Exploring Shapes in Pablo Picasso’s “Guitar, Sheet Music, and Glass”

Essential Question

What shapes did Pablo Picasso use to create his piece Guitar, Sheet Music, and Glass and how can similar shapes be used to create other instruments?


In the early 1900s, young artists in Paris yearned to move beyond the realistic portrayals of objects and landscapes that shaped much of the history of painting. To break from the past, they reduced objects to fragmented geometric shapes and angles, and experimented with new ways of presenting images from multiple perspectives within a single painting. While past artists showcased perspective and dimension in their works, younger artists like Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque created flat scenes that merge the subject and surface as one. They also experimented with forgoing paint altogether, pasting everyday items like newspapers and sheet music to the canvas. The results of their cumulative efforts was later termed Cubism.

Picasso’s 1912 piece Guitar, Sheet Music, and Glass exemplifies many of the techniques associated with Cubism. It uses traditional geometric shapes such as squares, rectangles, and circles, while also incorporating imperfect shapes like semi circles and rounded oblong figures. Picasso also uses various materials such as a newspaper, a piece of sheet music, wall paper, and a drawing of a wine glass in the piece. Together, the shapes and mediums create the depiction of a guitar, an object that appears in much of Picasso’s work.

In this lesson, students identify basic shapes and types of lines, and analyze how Pablo Picasso’s might use such shapes and lines in Guitar, Sheet Music, and Glass. Drawing upon Guitar, Sheet Music, and Glass as an inspiration, students than cut out and paste shapes to create their own cubist collage of a musical instrument.

Materials Required for this lesson:

  • Various types of paper (construction, patterned, cardstock, newspapers, magazines, tissue paper, etc.)
  • Glue
  • Scissors

View More


  1. Know (knowledge):
    • How to identify a shape based upon its characteristics
    • How to identify curved and straight lines
    • The defining characteristics of Cubism
    • Pablo Picasso’s Guitar, Sheet Music, and Glass (1912)
  2. Mastery Objective:
    • Students will be able to create their own Cubist collage of a musical instrument by analyzing the shapes used in Pablo Picasso’s work Guitar, Sheet Music, and Glass.


Motivational Activity:

  1. Tell students that in this lesson, they will be learning about shapes. Show Image 1, Types of Shapes. Ask students:
    • Have you ever seen these shapes before? Which one? Where have you seen it?
    • How are these shapes different?
  2. Point to each shape, and ask:
    1. How many sides does this shape have? Can you count them?
    2. Are all the lines in the shape the same length, or are some lines longer than others?
    3. Do all the lines look the same? Are they straight, meaning they possess no curve or are they curved, meaning they are rounded?


  1. Show Image 2, Guitar, Sheet Music, and Glass (1912) Ask students:
    • What sort of shapes do you recognize in this work of art?
    • Where do you see curved lines? Where do you see straight lines?
    • What objects do you see?
    • What does this work of art show?
  2. Show Image 3, Picasso’s Guitar Compared. Ask students:
    • How is Picasso’s depiction of a guitar similar to a real guitar?
    • How does Picasso’s depiction of the guitar differ from a real guitar?
    • This guitar is an example of Cubism, an art style developed by Picasso and fellow artist Georges Braque. Based on what you see, what might be the idea of Cubism? (Through discussion, the class should reach the conclusion that Cubism involves reducing objects into simple, overlapping shapes.)
  3. Tell students that they will be creating their own instrument collage, similar to Picasso’s Guitar, Sheet Music, and Glass. Display Image 4, Common Instruments. Ask students to each pick an instrument in Image 4 to create a collage of. Then, ask students to identify the shapes within the instrument they’ve chosen, and draw and cut out these shapes from paper (if helpful, teachers can display or print out Image 1, Types of Shapes as a reference for students). Have students arrange the shapes they’ve cut out to construct the instrument they selected, then glue them to the main surface.

Summary Activity:

  1. Have each student present their sculpture, and have the class try to guess what instrument the sculpture is representing. Then, have the presenter discuss what shapes they used to create their sculpture.
  2. Share your student’s creations by sending images to info@rockandrollforever.org

Extension Activities:

  1. As a class, discuss other ways music is depicted in art. Some sample works could include:
    • Fernando Botero. Dancing in Colombia (1980)
    • Romare Bearden. The Piano Lesson (1983)
    • Augusta Savage. The Harp (1937)
    • Jan Steen. The Family Court (1666)
    • Remedios Varo. Energia Cosmica (1954)
    • Archibald Motley Jr. Nightlife (1943)


Common Core State Standards

Math Standards

K.G.A.1: Describe objects in the environment using names of shapes, and describe the relative positions of these objects using terms such as above, below, beside, in front of, behind, and next to.

K.G.A.2: Correctly name shapes regardless of their orientations or overall size.

K.G.B.4: Analyze and compare two- and three-dimensional shapes, in different sizes and orientations, using informal language to describe their similarities, differences, parts (e.g., number of sides and vertices/”corners”) and other attributes (e.g., having sides of equal length).

K.G.B.5: Model shapes in the world by building shapes from components (e.g., sticks and clay balls) and drawing shapes.

1.G.A.1: Distinguish between defining attributes (e.g., triangles are closed and three-sided) versus non-defining attributes (e.g., color, orientation, overall size); build and draw shapes to possess defining attributes.

2.G.A.1: Recognize and draw shapes having specified attributes, such as a given number of angles or a given number of equal faces.1 Identify triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, and cubes.

4.G.A.1: Draw points, lines, line segments, rays, angles (right, acute, obtuse), and perpendicular and parallel lines. Identify these in two-dimensional figures.

4.G.A.2: Classify two-dimensional figures based on the presence or absence of parallel or perpendicular lines, or the presence or absence of angles of a specified size. Recognize right triangles as a category, and identify right triangles.

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas 7: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language

Language 1: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use 6: Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.