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#1 Stephen Drew

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 01:34 AM

History is a subject that possesses so many inbuilt advantages over others. We can deliver the content and skills that our students require in such a variety of ways. There is nothing from the past that is not in some way relevant to the studies that our students undertake, and we should always be looking for ways to harness this wide variety of source materials in our teaching and our students’ learning.

One of the most interesting, useful, engaging and effective methods of delivering the History curriculum is through the medium of art. All periods in the history of the world have produced paintings, sculptures, buildings and many other forms of artistic presentation. All of the art produced within a time period in some way reflects upon that time period, and can provide students with a way to access the past different to so many others.

If you have never used art to teach your students about the past, I think you should make this your target for the next week! Deliver a lesson where the entire focus is a painting about the event. Make it the starting point for an investigation into the past. Discuss the images in the painting with your students and then get them to interpret them based on what they already know, before they find out more information in order that they may better interpret the painting from a position of more knowledge. When they think they have fully understood the painting and the events or ideas is depicts, move the lesson on to interpretations. You will soon have students using their own contextual knowledge to pick apart the image in front of them before reaching substantiated independent interpretations of a piece of contemporary source evidence. Throw in a written primary source that gives a different interpretation of the person or event and get the students to compare this to the painting. Get them to discuss why the two are different. Words such as motivation, purpose, bias etc. will soon be flowing from their lips and they will be using their contextual knowledge to judge the validity or reliability of each of the sources.

All this can stem from a lesson built around a piece of art – I have seen it done by others, and have done it many times myself.

Here is the list of the topics that we use art to help us to teach:

o Elizabeth I
o The Protestant Reformation
o Family life in the 17th and 18th centuries.
o The French Revolution
o Slavery
o The British Empire
o The Industrial Revolution
o World War I
o The Holocaust
o Medicine Through Time
o The Arab and Israeli Conflict
o Weimar Germany
o Nazi Germany

The possibilities are endless, and I have yet to do a lesson built around a painting or pictorial cartoon that has not delivered at least as much learning as would have occurred using a non-visual technique.

What I see this seminar as is an opportunity for people to share their successes, strategies, techniques and knowledge of pitfalls for the use of art as a teaching medium in History. I intend to post a detailed example of the use of art in History teaching at Passmores every day for the next week as part of the seminar. I hope that the examples and ideas that are placed in this seminar will inspire everyone who reads it to either use art for the first time, or to give consideration to developing their use of the technique to be an integral part of their teaching of History.

(As you can doubtless tell, I am somewhat passionate about art and the teaching of History).
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

#2 neil mcdonald

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 09:46 AM

An excellent post Stephen. I love the idea of using art in History. It removes the barrier of language and that some students have with history. I'd be interested to know how you go about presenting tasks with art - do you apply the same methods as using sourcework or do you use a different method of analysis. Do you examine the history of the artist when examining the context?
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#3 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 11:53 AM

I agree with what Stephen says in his introduction to this Seminar. The art (whether it be fine art or political cartoons or propaganda posters etc) of a period provides an excellent vehicle for the development of pupil understanding of people and events and of the cultural background too. They are splendid as a way of developing the concept of interpretation especially if one can juxtapose differing views of an event or period.

For example I have used 'chocolate box' images of C19th rural life and compared these with more realistic images of back-breaking manual work. Similarly, one can contrast idealised views of warfare with more 'truthful' pictures (good when dealing with why men fought in WWI)

I don't wish to preempt Stephen as I know he has some excellent examples of work he has done in class with his own pupils and these will be something for us all to look forward to.

For those studying Weimar Germany at 14+ then Russ Tarr has an excellent task on The Art of George Grosz on his website here. I have used it with an AS class and it works very well.

Similarly, the photomontages of John Heartfield are an excellent source for close analysis as I feel sure most of us are aware.

However, there are pitfalls when using art (most especially political cartoons). I think we tend to think that pictures (per se) are somehow easier for children to comprehend because there are no/few difficult words. Clearly this is often not the case since a good understanding of the context of the cartoon is generally needed if one is to understand it completely. I know that intially GCSE examiners fell into the trap of making this assumption - as did I. :(

Here, of course, we are talking about using pictorial sources to develop analytical and evaluation skills - but it also works well to use a collection of pictorial sources when you are trying to give the 'flavour' of a period the children are not familiar with. eg the Renaissance.

Edited by Carole Faithorn, 11 January 2004 - 12:11 PM.

#4 Andrew Field

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 12:37 PM

And similarly not wishing to take this seminar off in a different direction, but the advent of usable ICT in the classroom allows for such fantastic use of images.

