Modern Art in Nursery

Modern Art in Nursery

In nursery we have been learning all about modern art!

We love our class pet. He is called Gary and he is a giant African land snail. We are always making snails in the slime and the play dough or reading non-fiction books about snails.

One day we read the story ‘Snail Trail’ by Jo Saxton. It is all about a snail, like Gary, who goes on an adventure exploring the work of different artists. At the end there is a picture for him called ‘The Snail’ by Henri Matisse.

snail trail

We looked at the art and shared what we thought of each piece, with some interesting answers…

Jackson Pollock Number 20, 1949

The children thought that the paint splats looked like flies and spiders…


“I don’t like it”

“I don’t like them flies”

“Yeah them flies and spiders!”

“I don’t like it”

“It’s scary”


Salvador Dali The Persistence of Memory, 1931

The children were not very keen on this painting. They thought it looked too hot and everything was melting. They didn’t think it looked like a good place for the snail to visit…


“It’s too hot”

“It’s melting” 

“Yeah melting”

“I don’t think Gary the Snail should go there”

“It’s too hot for him”

“I don’t like it”

“Look at the clock! It’s slimy”


Barnett Newman Abraham, 1949

The children liked this one. They liked that the artist had coloured the whole picture in, they thought he must have tried hard…


“I like it!”

“I do”

“I think he did it all by himself”

“Yeah he coloured it all in”


Mark Rothko White Centre, 1950

The children were quite keen on the bright colours on this picture, although some children would have preferred different colours…

download (1)

“I like this one”

“It’s orange and pink, my favourite”

“I think he should do it green next, I think Gary likes green”


Pablo Picasso Maya in a Sailor Suit, 1938

This painting caused a lot of giggles! The children thought it was funny but could not quite agree on what it was a painting of.

download (2)


“This is funny!”

“It’s a mummy!”

“No it’s not, it’s a daddy!”

“I think it’s a little boy”

“He’s going fishing”

“He might be going crabbing”

Ben Nicholson 1940-42 (two forms)

Some children liked this picture but some did not. Lots of children liked the colours and the shapes.

DACS; (c) DACS; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

“I like them bits”

“They’re squares”

“And rectangles”

“It’s red and yellow and blue and white and black and…”


Henri Matisse The Snail, 1953

Finally we came to the picture of the snail. The children liked it but weren’t sure that it looked like a snail.


“He found it!”

“Gary the snail”

“I like them colours”

“It doesn’t look like Gary the snail”

After reading the story we decided to make our own snail pictures in the style of Henri Matisse.

We used colourful paper, glue and scissors. We had to cut the paper very carefully into squares. Then we arranged them in a swirl for the snail’s shell. When we were happy with our snail we glued our squares on.

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After we had finished we did something special with our work. We critiqued it. Critique is something we do all through school. It is when we help our friends to make their work the best it can be.

First we look at their work and talk about all the things we like. Then we think how we could make it even better. Sometimes the adults give us prompts like, ‘What do you think of the size?’ ‘What about the colours?’ Other times we have our own ideas of what could make it better.

We share our ideas with our friends remembering to be kind, helpful and specific (telling our friends exactly which bit we would like them to change). Then we make the changes and look at how much better our work gets straight away!


Look at how our snails have improved with a little help from our friends.

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Click here to see our Critique ebook


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