Grand Ole Flag

As promised, today we will talk about another patriotic symbol, the American flag. We will also talk about two kinds of repetition.

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Patriotic Symbol (American Flag), History (World War I), Woodrow Wilson, Civil War

Math – Pattern (a/a and a/b)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Childe Hassam, Frederic Edwin Church, Jasper Johns

Symbols, Repetition, Pattern, Texture, Encaustic

If you haven’t done so already, check out my last post to introduce Patriotic symbols.


“The Fourth of July” by Childe Hassam

Childe Hassam was an American Impressionist who painted around the time of World War I. To show his support of the U.S. joining the war, he painted thirty flag paintings similar to the one pictured above. To learn more about the artist and his flag paintings choose one of the following excellent sources:

Here is information about the thirty flag paintings:

Look here for an elementary level video:

Find a middle or high school level video here:

Look here to find a Childe Hassam interactive game:

Repetition is used abundantly in these paintings. The artist repeated the flag theme 30 times to produce this series of paintings. From an art point of view, the artist uses the repetition of the bright flags to carry the viewer’s eyes around the canvas. He also repeats people and buildings. Stars and stripes are repeated on the American flag in a/a and a/b patterns.


Frederic Edwin Church’s  “Our Banner in the Sky”

Above is a painting to commemorate the first battle of another war, the Civil War.  You can read more about it in the first paragraph of this article::

Another artist who painted the American flag was Jasper Johns. Like Hassam, he painted a series of flag paintings. Some people believe that Johns painted flags because he was named after William John Jasper. Jasper was famous for bravely raising an American flag during the Revolutionary War. Another theory as to why he painted flags is similar to Georgia O’Keefe’s feelings about flowers. People simply DO NOT pay close attention to them.

Johns was famous for painting “things the mind already knows” such as flags, targets, numbers and letters. He once said, “Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it.” And, that’s just what he did. Look here to see some different ways he painted the American flag:

Find a nice description of Johns’ most famous flag painting, “Three Flags” (more repetition) here:

I like parts of following three lessons.

I like the melted crayon in this lesson (similar to encaustic)

I like the theme of the collage in this lesson:

And I like the questions and use of repetition in this lesson:

I’m thinking combo lesson! What do you think?

Patriotic Symbols/ The Statue of Liberty

With July 4th approaching, I want to cover patriotic symbols. I had planned on starting with the American flag and artists who incorporated them in their artwork. However, while working on my previous post, I ran across some cool and timely facts about the Statue of Liberty. So, I decided to start with her instead.

Possible Classroom Concepts:  Social Studies – Patriotic Symbols, Gustav Eiffel, Geography

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Auguste Bartholdi, Peter Max

Sculpture, Pop Art, Symbols, Paintings, Posters

640px-Statue_of_Liberty_7So, let’s begin with a basic definition of a symbol. A symbol is a visual image, in object or letter form, that stands for a particular concept or thing. A patriotic symbol, in this case, is an image that reminds us of the good ole U.S.A. You will find a good primary level interactive source for teaching this concept here:

For intermediate students, one can find a concise explanation here:

A video about symbols and American symbols can be found here:

So in the middle of last week, I was searching the web, when I noticed that the Google logo had the Statue of Liberty being carried by a boat in place of their second O. (Google often creates doodles and animations incorporated into their logo to commemorate special occasions.) [Note: It just so happens that a logo is another kind symbol.] OK, so back to the subject. I clicked on the logo and discovered that June 17th was the 130th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. You can find the doodle, it’s origin and a world map (highlighting the location of France and the U.S.A.) here:

You can find out more about the transport of the Statue of Liberty with a nice slide show of vintage photos and drawings  here:

Something very impressive about the Statue of Liberty is that it has symbols within its symbol. Check them out here:

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to commemorate the aide given the Colonies in the Revolutionary War. What a coincidence that I just blogged about that here:

The Statue of Liberty was sculpted by Auguste Bartholdi. You can read more about him here:

Like modern sculptors of today, Bartholdi needed some help completing such a large sculpture. He needed an engineer to help him design the interior structure. Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame, was hired.

Did you know that contemporary Pop artist, Peter Max, helped save the Statue of Liberty? Learn the details in this video:

You can find some examples of Peter Max’s patriotic posters here:

There are numerous ideas out there where students simply copy the Statue of Liberty in one form or another. I like the following idea because the students design and/or create their own symbol and it is a sculpture like the Statue of Liberty.

