Students will closely observe one portrait, identify the depicted emotion, provide evidence for their perspective, and free write to discover connections and memories. Writing may provide fodder for future creative projects.
National Core Standards
- Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences
One class period
- Writing materials
Emotional Connection: How does the artist portray the subject? What emotion comes to mind when you look at this person? Name the emotion. Write down details you see in the portrait that might be evidence of this emotion.
Fear = stiff posture, shifting eyes, pinched mouth, pale skin
Sadness = mouth turned down at corners, shadows, gray rings under the eyes, slumped or sagging shoulders
Defiance = creased brow, squinting eyes, clenched jaw, erect posture
Free write: Free writing requires us to write quickly and not be concerned with the mechanics of poetry or writing in general. If your time with this portrait has stirred up a memory or an emotion of some kind, allow yourself to let go and write about it. Don’t worry if it doesn’t connect exactly to what you know about the painting. Give yourself permission to make new connections.
Free write prompts: Consider one of the following points of view as a way to approach the free write, focusing on emotion and feeling:
· Third person observer outside of the frame. Begin by elaborating on the details listed in number 1 above (physical evidence to support depicted emotion) and describe the portrait in detail, but allow yourself to drift into other avenues of thought as they come along. What do you observe?
· Third person, also outside the frame, but with some information about the historic context of the painting. Speculate about the subject. Perhaps begin with something like, “She feels as if . . . ”
· Begin with a question you might ask this person . . . “What are you looking at?” “Why are you . . . ?” Then attempt to answer your own question. ”Are you searching for . . . ?” Is there a story here?
· First person internal monologue. Write from inside the frame in the subject’s voice. “I feel like . . . ”
· Make yourself the main character in a narrative. “I sat staring at his face, wondering if . . . ” Actually write about the experience of studying this portrait.
Social Studies Extension: consider multiple portraits from one historical event, or all students write about one historical figure. Share students’ approaches.