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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.

Images of Power: Introduction

Political visual propaganda has been used for thousands of years, in the form of coins, monumental sculpture, paintings, architecture, poetry, etc etc. Representations of rulers usually embed values of that culture at the time. More modern politicians are no different, drawing from historical and cultural influences to represent themselves in a way that flatters and also points to certain values they hold.

I imagine that this lesson, which might be treated as an introduction to the relationship between a society’s culture, its leaders, and how those leaders choose to represent themselves, could serve as the first of many lessons on this broad topic. Though this lesson deals narrowly with historical and contemporary representations of men in power, I think that a powerful curriculum could develop, highlighting particular media, gender roles, ethnicities, etc.

Audience: This lesson is appropriate for high school students, studying government, politics, art history, and/or the media.

Learning Goals: Students will become aware of the connection between a society’s values, its leaders, and the way those leaders choose to represent themselves. By observing and comparing/contrasting historical and modern images of rulers, they will also note the historical and cross cultural relationships between these images, and identify common visual themes that have existed for thousands of years. Beyond making these connections, students will also begin to understand that implication of the technological advances of our society, and its changing affects on the way we interpret political imagery.

Key Idea: This lesson focuses on the relationship between a culture's values, its leaders, the way those leaders choose to represent themselves.

Created By

Hannah Heller

Grade Level


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