With PowerPoint students can easily manipulate / annotate images themselves, adding their thoughts and ideas. In a classroom context an interactive whiteboard is such a splendid tool. Your labels and ideas can be hidden, then students can do their own version with the rest of the class and then you can compare the two. When I've had the opportunity, it really allows for really effective history. Endless possibilities.

Interesting point about context that Carole makes and one that I thoroughly agree with. As with all source materials, it is bringing their own knowledge into the source analysis. Sometimes it can actually be helpful if the students know nothing. Akin to a blank canvas!

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#5 Nichola Boughey

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 03:10 PM

This posting comes in the same week that I made a trip over to the Walker Art Gallery to purchase 4 A3 posters of Elizabeth I by Hilliard and Henry VIII in the style of Holbein.

My lessons tomorrow will be based on the Holbein portrait and what it can tell us about Henry VIII.

The portraits are an invaluable resource especially when they make the topic so accessible to pupils of all abilities - plus the teacher gets it as well! :D

#6 Richard Drew

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 03:23 PM

Throw in a written primary source that gives a different interpretation of the person or event and get the students to compare this to the painting. Get them to discuss why the two are different. Words such as motivation, purpose, bias etc. will soon be flowing from their lips and they will be using their contextual knowledge to judge the validity or reliability of each of the sources.

or indeed throw in a photograph - particularly applicable to a topic such as ww1 and life in the trenches.

one of my favourite lessons in the whole of KS3 in in my enquiry into how to find out about life in the trenches, pupils frantically debating the comparitive usefulness of photos and paintings. an obvious starting point here would be 'gassed' and the famous photo depicting a similar image, but many others could easily be used.

the list of paintings (woodcuts/sketches etc) one can use in the classroom is nearly endless.

one example i use is a court for king cholera. the detail in the picture is excellent and particularly lower ability pupils gain so much from it, as stephen says the ability to access the information without it coming from weighty text or from the mouth of the teacher is great
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#7 D Letouzey

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 06:42 PM

I shall agree with the first messages : art history may take an essential part in our teaching.

1873, in French traditional political history, it was a monarchist government.
But now, we also teach that this government built the Sacre Coeur to wipe La Commune de Paris.
And we give as much importance to Claude Monet, and the first Impressionnist exhibition.
We have in mind a more global history.

But I shall also disagree :

What is Art and Art history for you ?
Why should we put every image on the same level ?
Manet ‘s Olympia has nothing to do with a cartoon, or with a 2004 nude photo.
For me, art means creation. By Michel-Ange, by Rembrandt, by Turner, by Picasso...

If art is creation, then the historian may got in trouble. How can he explain fully
what is a masterpiece and how this creation was brought to life ?
As a teacher, I know Albert Barnes, I can explain how he earned a lot of money, how he used it to buy Renoir or Matisse ‘s paintings. I can buy and use Corbis cederom on Merion. But my pupils cannot imitate Renoir or Matisse.

Several other issues on art and education :

Art history is taught, as such, in universities.
In secondary schools, it is only taught associated with other subjects, history, literature…

Art, for most of us, is painting.
We should also use architecture, sculpture, dancing, music…
We try to teach what we know…

For some teachers, painting is another historical source, a visual one.
That can be tricky if you look at Ambroise Vollard (un marchand de tableaux) painted by Picasso. http://www.abcgaller...picasso190.html
- I show 2 visions, Cézanne, and Picasso, so I can explain at least 3 things : history of painting, art business, the way we see this paintings…

With abstract art, with Malevitch, or Kandinsky, how can you study social science ?

In lycées, we study « Humanisme et Renaissance ».

2 difficulties :
. How can we choose a limited number of masterpieces ?
In the Web Gallery of Art, you may visualise more than 10 000 from 1150 to 1800…

. How can our pupils, from a general education, understand what they see in a painting : both the visual facts, but also all the links with greek mythology, with religious symbolism ?
(cf Van Eyck Arnolfini and his wife

What we may try to teach, is the change in the way artists saw the world and represented it :
The perspective was settled during the Renaissance ; Claude Monet and the Impressionnists searched another way, partly seen on Japanese art.

On all this, you may find some good tools on internet

. An important detail is the reproduction quality.
In Google images, http://www.google.fr...ge_search?hl=en
type "monet impression"
Compare the scanned colors...

Even, if we have pretty good quality reproductions, it should be far better to study the original.
We do it sometimes, going to Paris, Le Louvre, Musee d’Orsay.
That a main issue : if art is a personal feeling, how can you educate it ?
What is the part of your sensibility, the part of your personal culture ?

- I have searched for a webbography :
a general one : Art history on the net : http://aphgcaen.free...que/arthist.htm
One of the best portal is
But lots of websites' addresses have changed...

