Dazzling Geometric Art

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12210

Most artwork you've seen, unless it's completely unintelligible, consists of birds and horses and people ... but what if you are not allowed to draw living creatures? Discover the beauty of patterns!


Visual Arts

Fine Arts
learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Can you find patterns on any objects around you right now?

Our minds are always seeking out patterns. Whether in sound or vision, there is something comforting about being able to find repeating elements in the world around us.

Visual patterns are often used to decorate some of the objects in our daily life, like clothing, furniture, and dinnerware. The geometric patterns of the Islamic arts, however, took patterns to a completely different level!

If you travel to the Middle East, or elsewhere in the Islamic world, and you enter into a mosque or an old building, you may find yourself surrounded by hypnotic patterns that repeat over and over again.

The lines and shapes are laid out with incredible precision. What you probably won’t find, though, are images of living creatures — humans or animals — and certainly not God. That is because Islam has generally prohibited images of that kind.

For artists living in Muslim lands, that meant finding other ways to develop the visual arts. They used it as an opportunity to create non-representational art the likes of which the world had never seen before. Non-representational art simply means art that isn’t trying to reproduce images of things in the physical world.

Take some time to find out more about this Islamic geometric art and how it developed.

As you read Geometric Patterns in Islamic Art, write down information to answer the following questions.

  • What were some of the influences on Islamic geometric art?
  • How did Muslim artists further build on these influences?
  • What are the four basic shape elements in Islamic geometric art, according to the article?

Then, reflect on the following questions.

  • Why has representational art, or art that seeks to copy or depict living things in the world, been banned over the centuries?
  • How does having restrictions sometimes force people to become more creative?

Artists in the Islamic world actually developed many different unique approaches to the visual arts over the centuries, and produced countless remarkable works.

In the Got It? section, go on a virtual tour of the Islamic world to find some of the most interesting examples of geometric art.

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