Picturing America, an exciting new initiative from the National Endowment for
the Humanities, brings masterpieces of American art into classrooms and
libraries nationwide. Through this innovative program, students and citizens
will gain a deeper appreciation of our country’s history and character through
the study and understanding of its art. The nation’s artistic heritage—our paintings, sculpture, architecture, fine crafts, and photography—offers unique insights into the character, ideals, and aspirations of our country.
By bringing high-quality reproductions of notable American art into public and private schools, libraries, and communities, Picturing America gives participants the opportunity to learn about our nation’s history and culture in a fresh and engaging way. The program uses art as a catalyst for the study of America—the cultural, political, and historical threads woven into our nation’s fabric over time.
The Pennsylvania State Standards for art say that it's important that students know how to look at a work of art intuitively, contextually, and through formal analysis. Those are big words, I know, but I reword it this way:
1. What do you think? The first way to look at a painting is to say what we think. There are no right or wrong answers. At least one student in every class things the painting above looks just like Jack Black! A lot of kids pick up on details, like it seems like Paul Revere is a very thoughtful person, and that he has tools there that he is using to make the teapot, so he must a silversmith. Some even notice that the artist has made the setting a little too pretty to be a craftsman's workbench -- and, where's his apron?
2. What do we know? To learn more about the historical context of the subject we look at this painting by Grant Wood, also from the Picturing America set:
Learning about the historical details of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere helps us understand the time period and importance of both paintings.
3. Let's talk about the design. This is when we analyze the pictures using the elements and principles of design. For instance, how does the artist really make his subject stand out in the first painting? One way is how he made the background completely dark.
We're really grateful for these beautiful posters. Click here to see the whole selection of images we'll be able to use from now on.