2 case studies :
Florence and Renaissance Art : http://aphgcaen.free...ue/florence.htm
Manet à Kandinsky : http://hgtice.free.f...e/peint5014.htm


Edited by D Letouzey, 12 January 2004 - 07:57 AM.

#8 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 06:51 PM

I love using images as a 'hook' either as a starter or as part of a introductory lesson to get students into a topic - one of the best examples I use came from an article in Teaching History about Initial Stimulus Material which was discussed here: http://www.schoolhis...wtopic=1365&hl=
and has some good examples of how images have been used. The article suggests using a woodcut print of the execution of Charles I and that the students should have NO prior knowledge of the topic - they then interrogate the source and come up with a series of enquiry questions that can form the future lessons on the Civil War - interpretation of the source and ownership of the work; an excellent combination!
One of the best trips that I took (year 8) students on was a joint trip with the Art department to the National Portrait Gallery to study original Tudor artwork: http://www.npg.org.u...ve/edsecond.asp
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#9 JohnDClare


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Posted 11 January 2004 - 09:16 PM

Have you come across CGFA Virtual Art Museum?

#10 D Letouzey

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 10:20 PM


And this one :
The World Wide Web Virtual Library: History of Art



#11 Stephen Drew

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 11:51 PM

When I rewrote the Key Stage 3 Scheme of Work in the summer of 2002 for Passmores, one of the units I most enjoyed planning and preparing resources for was the "Images of an Age" unit. This is Unit 7 of the QCA recommended Scheme of Work.


I put this unit in immediately after a uint on the Tudors. The first lesson that we study is on Elizabeth I using the Rainbow Portrait.

The Rainbow Portrait lesson on the Passmores website.

The resources for this lesson can be downloaded from here.

The students go into this lesson with a good deal of knowledge about Elizabeth I, having studied her at the end of Year 7 and then again for the first two weeks of Year 8 as a recap and extension exercise. Therefore this is not a "blind" portrait exercise.

The Rainbow Portrait is a brilliant piece of propaganda for Elizabeth I. It has so many images that students are able to spot and discuss. The images are accessible for all levels of ability, and students get that real sense of feeling clever in History from looking at this portrait. If you go into the lesson having really immersed yourself in the background to the portrait, you are able to greatly stretch the students throughout the lesosn. We do the portrait by discussing the images first and then getting the students to do a set of structured written tasks on the portrait using a background information sheet to help them with their answers.

I have the benefit of a digital projector in my classroom, which allows me to use the full colour image as well as to zoom in on parts of the image. By using a bit of cropping in an image application and putting some carefully placed invisible buttons on to the first slide of a PowerPoint with the whole portrait, you can soon create a PowerPoint presentation that allows you to zoom in on parts of the painting. This really helps students to interpret the images in the painting. By removing the visual clutter of the rest of the painting, and focussing specifically on say the heart shaped pendant in the serpent's mouth on her left arm, students are able to improve the analysis and explanation. They can then go back to the whole painting and fit all the bits together.

There are plenty of good exercises in textbooks on the Rainbow Portrait and other images of Elizabeth I that can be used in a more traditional lesson structure. For instance on pages 52 and 53 of the John Murray book "Re-discovering the Making of the UK" thre is an exercise looking at six different images of Elizabeth I. On pages 6-8 of the Heinemann History Scheme book "The Early Modern World (Book 2)" there is an exercise specifically on the Rainbow Portrait that also gives students information about the construction of portraits and images of Elizabeth specifically.

The Rainbow Portrait is an exercise that any student can do at some level, and every teacher I have ever spoken to who has used the portrait has talked positively about the impact it had on their students. It is well worth a lesson!
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

#12 Nichola Boughey

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Posted 13 January 2004 - 12:04 AM

Did a fab lesson on the Holbein portrait today of Henry VIII!

Except have you ever had to explain to a Yr. 7 SEN class what a cod-piece was?

:lol: ;) :woo:

Andrew has politely asked me to enlighted you all as to the nature of my lesson today - so ok!

I used a digital camera at the weekend to take a variety of shots of me doing different things:

1. In my pajamas.
2. In my casual gear.
3. In my work gear.
4. In my badminton gear.
5. In my 'going out' gear.
6. In a ball gown.

I then loaded them onto a PPT.

Today I had an A2 poster of Henry VIII on one side of my whiteboard and the projector running on the other side and my digital camera on the desk next to me!

I got the class discussing how we know what people today look like even if we have not met them - i.e. the camera!

We discussed whether the camera ever lies? Some yes and some no!

I then took the class picture! It shows them sitting there in school uniform exactly as they are!

I then asked how long would it take to paint a portrait of them - answers ranged from 2 hours, 3 weeks and 6 months!

The girls pointed out that they could not sit that still for that long!

I then asked if my portrait would be as accurate as a photograph - some said yes and some said no!

