Found 7 Collections
On February 12, 2018, the official portraits of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were unveiled at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. President Obama's portrait was created by artist Kehinde Wiley, who is known for his vibrant, large-scale paintings of African Americans posing as famous figures from the history of Western art. This portrait does not include an underlying art historical reference, but some of the flowers in the background carry special meaning for Obama. Mrs. Obama's portrait was created by artist Amy Sherald, who considers the former first lady to be someone “women can relate to—no matter what shape, size, race, or color. . . . We see our best selves in her.”
This collection includes the two portraits, in high resolution, so that learners can zoom in and out to carefully observe details. It also includes videos and articles about the portraits and their official unveilings. Additional supports include other works by the two artists and strategies for reading portraits. Portraits of the two sitters and other presidential portraits can be used for compare and contrast activities.
This collection is meant to be used as an introductory activity to the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Specifically, it focuses on the different styles employed by artist Aaron Douglas, most notably in his Scottsboro Boys portrait and in his 1925 self-portrait. In doing so, it asks students to consider when and why an artist who is more than capable of creating within the boundaries of classically beautiful art or writing might chose to create in this style at some times and at other times to create in more radical or avante-garde styles. It uses a Compare and Contrast looking technique before revealing to students that all four distinct pieces are created by the same artist.
Ideally, teachers can end the unit by facilitating discussion of the social change Douglas aims for with his Scottsboro portrait and of the bridge that Hurston creates with her prose narrator before launching into the dialect of her characters that earned her such scorn from the African American community of her era.
This collection was created in conjunction with the National Portrait Gallery's 2019 Learning to Look Summer Teacher Institute.
The artist’s imagination may be limitless but his or her materials and tools available do place limitations. How can an artist put their knowledge to into practice, working around their limitations and learn more at the same time? Students will explore how some craft artists have to question the techniques and materials they use in order to create/use a new approach