Becoming an Art Critic: Graphic Organizer



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Smithsonian American Art Museum

Becoming an Art Critic: Graphic Organizer

An activity to help young students analyze artwork

Overview

Designed for elementary school students and educators, this activity helps to teach the critical skill of “reading” a work of art. After completing this activity, students will have honed a basic technique enabling them to better examine and interpret art.



Suggestions for Implementation

This lesson is ideal for, but not limited to, a class that is planning to visit the Smithsonian American Art Museum, either in person or via videoconference. Central to the exercise is the Becoming an Art Critic graphic organizer, which proposes a series of questions to ask about a work of art. The organizer prepares students to understand and view critically a particular work that they will see in the Museum or by videoconference. Even for students who cannot visit American Art, this activity remains a valuable tool for learning how to critically examine visual art.

Although the graphic organizer prompts students with questions about the artwork, it also includes suggested follow-up questions that will help teachers guide the students to a deeper understanding of the work.

Consult the attached list of American Art’s tours. Each tour topic includes key images, which you can preview on the Internet. From this list, you and your students can select an image to study using the graphic organizer. Ask students to complete the organizer handout, and discuss their responses with the class. Use the suggested questions to facilitate discussion. Remember that each student’s response can be correct, but encourage the student to support his or her views with clues from the selected work.

To process responses to the graphic organizer, we have included possible follow-up learning activities. There are several writing prompts available as well as one oral storytelling activity. Ask

students to complete an exercise to help them refine their ideas. This section provides a final product for assessment.



Becoming an Art Critic

Choose an artwork that you find interesting. Answer the following questions.

Who or what do you see in this artwork?




William H. Johnson, Art Class — Three Men, ca. 1939-1940,

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation



What colors are in the artwork?

Where do you think this scene is taking place?

Why do you like or dislike this artwork?

When do you think this artwork was made?

How do you think this artist made this artwork?

Becoming an Art Critic

Suggested Questions to Prompt Student Thinking Choose an artwork that you find interesting.

Answer the following questions.

Who or what do you see in this artwork?




William H. Johnson, Art Class — Three Men, ca. 1939-1940, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon

Foundation





  • What is going on in this picture? What more can you find?

  • What is the largest thing you see in this picture?

  • What is the smallest thing you see in this picture?

  • Who are these people in the artwork? Are they similar or different from you?

What colors are in the artwork?

  • What can you tell me about the colors in this artwork? What color do you see the most?

  • What kind of mood or feelings do the colors give the artwork?

  • Do you like the colors that are in the artwork?

  • If you were the artist, would you have used different colors?

Where do you think this scene is taking place?

  • What season is it?

  • What time of day?

  • What kind of weather?

  • Is the scene outside? Inside?

Why do you think this artist made this artwork?

  • How does this artwork make you feel?

  • How do you think the artist feels about this person or thing in the painting?

When do you think this artwork was made?

  • Does this scene look like it could be taking place today? Why or why not?

  • If there are people, are their clothes similar or different from what you are wearing? Why or why not?

  • Is the scenery similar or different from where you are?

  • What does the scenery and the clothing or objects tell us about when this artwork was made?

How do you think this artist made this artwork?

  • What types of materials did the artist use? Paint? Clay? Wood?

  • How long do you think it took to make?

  • How big do you think the artwork is?

Activities

Directions: Use your graphic organizer to help you answer the following questions.

  1. Select an artwork. Imagine you can have a conversation with the artist. What questions (at least three) would you ask him or her?

  2. If you were responsible for creating a new title for this painting, what would it be? Provide reasoning for your choice.

  3. Imagine that you are inside the painting. Choose a person or object. Write a journal entry pretending that you are that person or object. What types of things do you see? What do you feel? What did you do today? What will you do tomorrow?

Oral Storytelling

  1. Working in groups of two, have students create a short story using the selected artwork as inspiration. Allow students time to share their stories with the class.

Key images for American Art Museum Tours
For each of the tours, two images have been selected to represent very different aspects of the same theme. Images can be accessed through the links provided.

