Skip to Content

Head of State – Power and Authority or Propaganda?

2 Favorites 0 Copies
Visual Arts +2 Age Level High School (16 to 18 years old)

In this collection the theme is "Head of State". Students are to question representation of in terms of power, authority and or propaganda. Included are Houdon's bust of Washington as well as his full length statue; the statue Augustus of Primaporta; and Greenough's statue of George Washington. This collection was created for AP Art History, however it can be used in lower level art history and art appreciation classes as well.

The premise is that students should be able to analyze the differences between two or more styles in terms of composition, choice of subject matter, proportion, color, and so on. Understanding the distinction between styles is especially important in French art (Houdon), where the inheritors of these artistic traditions will become the earliest modernists. Furthermore, artists in the new United States of America tried to capture the spirit of their fledgling republic in their art, but comparing the art of the young nation (Greenough) with that of its European antecedents (Augustus of Primaporta) reveals strong influences as exemplified here.

In addition, students need to be able to answer several key questions when looking and writing about works of art: Why do the historical contexts of the images inform our view of the person depicted? How does the depiction reinforce the image? What message is conveyed in the sculptures? What is the relationship between those portrayed? Finally, how do the works of art relate to specific cultures and the time period in which they were made?

This collection was created in conjunction with the National Portrait Gallery's 2018 Summer Teacher Institute. #NPGTeach #visiblethinking

George Washington

National Portrait Gallery

George Washington

Jennifer Hendricks

George Washington - side view

Jennifer Hendricks

Washington Bronze

Jennifer Hendricks

Augustus of Primaporta

Jennifer Hendricks

George Washington

Smithsonian American Art Museum