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Lesson plan: Neoclassicism

National Curriculum: KS3 Art & Design


This lesson can be used:

  • to start a sculpture project
  • to help understand the link between discoveries outside the arts and artists’ practice
  • to practise the use of maquettes as preliminary studies for 3D work, and understand the similarities between that practice and the use of sketches prior to painting

IMAGE OF OBJECT (Gibson's Hunter/Dog) TO GO HERE (but I can't do this on staging apparently)


John Gibson’s The Hunter and his Dog is a neoclassical sculpture on display at The Usher Gallery, Lincoln. It was made after the artist observed a street scene in Rome, which inspired him to make a small clay model of it in his studio.

Through this lesson plan your students will discover how this sculpture was made, they will explore the use of maquettes in making sculpture, and will see how sculpture can inspire contemporary works.

The plan includes links to videos on Art UK’s website.

Learning objectives

This lesson plan will allow your students to:

  • learn about the history of art, craft, design and architecture, including periods, styles and major movements from ancient times up to the present day
  • use a range of techniques to record their observations in sketchbooks, journals and other media as a basis for exploring their ideas
  • analyse and evaluate their own work, and that of others, in order to strengthen the visual impact or applications of their work
  • know and understand how sources inspire the development of ideas – for example, drawing on the work and approaches of artists, craftspeople or designers from contemporary and/or historical contexts, periods, societies and cultures

Suggested classroom activities 

1. Film: How The Hunter and his Dog was made

In this short film Andrea Martin from The Usher Gallery talks about how Gibson designed the sculpture. He was quickly commissioned to make a life-size marble statue, and subsequently made further full-size copies.

2. The Hunter and his Dog in 3D

Task the students to study this 3D scan of the sculpture. Ask them to find the angle they would choose to best represent the sculpture in 2D.

Students should take a screen grab of their best shot. Quickly check to see the range of choices they made. Ask them to list the details they see in the design that show the artist was aware of the practical need to protect vulnerable elements of the design to avoid the piece getting damaged in transport.

3. Chisel and Colour video

Ask the students what year they think the marble sculpture would have been made. This short film (2 minutes 14 seconds) will help inform the students about the similarities and differences between classical and neoclassical. It can be used to provoke a discussion about how much artists of one generation copy or refer back to previous generations in their work.

EMBED OF CHISEL AND COLOUR VIDEO (not on YouTube, so I've put a Getty one as a holding video)

4. Sketching poses

Set the task to replicate the approach of John Gibson and observe a real-life sports lesson. Students should sketch sporting action poses. They must choose an action pose they think would make an interesting and viable neoclassical style sculpture. Having researched and made decisions students should develop a design sheet for their chosen pose. This should involve simple sketches that show the proposed neoclassical sculpture from at least two angles. The idea is more important than drawing ability and simple quick sketches will demonstrate their idea.

5. Colour on statues

Almost twenty years after making The Hunter and his Dog, John Gibson started following the ancient practice of colouring his statues. The Usher Gallery, Lincoln, commissioned an artwork by Oliver Laric. Laric 3D scanned Gibson’s 1838 piece, distorting its dimensions and 3D printing it. This produced a relief effect, to which he then applied colour.

Show the Laric photograph on the whiteboard and give your students copies of this extract from a letter in which Gibson describes his colouring of the Tainted Venus. Ask them to choose either the Laric or Gibson approach and produce sketches of how they might add colour to their design.