Lesson Eight:
Printmaking and Murals Across Cultures



LESSON OVERVIEW:

Students use inquiry skills to investigate murals or printmaking in other eras or cultures. For example, they might study prints from eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth century Europe, nineteenth century Japan, or traditional West African culture. Or students might study murals in ancient Egypt; in Byzantine, Medieval, or Renaissance churches, or in Chinese Buddhist cave temples.



OBJECTIVES:

  1. Students learn that art historians ask many different kinds of questions as they attempt to more fully understand artworks.

  2. Students learn how to begin to develop strategies for seeking answers to art history questions, for example they might:

  3. directly observe and analyze artworks;
  4. study reproductions of artworks;
  5. draw your own version of an artwork;
  6. challenge yourself to think about the meanings of artworks;
  7. share your ideas about an artwork with a friend;
  8. experiment with art tools, materials, and processes;
  9. communicate with witnesses, that is, people who lived at the time and place when the artworks were made and first seen or used (only possible with artworks made relatively recently);
  10. study primary sources, such as photographs, films, or other documents, or artifacts from the time when the artworks were made;
  11. talk with experts in person, by letter, over the phone, or through email;
  12. read what experts have written in books, papers, journals, or published electronically;
  13. or other ways.
  14. Students learn that gathering information guided by a question can lead one to ask new, perhaps clearer or more specific, questions, which in turn can lead to still further inquiry.



ACTIVITIES:

Introduce art historical inquiry questions that lead to 1) information about artworks and artists, 2) contextual information, 3) cultural/historical interpretation, and 4) explanations of relationships among artworks. Provide each student with a printout of these questions. Select an artwork from Chicana and Chicano Space to use as an example as you review the specific inquiry questions listed within these four sets of questions. Information assembled in response to each artwork in Chicana and Chicano Space is available by displaying the artwork and clicking on "more information."

Select a second artwork from Chicana and Chicano Space. Choose one or two inquiry questions and compare the information provided about the artwork you've just reviewed (above) and this second artwork. Notice that the same question can lead to quite different information when applied to a different artwork. Ask student s to speculate about strategies art historians might use to answer their questions:

  • How do you suppose art historians come up with these answers?
  • What do you think they might look at?
  • Whom might they talk to?
  • Where might they look to find answers?
  • Extend students' learning about murals or about prints as appropriate for your class and your resources. For example, they might study prints from eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth century Europe, nineteenth century Japan, or traditional West African culture. Or students might study murals in ancient Egyptian; in Byzantine, Medieval, or Renaissance churches, or in Chinese Buddhist cave temples. Students can work individually, in pairs, or in small groups. Help students identify a mural or print that they would like to better understand. Next guide them in selecting one or several of the art historical inquiry questions as the starting point for their investigations. Ask students to begin by rephrasing their questions so that they apply specifically to the particular work they've chosen to investigate. Here are some prompts you may find useful in guiding students' inquiry:

  • Do you have any guesses (hunches, speculation, hypotheses) about any answers to your question(s)?
  • How do you think you could get more information to help you answer the question(s)? For example what people might you talk with face to face or on-line; what actual or electronic images might you examine; what books, videos, web pages or other sources of information might you consult?
  • Would some kind of experimentation with art tools, materials, or processes give you more information?
  • After students have sought more information from several sources, ask them to report orally to the class on what they have discovered:

  • If you discovered some relevant information, does that information change the way you look at or understand the artwork?
  • What new questions does it raise?
  • If you did not discover any relevant information, suggest additional avenues you could pursue or somewhat different questions that might lead you to more information.


  • OPTIONAL ACTIVITY:

    You might choose to ask students to write essays reporting their discoveries.



    ASSESSMENT:

    During student reports (or in optional essays), notice whether students can focus on the inquiry question they selected, and whether they can follow appropriate information seeking strategies and whether they can raise new questions based on what they discovered.

    Items for a Protest and Persuasion Portfolio might include:

  • name of artwork and inquiry questions selected to guide investigation
  • list of sources
  • outline of report or written essay


  • RESOURCES:

    Handouts of art historical inquiry questions

    Art and culture section of school library

    Internet access, if possible

    Art supplies, as appropriate



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