AiA Lesson Highlight – K-9 Toyohiro, Seasonal Tree Screens

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Utagawa Toyohiro was a member of the Edo School of Japan who worked 200 years ago when many wealthy people bought art. He mainly painted portraits of young women engaged in social activities since women were expected to play musical instruments and indoor games at the time. This Art in Action lesson is based on a panel that showed those previously specified activities while some of his other panels showed young women writing and painting instead. 


The medium that Toyohiro used for Season Tree Screens was block print on silk. This Art in Action lesson focuses on how Toyohiro guides his viewers to see the room diagonally. He does that through the use of vertical and diagonal lines in both his figures and objects. The painting itself is vertical, the figures sit vertically, and the edge of the door to the outside makes a vertical line. Because we see the room from a diagonal, it is also important to note how the mats make diagonal lines in opposite directions and how the woman closer to the viewer looks diagonally at her teacher.  


In this Art in Action lesson, students will explore the colors of the seasons through tree panels. The main elements of art the students explore are the effects of lines and colors. Using a cork to paint the tree will show students how painting with a cork versus with a brush creates a different look. By angling the cork to create different branch thicknesses, the students can experiment with diagonal lines like how Toyohiro printed on his panels. Mixing colors to get the appropriate shades for each season helps the students understand how important color contrast is and how Toyohiro used it to his advantage.


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