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24 American Art History Lessons

Home / Art Main Menu / Approach To Instruction / Art Appreciation / Drawing Curriculum / Chronological Art Lessons / American Art History

From Devin, here is another list of art projects. This coordinates with American history. The only text necessary for these projects is Discovering Great Artists. If you need 36 weeks of lessons, there are many interesting Native American, Colonial, and pioneer crafts which you can use to fill in the year. Some good sources for extra projects are:

Here are a couple fun ideas to get you started. Try: butter making, candle dipping, making scrimshaw using soap, sand painting, pottery making, etc.

Lesson 1
Art History: Limners, unknown American artist, Susanna Truax (NGA)
Project: Draw some simple bodies, photocopy them and add different faces — fat, thin, etc.
or: find some full body pictures in magazines or photos and cut out different heads to place on them to show how odd that can look.

Lesson 2
Art History: Benjamin West, 1738-1820, The Death of General Wolfe (Nat'l. Gallery of Canada, Ottawa)
Project: Draw a scene of a modern event, but portray the people wearing Greek or Roman clothing (or clothing from another historical period) and place it in a classical setting.
or: do a living tableau or play charades showing a historic event.

Lesson 3
Art History: Gilbert Stuart, 1755-1827, The Skater (Portrait of William Grant) (NGA)
Project: Study the use of positive and negative space. Draw a picture in "negative" to show this — perhaps a white chair in a dark room.

Lesson 4
Art History: John Singleton Copley, 1738-1815, Watson and the Shark (Museum of Fine Art, Boston). Take the NGA website's in-depth study tour of this painting at their website (if it's still available).
Project: Describe animals (some imaginary) to your student and have them try to draw them just from your description, similar to what Copley did when he drew his shark.

Lesson 5
Art History: Charles Willson Peale, 1741-1826, Staircase Group (Philadelphia Museum of Art)
Project: Measure your face to find correct proportions (the nose in halfway down the face, the top of the ears line up with the eyes, etc.) and draw a portrait.
or: look in the mirror and draw your face with soap.
or: draw or paint a picture and include some actual materials — fabric, fur, leaves, bark — in it.

Lesson 6
Art History: John James Audubon, 1785-1851, Blue Yellow Back Warbler (NGA)
Project: Draw from nature, perhaps begin a nature notebook.
or: draw one of your pets.

Lesson 7
Art History: Martin Heade, 1819-1904, Cattleya Orchid & Three Brazilian Hummingbirds (NGA)
Project: Find pictures of exotic flowers or buy them from a florist and draw them with oil pastels. Orchids are a very good subject.

Lesson 8
Art History: Thomas Cole, 1801-1848, A View of the Mountain Pass (NGA)
Project: Study the way artists make things look far away — perspective, color, detail, size. Draw a mountain scene and either paint it or use oil pastels.

Lesson 9
Art History: Albert Bierstadt, 1830-1902, Lake Lucerne (NGA)
Project: Draw landscapes focusing on skies showing different types of weather. (First look for paintings showing a variety of skies.)

Lesson 10
Art History: George Catlin, 1796-1872, The White Cloud, Head Chief of the Iowas (NGA)
Project: Make sand paintings using Indian designs. (Draw design on posterboard, paint in with glue, sprinkle colored sand on.)
or: make a buffalo mask. Cut a piece of brown cardboard into the general shape of a buffalo head, cut holes for the eyes and glue curled strips of brown paper to it.

Lesson 11
Art History: Winslow Homer, 1836-1910, Cracking the Whip (Butler Institute of Art, Youngstown, Ohio)
Project: Draw children at school or play.
or: do the "Wilderness Watercolor" project as suggested in Discovering Great Artists.

Lesson 12
Art History: Charles Marion Russell, 1864-1926, Crippled But Still Coming (Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth)
Project: Do a living tableau or draw or paint pictures that tell an exciting story.
or: practice drawing horses.
or: do the "Western Sunset" project in Discovering Great Artists. Think of a logo that you could use to sign your paintings. Russell used a buffalo head. Russell's paintings also lend themselves very well to creative writing assignments — tell the story behind the painting.

Lesson 13
Art History: Frederick Remington, 1861-1900, A Dash for Timber (Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth)
Project: Make an action sculpture of an animal, use 24 gauge wire or Sculpey clay.

Lesson 14
Art History: James Abbott McNeill Whistler, 1834-1913, Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother (Musee d'Orsay, France); and John Singer Sargent, 1856-1924, The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (Museum of Fine Art, Boston).
Project: Draw and paint a casual, sketchy portrait using only one or two basic colors.

Lesson 15
Art History: Mary Cassatt, 1845-1926, Children Playing on the Beach (NGA)
Project: Draw or photograph your younger siblings (or other children) at play.
or: do the "Tempera Monoprint" project in Discovering Great Artists

Lesson 16
Art History: George Luks, 1867-1933, The Miner (NGA)
Project: Luks began work as a cartoonist. Draw some political cartoons.
or: draw sketches of people working — preferably hard, physical work.

Lesson 17
Art History: George Bellows, 1882-1925, Both Members of This Club (NGA)
Project: Study action poses on football and baseball cards. Make up your own sports card.
or: try your hand at some sports photography or sketches.

Lesson 18
Art History: Grant Wood, 1892-1942, American Gothic (Art Institute of Chicago)
Project: Draw a copy of American Gothic substituting your parents' or grandparents' faces. Change the implements, too, to tools that they use.

Lesson 19
Art History: Frank Llyod Wright, 1867-1959, Fallingwater House (Bear Run, Pennsylvania), see Ralf's Home/. Select "Architect's Corner."
Project: Do the "Box House Architect" project in Discovering Great Artists.

Lesson 20
Art History: Andrew Wyeth, b.1917, Christina's World (Museum of Modern Art, NY)
Project: Sketch from nature, then watercolor your sketch.
or: do the "First Snow" project in Discovering Great Artists

Lesson 21
Art History: Edward Hopper, 1882-1967, Nighthawks (Art Institute of Chicago)
Project: Draw or photograph lonely people or places.

Lesson 22
Art History: Georgia O'Keeffe, 1887-1986, Jack-in-the-Pulpit No.IV, (NGA)
Project: Draw and paint an extreme close-up of a flower or other object.
or: try a juxtoposition like O'Keeffe's flowers and skulls.
or: do the "Close-Up Flower" project from Discovering Great Artists.

Lesson 23
Art History: Louise Nevelson, 1900-1988, Black Zag A (Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey)
Project: Do the "Scrap Box Art" project from Discovering Great Artists.

Lesson 24
Art History: Andy Warhol, 1930-1987, Marilyn Diptych, (Tate Gallery, London)
Project: Do the "Lots of Me" project from Discovering Great Artists.

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Discovering Great Artists by Kim Solga and MaryAnn Kohl
NGA, The National Gallery of Art

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