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MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

Describe the Image

This online gallery allows you to explore the MFA's varied collections with the context of American history in mind. It features pivotal pieces that represent particular moments in American history. This gallery consists of artworks spanning the late eighteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries. Paintings and three-dimensional objects will guide you through the birth and establishment of a unique American identity. Through the slideshow and attached materials, you will learn about the tastes and aesthetics that have determined different styles in American art as well as investigate the cultural and social issues that have defined American art.

Learning Goals

Teachers will:
•Feel comfortable using Museum objects as teaching tools
•Explore the relationship between art objects and the culture that produced them

Students will:
•Understand the role of the elements and principles of art in art-making (NVAS 2)
•See how art reflects the larger culture that produced it (NVAS 4) (NSHT 2G)
•Experience the learning value of close observation of objects and discussion
•Generate hypotheses based on observation and prior knowledge (NELAS 4, 12) (NSHT 3J, 5B)
•Begin to interpret works of art in the context of American history (NSHT 2G, 3B, 3E)

Using this Resource

The content material in this online gallery is divided according to different eras of American history, starting with the American Revolution up until the beginning of the Civil War. Within each section are different lesson goals based on particular objects in the Museum's collection. Images of supplementary artworks that offer background information about the culture that produced them, as well as other relevant ideas, for the lesson goals are also included in order to facilitate a cohesive lesson.

The text that accompanies each slide offers information about the artwork and "looking" questions. The last slide in each section of this gallery contains the lesson assignment. Discussion prompts, a sample detailed lesson plan and a curriculum map are also contained within the gallery as attached documents. To make further cultural connections, additional images from the collection of American art at the Museum can be found on Educators Online.

•Social Studies teachers and students will be interested in what this gallery reveals about and how it will enhance the study of American society during the American Revolution, the time of Expansion and Reform, and the beginning of the Civil War.

•Art teachers and students will be interested in the different methods, materials, and techniques employed by artists as well as the content of the artworks and the birth of new styles in American art.

•English Language Arts teachers and students will be interested in using the images as prompts for creative writing, such as practice in historical fiction, or using the gallery to place assigned reading materials in context.

We have selected art objects from the Museum's collection that illustrate the birth of an American national identity particularly well. Exploring this gallery, you will discover the social values and beliefs of the American people as shown in the paintings and decorative arts. The objects in this tour are just a beginning. We encourage you to explore the Museum's online collection through this web resource—or even better, to visit the Museum and walk through the physical galleries—to look for other objects that will provide further insights into American history.


  • Artwork

    Interpreting America:...

  • Artwork Comparison

    European Portraits of...

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    Portraits by Copley

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    Artwork Comparison

    Portraits by Stuart

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    Artwork Comparison

    European vs. American...

  • Artwork

    Pat Lyon at the Forge

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    Princess Mary,...

  • Artwork Comparison

    Portrait Comparison

  • Artwork

    Charles Stewart,...

  • Artwork Comparison

    Modern Portraits

  • Artwork Comparison

    Painting-Portrait...

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    Text

    Revolution and a New...

  • Artwork Comparison

    Painting/Photo Comparison

  • Artwork Comparison

    Painting/Photo Comparison

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    Photo Comparison

  • Artwork Comparison

    Photo Comparison

  • AbC

    Text

    Lesson Goal 3

  • Artwork Comparison

    Neoclassical Architecture

  • Artwork Comparison

    Amphora Comparison

  • Artwork

    Neoclassical Silverware

  • Artwork

    Teapot

  • Artwork

    Chest-on-chest

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    Text

    Lesson Goal 1

  • Artwork

    Commode

  • Artwork Comparison

    Neoclassical Furniture

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    Text

    Lesson Goal 4

  • Artwork

    Castine, Maine

  • Artwork

    Fresh Water Cove from...

  • Artwork

    View of the Round-Top...

  • Artwork

    River in the Catskills

  • Artwork Comparison

    Hudson River School...

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    Text

    Expansion and Reform

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    Text

    Lesson Goal 5

  • Artwork

    Samuel Adams

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    The Buffalo Trail

  • Artwork

    View from the Wind...

  • Artwork

    Lake Tahoe, California

  • Artwork

    Valley of the Yosemite

  • Artwork

    The Squatters

  • Artwork Comparison

    American West Comparison

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    Text

    Lesson Goal 6

  • Artwork

    Nydia, the Blind Girl...

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    Text

    Civil War

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    Text

    Lesson Goal 7

  • Artwork

    Sons of Liberty Bowl

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    Meditation by the Sea

  • Artwork

    Approaching Storm:...

  • Artwork Comparison

    Prompt for Poetry

  • Pages

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