Tableaux Vivants: ‘Living Pictures’ Performance Art

tableaux vivants pinable

First grade tableau vivant: Keith Haring, “Five Figures Dancing”.

Our first and second graders acted out a series of tableaux vivants (‘living pictures’ ) last week. In traditional tableaux, people dress up as the characters in an artwork. They hold a minutes-long pose in front of an elaborately painted background. We skipped the costumes and backdrops, but still had a great time interacting with the artworks.

We began with a Powerpoint and video (see below). For a warm up, we practiced posing like the Mona Lisa. After students understood the basic concept, they acted out artworks with progressively larger groups of characters.

After a few group activities, I put a bunch of art books on the tables and let students act out whatever they liked.

homer tableau vivant

First grade tableau vivant: Winslow Homer ‘Snap the Whip’.

Second grade tableau vivant: Henry Moore, "Reclining Figure"

Second grade tableau vivant: Henry Moore, “Reclining Figure”.

Second grade tableau vivant.

Second grade tableau vivant.

I love the second grade interpretation of Roy Lichtenstein’s Wham!. The little girl in the photo is acting out the explosion.

Wham! tableau vivant

Second grade tableau vivant: Roy Lichtenstein, ‘Wham!’


‘Pagent of the Masters’ is an elaborate tableaux vivants production staged each summer here in Southern California. It has been going on since 1933, and features tableaux based on painting, sculpture, prints and more. Check out this video from CBS Sunday Morning .

Here is the Google Presentation (it’s just like a Powerpoint) I created for our lesson. It includes some fun ‘sculpture game’ activities at the end.

Tableaux vivants are a great way to interact with artworks at the museum. Check out this article from Art Museum Teaching.

Next steps:

Can you imagine the students staging their own Pagent of the Masters? They could select their own artworks, dress up, paint their own background, gather props, have a student director, an iPad photographer….how cool would that be? Maybe next term….


Roy Lichtenstein Art Project for iPad and Computer

Our 6th graders did another digital art project this week: a quick artwork inspired by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. We used iPads, but the good news is you can do this project from a computer just as easily.


Lichtenstein’s Thinking of Him, 1963.

After looking at Lichtenstein’s 1963 painting Thinking of Him, students used their iPads to do a Google search for Lichtenstein images. They saved their five favorites to the camera roll.
I asked what they noticed about Lichtenstein’s work. Students noticed word bubbles, a lot of blonds and cartoons. I asked them to review their saved images and look for

  • everyday items
  • primary colors (red/yellow/blue)
  • black outlines
  • dots, especially for flesh tone

We talked about appropriation in art. During the 1960s, Lichtenstein and other pop artists such as Andy Warhol used pre-existing images of everyday objects (i.e. comics) as a starting points in their artworks. I passed out enlargements from old newspaper comics, plus the little wax paper primary color comics from Bazooka bubblegum.  I explained that these types of images were well-known back in the early 1960s. Even the dots (known as ‘benday’ dots) Lichtenstein used were appropriated from comic book printing techniques used back in the 1960s.

The digital Art Project
We used the free, online TATE kids dotshop website to create our digital artworks. (note: dotshop is compatible with iPad and computer).

How to create a digital Lichtenstein-inspired portrait using TATE kids DotShop.

Create a digital Lichtenstein-inspired portrait using TATE kids DotShop. Teacher example. Betty Draper photo via AMC

Steps to create a Lichtenstein-inspired digital artwork:

1.Open TATE Kids

2. a) use the camera option to take a selfie or picture of your friends or b) appropriate a well-known image from the internet (e.g. Betty Draper, Sponge Bob, Arnold Schwartzenegger).

3. Adjust color and benday dot size.

4. Color in the background a solid color

5. optional: outline in black

6. optional: add text.

7 Save within the website, then save to camera roll.

8. Turn in to digital turn in folder on Google Drive (click here to read about how we turn in digital art).

6th grade results 

Kenna's appropriated image, includes dots, pink background and text.

Kenna’s appropriated image, includes dots, pink background and text.


Appropriating an image: Lucas found an image of Arnold Schwarzenegger, added benday dots, colored the background red, and added text.

Appropriating an image: Lucas found an image of Arnold Schwarzenegger, added benday dots, colored the background red, and added text.

DotShop Lichtenstein-inspired self portrait



Do you have a favorite Lichtenstein-inspired art project?


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