I highlighted the fact that I could paint over a spot, or add earings etc!

We then looked at my PPT - and I asked the students what they thought I was thinking or doing in each one - what did I want them to know about me?

This was effective and led onto the Holbein portrait.

We looked at that, analysed the symbols etc and the discussed as a group whether or not Henry VIII really looked like that and what was it that he was trying to make us believe.

We then used the excellent octopus document mentioned previously on this site to complete some work on the portrait's symbolism!

That is what we did - will lead on to a portrait source analysis on Elizabeth I in a few weeks with Yr. 7.

Hope that was ok Andrew?

Edited by Nichola Boughey, 13 January 2004 - 12:20 AM.

#13 ellie


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Posted 14 January 2004 - 09:07 PM

Hi - I'm a visiting Art teacher, intrigued by this thread and delighted to see such an enthusiastic, well-resourced use of my subject to support another. The History and Art Departments at the school I teach in often work together, formally and informally, offering contextual understanding to each other's work. I always find it useful to have a History teacher along on Art trips!

Enough of that - further to M. Letouzey's point:
[Art history is taught, as such, in universities.
In secondary schools, it is only taught associated with other subjects, history, literature…]
I just wanted to point out (as you probably all know) that the Art Curriculum in the UK should always employ an understanding of historical context in order to understand Art works which are used to prompt projects.

I find it particularly useful to work alongside the History KS3 syllabus, to some extent, and try to include topics within each year's SoW that reflect those being studied in History.

#14 Stephen Drew

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 09:28 PM

A second example of a lesson that we do with our students is based on the 19th century painting "The Secret of Englan's Greatness".

The National Portrait Gallery's guide to "The Secret of England's Greatness"

We do this a final lesson in our unit on the British Emipre. Again this unit is based on teh original ideas in the QCA Scheme of Work Unit 14. The British Empire how was it that, by 1900, Britain controlled nearly a quarter of the world? . After students have studied the origins, growth and impact of the British Empire, we use this painting as a final exercise to sum up and evaluate the ideas that existed in the 19th century about the British Empire.

We refer back to the work from the start of Year 8 on portraits and the issues of presentation of images and propaganda purposes for pictures. In the case of this picture we do start off with the image being interpreted to some extent blindly by the students. Although they have some knowledge and understanding of the empire based on the three lessons they have already done on the topic, they are not experts in the people in the painting. We put up the image and ask them to choose specific images to comment on, interpret or evaluate. By creating a PowerPoint on the picture which allows the teacher to zoom on specific parts of the image we are able to focus the minds of the students on individual parts of the image, before returning them to the whole image for a wider explanation.

This acts as the discussion part of the lesson, and students are always totally engaged in this exercise and will usually get to the correct answers after a bit of collaborative thinking and a few strange ideas. We then move students into writing a more formal interpretation and analysis of the picture based on some more contextual knowledge that we give them. This comes in the form of an information sheet that tells them fully who each of the peopel in the picture are, as well as giving them an edited version of the textual description of the painting on the National Portrait Gallery website.

The students are required to write an answer to the question:
"What is the message of the painting and how does it communicate this?"

We give them an A6 version of the painting to stick in the books to give an image to their work.

Because we have already developed this style of lesson with the class earlier in the year with our unit on portraits in the 16th and 17th centuries, students are already equipped with the key skills of analysis required to access the lesson. The focus this time is increasingly on getting them to use the full extent of the contextual knowledge to assess and explain the imagery in the painting. Students really enjoy this style of lesson and rise to the challenge with gusto. It produces some very high quality work for the levelled writing task that forms the second half of the lesson.

You can download the resources for the lesson from this page of the Passmores website.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

#15 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 10:59 PM

Enough of that - further to M. Letouzey's point:
[Art history is taught, as such, in universities.
In secondary schools, it is only taught associated with other subjects, history, literature…]

Welcome Ellie!

It is really good to see an Art Teacher participating in this thread. Would you be able to elaborate a little on any of the formal/informal work you have done with the History Dept. in your school?

I am no longer in the classroom, but it's wonderful when the Art Dept. is prepared to support other subjects in the way you mention. For example when studying the Renaissance the Art Dept in my school would do work on perspective with the children and I found it helped tremendously. The vocabulary of Art was very helpful too.

Whilst it's true that children in KS3 and 4 (11-16) do not study the History of Art in the way I think Daniel has interpreted this Seminar, pupils of 16+ may choose to study the subject (if it is offered). OR is it no longer an option at AS/A2? I fear I may be out of date here.

At the school where I taught until recently, we used to offer History of Art at A Level. Although it tended to attract academically weaker students it was a very popular course and if they were also taking History the two subjects 'informed' each other very well.

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