Tour Theme Image One Image Two

America’s Signs and Symbols

Miss Liberty Celebration 1987

Malcah Zeldis



George Washington

ca. 1845


Henry Brintnell Bounetheau

oil on corrugated cardboard

54 1/2 x 36 1/2 in. (138.4 x 92.7 cm) 1988.74.14



http://americanart.si.edu/images/1988/19 88.74.14_1a.jpg

Copy after Gilbert Stuart

watercolor on ivory

6 1/8 x 5 in. (15.6 x 12.7 cm) rectangle

1946.3.15 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1946/1946.3.15_ 1a.jpg



Art and Literature

The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane

1858


John Quidor

St. Nicholas

ca. 1837


Robert Walter Weir

oil on wood

29 3/4 x 24 1/2 in. (75.5 x 62.1 cm.)

1977.51 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1977/1977.51_1 a.jpg


oil on canvas

26 7/8 x 33 7/8 in. (68.3 x 86.1 cm.) 1994.120



http://americanart.si.edu/images/1994/19 94.120_1a.jpg

Beating the Odds: African-American Women Artists

Old Arrow Maker

modeled 1866, carved 1872 Edmonia Lewis



Snoopy Sees Earth Wrapped in Sunset 1970

Alma Thomas



marble

21 1/2 x 13 5/8 x 13 3/8 in. (54.5 x 34.5 x 34.0 cm.)

1983.95.179 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1983/19 83.95.179_1a.jpg


acrylic on canvas

47 7/8 x 47 7/8 in. (121.6 x 121.6 cm.)

1978.40.4 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1978/1978.40.4_ 1a.jpg


Contemporary Craft

Feast Bracelet

1974


Richard Mawdsley

Game Fish 1988

Larry Fuente



mixed media

51 1/2 x 112 1/2 x 10 3/4 in. (130.8 x 285.6 x 27.3 cm)

1991.61 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1991/1991.61_1 a.jpg


fabricated sterling silver, jade, and pearls 3 3/4 x 2 3/4 x 4 1/2 in. (9.6 x 7.0 x 11.5 cm.)

1983.52 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1983/19 83.52_1a.jpg



Folk Art: Beyond the Everyday

Miss Liberty Celebration 1987

Malcah Zeldis



Wolf Riding Turtle After 1930

Unidentified



oil on corrugated cardboard

54 1/2 x 36 1/2 in. (138.4 x 92.7 cm) 1988.74.14



http://americanart.si.edu/images/1988/19 88.74.14_1a.jpg

carved, varnished, and painted walnut 15 3/8 x 9 5/8 x 14 in. (39.2 x 24.5 x 35.5 cm.)

1986.65.339 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1986/1986.65.33 9_1a.jpg



Free Within

Ourselves: African American Artists

Café

ca. 1939-1940

William H. Johnson


Evening Attire

1922


James VanDerZee

oil on paperboard 36 1/2 x 28 3/8 in.

1967.59.669 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1967/19 67.59.669_1a.jpg



gelatin silver print on paper mounted on paperboard

sheet: 10 x 8 in.

1994.57.3 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1994/1994.57.3_ 1a.jpg


A House Divided (Civil War)

Lee Surrendering to Grant at Appomattox

ca. 1870


Alonzo Chappel

A Visit from the Old Mistress 1876

Winslow Homer



oil on canvas

18 x 24 in.

1909.7.28 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1909/1909.7.28_ 1 a.jpg


oil on paperboard

12 3/8 x 17 1/4 in. (31.4 x 43.8 cm) 1981.139



http://americanart.si.edu/images/1981/19 81.139_1a.jpg

Latino Art and Culture

Vaquero

modeled 1980/cast 1990 Luis Jiménez



El Chandelier 1988

Pepón Osorio



acrylic urethane, fiberglass, steel

armature


199 x 114 x 67 in.

1990.44 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1990/19 90.44_1a.jpg



mixed media

60 7/8 x 42 in. (154.6 x 106.7 cm) diam.

