Teaching Students About the Concept of High Relief in Art

High relief, or “alto relievo” in Italian, is a captivating sculptural technique that adds depth and character to any piece of art. As an art educator, introducing your students to high relief can be an exciting learning experience as they become more familiar with various art forms and artists. In this article, we will explore the importance of teaching students about high relief in art, the history and significance of this technique, and creative ways you can incorporate it into your lesson plans.

The History and Significance of High Relief in Art

The art of high relief dates back thousands of years, making appearances in various ancient cultures including the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. This technique involves carving or sculpting figures so that they project significantly from the background plane. The naturalistic depth portrayed through high relief sets it apart from low relief (“bass-relief”), where the projecting elements stay closer to their background.

High reliefs are often used to accentuate important narratives or figures in art, reflecting monumental moments throughout history. The intensity and detail of this technique add a sense of realism that captivates viewers and artists alike.

Teaching High Relief in the Classroom

High relief can be an engaging topic for discussion among your students as you explore various artistic styles and techniques. Incorporating hands-on projects that demonstrate the beauty of sculptural forms helps make learning about high relief accessible to all ages.

1. Art Appreciation: Begin by comparing different types of reliefs – low, mid, and high – by displaying examples from famous artwork or sculptures. Discuss how the depth varies between these different styles and explain why an artist may choose to use high relief over other methods.

2. Creative Sculpting Projects: Provide materials like clay for younger students or woodblock for older students to create their own high-relief pieces. Assist them with design planning by discussing elements like foreground, mid-ground, and background, along with the importance of creating depth in their artwork. Students will enjoy the process of carving out their creations and watching their visions come to life.

3. Incorporating Art History: Examine specific high-relief pieces from various time periods, such as the royal tombs of ancient Egypt or Auguste Rodin’s famous “The Gates of Hell.” Talk about how these works represent specific periods, cultures, and histories. You can also discuss how advancements in techniques and materials have influenced high relief over time.

4. Field Trip Excursions: Organize a trip to a local museum or exhibition that showcases high-relief artworks. These excursions not only allow students to witness impressive sculptures first-hand but also spark thought-provoking discussions that deepen their understanding of the art form.


Teaching students about high relief in art provides them with foundational knowledge of diverse artistic techniques while encouraging creativity and critical thinking skills. Through hands-on activities, art appreciation, and intriguing discussions about different eras and styles, young minds will flourish as they explore the rich world of dimensionality in art.

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