Coiled Clay Trivets

Term: 2 Year: 2012

MELBOURNE MONTESSORI SCHOOL 9 TO 12 YEAR OLD CHILDREN’S: COILED CLAY TRIVETS after the “chorus,” figures in Gustav Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze, 1902, Ode to Joy Section:

As further preparation for the 9 to 12 year old children’s visit to the NGV’s, Vienna: Art and Design – Klimt, Schiele, Hoffman and Loos exhibition, the clay program in Art Class focused on images of music seen by the children in many of Gustav Klimt’s paintings, and especially in The Beethoven Frieze, 1902. The children saw a copy of this room sized frieze on exhibition at the NGV in September on excursion. The children learnt that Klimt and his contemporaries were very influenced by the music of their time and that the revered Beethoven had lived and composed in Vienna. They learnt that some of the Secession artists on view at the NGV were both musicians and composers. The children noted that the ancient Greek instrument, the Cithara (or lyre) was a metaphor used by Klimt to represent music or poetry or art in many of his works, especially in The Beethoven Frieze. They know that on the last wall of the Beethoven room of work, the figure of music, or poetry or art, triumphs over all of humanity’s struggles.

The children learnt that "Ode to Joy" was written in 1785 by the German poet, playwright and historian Friedrich Schiller, celebrating the brotherhood and unity of all mankind. It was later used by Ludwig van Beethoven in the final movement of his Ninth Symphony (completed in 1824), a choral symphony for the orchestra, with four solo voices and a choir. The children observed Beethoven’s anguish in composing this work through viewing the 1999 BBC film, Beethoven Lives Upstairs, borrowed from ACMI.

The 9 to 12 year old children viewed the final chorus section of Klimt’s The Beethoven Frieze -which symbolises the ecstasy of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy -at the end of the golden knight’s triumphant journey. They learnt that Klimt’s golden knight was also a metaphor for life’s journey and saw this image in several of Klimt’s paintings and also works by Carl Otto Czeschka (the story book illustrations for Die Nibelungen – toy soldiers and card table, etc).  The children all learnt to play the Ode to Joy section of Beethoven’s Ninth symphony on their recorders in music class. Their best understanding of the feelings, thoughts and importance of this piece of music was gained from one of the younger children singing it each week in English and German.

The children noted the Japanese influence on Klimt’s patterning. They viewed images of the elongated Byzantine mosaic figures seen by Klimt during his travels to Ravenna. They also looked at Egyptian antiquities known to Klimt in his home town’s Art Museum. They noted all of these different influences on Klimt’s focus on surface decoration to cover their Ode to Joy figures rather than the style or types of garment.

To complete their clay trivets the children worked with soft, white earthenware clay to roll coils that they manipulated into concentric circles, spirals, balls, and even woven trivets of clay, to form the golden, singing, patterned angels viewed in Klimt’s work. This was very intricate work which required focused joining with enough clay on the back of the work to hold it together as it dried. The children glazed their pieces in mostly primary colours. After the second firing of each piece was completed the children decorated their background boards with Poscas, after practising (the type of patterning used by Klimt. Like Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze, they added tiny beads and bits of costume jewellery in specific places to complete and balance their compositions and add more texture and life to their work.

Each piece of work completed had required much discussion and observation, purposeful experimentation, practise of many skills and patient and diligent execution, as part of a long but rewarding process to finish their work.

Jennie Schoenfeld
Melbourne Montessori School
Suitable for Level 6 – VCE