1995.40 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1995/1995.40_1 a.jpg


Lure of the West (Westward

Expansion)

Among the Sierra Nevada, California 1868

Albert Bierstadt



Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way (mural study, U.S. Capitol)

1861


Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze

oil on canvas

72 x 120 1/8 in.

1977.107.1 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1977/19 77.107.1_1a .jpg


oil on canvas

33 1/4 x 43 3/8 in. (84.5 x 110.1 cm.)

1931.6.1 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1931/1931.6.1_1 a .jpg


Native Americans

Wijún jon, Pigeon's Egg Head (The Light) Going To and Returning From Washington

1837-1839

George Catlin


Young Omahaw, War Eagle, Little Missouri, and Pawnees

1821


Charles Bird King

oil on canvas

36 1/8 x 28 in. (91.8 x 71.1 cm)

1985.66.384,222 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1985/1985.66.38 4,222_1a.jpg


oil on canvas

29 x 24 in.

1985.66.474 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1985/19 85.66.474_1a.jpg




Neighborhood and Nation

Sunlight and Shadow 1941

Allan Rohan Crite



Bird's-eye View of the Mandan Village, 1800 Miles above St. Louis

1837-1839

George Catlin


oil on board

25 1/4 x 39 in.

1977.45 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1977/19 77.45_1ajpg


oil on canvas

24 1/8 x 29 in.

1985.66.502 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1985/1985.66.50 2_1ajpg


New Voices, New Visions

Vaquero

modeled 1980/cast 1990 Luis Jiménez



Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii

1995


Nam June Paik

acrylic urethane, fiberglass, steel

armature


199 x 114 x 67 in.

1990.44 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1990/19 90.44_1ajpg



49-channel closed circuit video installation, neon, steel and electronic components

approx. 15 x 40 x 4 ft.

2002.23 http://americanart.si.edu/images/2002/2002.23_1 ajpg


Picturing America

Manhattan

1932


Georgia O'Keeffe

Mrs. George Watson 1765

John Singleton Copley



oil on canvas

84 3/8 x 48 1/4 in. (214.3 x 122.4 cm.) 1995.3.1



http://americanart.si.edu/images/1995/19 95.3.1_1ajpg

oil on canvas

49 7/8 x 40 in. (126.7 x 101.6 cm)

1991.189 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1991/1991.189_ 1ajpg


Reshaping American Life (The New Deal Era)

Relief Blues

ca. 1938


O. Louis Guglielmi

Dust Bowl

1933


Alexandre Hogue

tempera on fiberboard

24 x 30 in.

1971.447.34 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1971/19 71.447.34_1ajpg


oil on canvas

24 x 32 5/8 in. (61 x 82.8 cm)

1969.123 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1969/1969.123_ 1ajpg


To See is to Think: Visual Literacy

Mrs. James Smith and Grandson 1776

Charles Willson Peale



The South Ledges, Appledore 1913

Childe Hassam



oil on canvas

36 3/8 x 29 1/4 in.

1980.93 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1980/19 80.93_1ajpg


oil on canvas

34 1/4 x 36 1/8 in. (87.0 x 91.6 cm.)



1929.6.62 http://americanart.si.edu/images/1929/1929.6.62_ 1ajpg



Urbanized America

Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler (Mrs. John

Cumulus Clouds, East River




Jay Chapman)

1901-1902




1893

Robert Henri




John Singer Sargent

oil on canvas




oil on canvas

25 3/4 x 32 in.




49 3/8 x 40 1/2 in.

1992.91




1980.71

http://americanart.si.edu/images/1992/1992.91_1




http://americanart.si.edu/images/1980/19

a.jpg




80.71_1a.jpg




Young America

Mrs. James Smith and Grandson

The Great Horseshoe Fall, Niagara

(1750-1850)

1776

1820




Charles Willson Peale

Alvan Fisher




oil on canvas

oil on canvas




36 3/8 x 29 1/4 in. (92.4 x 74.3 cm.)

34 3/8 x 48 in.




1980.93

1966.82.1




http://americanart.si.edu/images/1980/19

http://americanart.si.edu/images/1966/1966.82.1_




80.93_1a.jpg

1a.jpg


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