Everyday People, Everyday Things: Art Historical Portraits Lesson Plan Grades 9-12
Images that artists create can often portray a historical time and place. We use these images to learn about the history of where we live and the people that lived there. This activity encourages students to consider the historical past through the stories of those who came before us. By learning about past artists, many of whom were unknown during their lifetime, students will take part in a mini art history lesson.
National Language Arts Learning Standard 7
Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
National Language Arts Learning Standard 8
Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- Conduct research on a living or deceased artist.
- Write a brief essay describing the life and work of that artist.
- Share their historical portraits with the class orally and/or visually.
- 'Bibliography' reproducible
- James VanDerZee, On the Town, 1929
- Romare Bearden, Conjur Woman, 1964
- Elizabeth Catlett-Mora, Separation, 1954
- Paper and pencils
- Access to the library and or internet
SET UP AND PREPARE
- Copy 'Bibliography' reproducible for each student
- Prepare to view images and discuss
- James VanDerZee, On the Town, 1929 (PDF)
- Romare Bearden, Conjur Woman, 1964 (PDF)
- Elizabeth Catlett-Mora, Separation, 1954 (PDF)
Art Historical Portraits
- Discuss the ways in which artists portray historical times and places through image. Talk about how we can use these images to learn about the history of where we live and the people that lived there in the past.
- As a group, brainstorm different artists of interest that students can potentially research. Use blackboard and flip charts to record the students brainstorming as a reference for later activity. They should be encouraged to consider women artists as well as artists of color, who have only recently entered into the art historical record.
- Discuss the most pertinent elements of a research essay and the importance of citing references and source materials for information gathered.
- Distribute copies of the 'Bibliography' reproducible.
- Provide students with time and access to library and or internet resources to conduct research on an artist of their choosing. Remind students to use the ideas discussed and listed from the group brainstorming as appropriate.
- Instruct students to record their sources on the 'Bibliography' reproducible as they are conducting their research.
- Students should then draft an essay about the artist they have researched. They should be encouraged to include supporting materials such as copies of images of the artists' work, as well as an image of the artist themselves.
- Students read their historical portraits aloud to the class.
Students may create handouts of images or a powerpoint presentation to provide the rest of the class with additional information about the artistic work of the artist.