.


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