The unit will begin with several objectives: To use historical documents as educational tools for the experiencing of history; to use primary sources to make connections between artwork and history; and to examine works of art to determine if the images that we have selected are accurate depictions of history. I want my students to question the historical accuracy of the artworks in question as well as the intentions of the artist. In our digital age, with the media manipulating photographs, it has never been more important for students to question the images they are bombarded with.
The students will analyze how life is reconstructed through images, colors, details and shapes. This gives us the vision to see how things really happened in a period of time when we were not present. Specifically, this unit will help me and my students to look at an image and determine if the event that is represented has been reported accurately or whether certain details lead the artist to alter the reality behind the image. In this view, the image that makes history can open a window on the past and also teach what distortions are present in history representations.
The students will examine the following paintings in the Yale Art Gallery: John Trumbull's
General George Washington at Trenton, The Battle of Bunker's Hill, June 17, 1775
The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec, December 31, 1775
. Students will compare these depictions of war with photographs from the Civil War. The Gallery owns several of Timothy O'Sullivan's photographs such as
Pontoon bridge Across the Rappahannock
Company D, Camp Sprague
, as well as photographs by Alexander Gardner and Matthew Brady. Hundreds of photographs from the Civil War are available for viewing on the Library of Congress website.
This unit will be essentially focused on the analysis of primary sources and their specific details to understand, interpret, and analyze, and draw conclusions about the artists' choices in depicting an event. Each primary source will be studied following the four levels of critique that we use in the art classroom: describe –– what is the subject matter, medium, art style, and size – analyze –– How is the work organized as a complete composition? Name the Elements and Principles of Design? –– interpret –– What is happening in the artwork? How does it make you feel? What does the artwork make you think of? – and decide –– What was the artist trying to explain? These questions were developed by the Visual Art Department of Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School. My aim is to improve my students' skills as independent thinkers who do not accept every word or every image they see, on the internet, in print, or in movies. The students will be able to make a powerful, personal connection to their own artwork and that of others.
This unit will also help me teach "reading for information", which has become a requirement in all classes that are taught. The students will read historical documents that refer to the artist's background, biography, or reviews. This unit will give me the chance to bring to class reading documents that are not only effective and connected to the artists we are going to study, but also documents which are interesting, different and will certainly improve their reading abilities and their knowledge of this subject. These will help improve the students' critical and thinking skills.