Skip to main content

Discussion Strategy: Tableau Vivant (Quick Tip)

What is Tableau Vivant?


Tableau Vivant translates as ‘living pictures’ in French. This strategy invites students to imagine entering a painting or sculpture by taking the pose of a character (or group of characters) in a work of art. As a kinesthetic activity, this strategy is especially helpful for students who learn through movement. Similar to our other visual literacy strategies, Tableau Vivant provides an avenue for students to closely observe and describe works of art.


How to Facilitate Tableau Vivant:

  • Invite a single student or a group of students (depending on the scene in the work of art) to stand in front of the painting or sculpture.
  • Don’t let the model see the work of art (sometimes it is fun to blindfold them!) and ask the model to stand facing the group with their back to the work.
  • Ask the group to describe the subject’s pose, starting with the model’s feet (even if they aren’t visible in the work of art).
  • Using detailed description, based on what they see, ask the group to give the model directions for moving their body into the subject’s pose.
  • At the end of the activity, ask the model how he or she feels in that pose and what the group (and model)discovered about the work of art through this exercise.