Explore VMFA’s galleries to explore the world of shapes. Pick up a gallery map to help you find works of art that include squares, rectangles, triangles, circles, and other shapes. The images provided show you a small part (a detail) of the whole work of art. Use your observation skills to find these works and investigate how the artists have used shapes.
In the Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery on Level 2, look for the work of art that contains this detail. How was this work made? If you were making a similar work of art, what shapes and colors would you use? Look at the other works in this room. What do they have in common with this work?
In a different room in the same gallery, look for a work that includes this detail from an oil painting. How does the title of the work match what you see? What shapes do you see? How many different shapes can you count in this one painting?
Next, go to Evans Court, also on Level 2. Look for two large wall paintings outside of the African Art Galleries. Esther Mahlangu, who created these murals, is from the Ndebele people of South Africa. She has been painting for over 70 years—and never makes a pattern or design plan before she starts painting!
What shapes did she use to create her mural? Did she use the same shapes more than once?How are the two paintings alike? How are they different?
Just across Evans Court from the Ndebele murals, locate this Chilkat blanket, which is made of cedar bark, wool, and other materials, in the Native North American Art gallery. Can you find a face in this blanket?
How would you describe the shapes in this nearby work made of painted wood? Why do you think this work is displayed near the Chilkat blanket? Do the designs match? Could you extend the pattern that you see on the board?
How would you compare the way the blanket was made with the way that Esther Mahlangu created her murals?
In the African Art Gallery next to the Native North American Art Gallery cases, can you locate this cloth? How many different shapes do you see in this piece of cloth?
Look for other shapes in nearby cut cloth fabric made by the Kuba people. Why do you think so many groups of people have developed weaving techniques?
Go up to the Lewis Decorative Arts Galleries on Level 3 to find the work that matches this detail. What shapes do you see? Is there one shape that stands out from the others? What is this work made of? Are there any parts that remind you of weaving patterns? How does this design compare with the designs you find in other works on display nearby?
Of course, many other works of art—especially in the Lewis Decorative Arts Galleries—contain shapes! How many can you find?
Continue your adventure by trying the VMFA Lesson Concept called "Exploring Shape: Squares, Rectangles, Circles, and More!" Finish your hunt for shapes by finding a work of art you like that contains shapes or patterns. You can sketch your favorites using a pencil and small sketchbook (or paper on a clipboard).
Jennie Pettway, American, Housetop—Single-Block Courthouse Steps Variation, ca. 1945, Corduroy, Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund and partial gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
Ad Reinhardt, American, 1913 – 1967, Red Painting, 1952, Oil on canvas, Gift of Sydney and Frances Lewis, 85.434
Esther Mahlangu, Ndebele (South African), born 1935, ibala leSindebele (Ndebele Design), 2014, acrylic on linen, Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund, 2014.224
Chilkat Blanket, 20th century, Tlingit culture, Alaska, Gambier Bay, United States, vegetable fiber, wool, hair, General Endowment Fund, 55.31.9
Pattern Board of Chilkat Blanket, 20th century, Tlingit culture, Wood, paint, Alaska, Gambier Bay, United States, General Endowment Fund, 55.31.2
Man’s Wrapper (Kente cloth), 20th century, Akan culture, Ghana, Rayon or silk, Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund, 2007.63
Frank Lloyd Wright, American, 1867-1959 (Designer), Linden Glass Company, American, Chicago, Illinois, 1890 - 1934 (Manufacturer), Window (for Avery Coonley Playhouse, Riverside, Illinois), Clear and colored glass, zinc, Gift of Sydney and Frances Lewis, 85.348.1