(MFA staff) Among the most personal works of art, portraits connect us both to the sitter and to the artist. The goal of a portrait is usually straightforward—the representation of a specific person or persons as they wished to be portrayed. For this reason, we are often able to "decode" portraits by analyzing the choices artists make and the way they convey certain messages. The more we know about the artist and the sitter and the purpose for which a work was created, the better able we are to surmise which choices in a portrait were made by the artist and which by the sitter. The materials in this online gallery suggest a variety of ways of looking at and thinking about portraits; we hope they will also serve to introduce broader discussions of both human and artistic issues.
• Feel comfortable using Museum objects as teaching tools
• Explore the relationship between art objects and the culture that produced them
• 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 social and cultural history (NSHT 2G, 3B, 3E)
Using this Resource
The content material in this online gallery is a cross-cultural look at the art of portraiture, highlighting the similarities and differences between art-making over time and space. The text that accompanies each slide offers information about the artwork. 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 the variety of artworks reveals about and how it will enhance the study of the social, political, and religious history of a variety of countries.
• 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 relationship between the process of art-making and the culture in which it is produced.
• English Language Arts teachers and students will be interested in using the images as prompts for creative writing.
• Foreign Language teachers and students will be interested in how the artworks in this gallery can serve as prompts for writing exercises that will allow for the practice of vocabulary, grammar, and writing skills in a foreign language.
Exploring this gallery, you will discover the social values and beliefs of many cultures. 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 the art portraiture.