Happy Fourth of July!

Transportation Personification

Isn’t this some title?

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Transportation

Language Arts – Personification, illustrators

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Arthur Dove, Walt Disney, James Rizzi

Art Careers – Cartoonists, Illustrators

Personification is giving human qualities to something nonhuman. This is just what Arthur Dove does to the tugboat in his  painting, “The Bessie of New York.”  Look here for information about Bessie:

The pdf mentions Theodore and the Queen. The link doesn’t work. Go here to find it:

Ask students what TV shows and movies are similar to Theodore the Tugboat? (Thomas the Train, Disney’s “Cars” movie and “Planes” movie)

As the article explains, the year this tugboat painting was created Walt Disney was producing animated films. Do you think the following cartoon may have influenced him?

The BMA pdf asks students to animate or personify an object. Using the books,“The Day the Crayons Quit” by Drew Dawalt or “Punctuation Takes a Vacation” by Robin Pulver as inspiration, why not have students pick a service vehicle who leaves. Younger students could write one sentence of how the vehicle feels. Older students could write a paragraph or two on how the vehicle feels, why they left and the consequences to the community. They could then personify an illustration of the service vehicle.

Check out modern artist, John Rizzi’s, personified buildings in his New York City on steroids cityscapes.

Did you see his cityscapes that included transportation on land, in the water and in the air? Could your class incorporate their personified transportation into one of these Rizzi projects?

SO MUCH FUN! See you soon!

Lafayette’s Ship, Hermione

Today’s post will cover transportation from long ago.

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Transportation, Colonial Trades, Revolutionary War, Friendship, Inventors (Samuel F. B. Morse), Current Events

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Charles Willson Peale, Samuel F. B. Morse

History Paintings, Portraits, Wood Carving, Art Jobs


Close up of Hermione in the Naval battle of Louisbourg, by Auguste-Louis de Rossel de Cercy

I was really excited to visit the replica of the French frigate, Hermione, in Annapolis today. The tall ship will visit many American east coast ports this summer. It brings back fond memories of visiting reproductions of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria in 1992 with my girls. Alas, I digress, so back to the subject.

For those of you who teach the American Revolution, you know that the Hermione carried Lafayette to the Colonies in the1780s. Lafayette brought along with him news of France’s aid in the form of 5,550 soldiers and five frigates. It is believed that this help resulted in America winning its independence from Great Britain.

So you’re asking yourself, what does this have to do with art? Actually, art is naturally integrated into everyday life.  First, art often records history as seen in the history painting pictured below.


Naval battle of Louisbourg, by Auguste-Louis de Rossel de Cercy

Second, artists record what people look like and what they wear through portraits. Colonial portraitist, Charles Willson Peale, created a couple of paintings depicting Lafayette.


The painting, “Washington, Lafayette, & Tilghman at Yorktown”, was commissioned by the Maryland Legislature following the Battle of Yorktown, the last battle of the Revolutionary War. The initial portrait commission was for George Washington alone. By adding Lafayette and Tilghman ( Washington’s aide, originally from Maryland, holding a paper conveying Cornwall’s surrender), this painting became not only a portrait painting, but also a history painting and earned Peale some extra bucks to boot.

“Lafayette” (Friendship Portrait commissioned by George Washington)

This was not Lafayette’s first visit to the Colonies. He had volunteered his military assistance in 1777 and was made a Major-General in the Continental Army. Lafayette and George Washington became close. So close that some say it was like a father and son relationship. As a sign of their friendship for one another, Washington and Lafayette commissioned portraits of each other. Today we exchange bracelets or necklaces. They exchanged portraits. Well, I guess it’s their version of exchanging class pictures or family photos (only a whole lot more work). What a difference from our instant, click of a button, portraits of today.


“Marquis de Lafayette” by Samuel F.B. Morse

In 1824, Samuel F. B.Morse was commissioned to paint the above portrait of Lafayette, while the Marquis was visiting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the American Revolution. Morse’s name may sound familiar. That’s because he invented the telegraph and the Morse Code. Morse started out as a painter. He wanted to be a history painter.  After that plan did not pan out, he decided to devote his life to inventing.

Third, art helps decorate our lives. Let’s look at the wooden ship itself. For transportation and trade in the 1700s, wooden boats were needed. It just so happened that the northeastern colonies provided the perfect environment (woods near shore) for this industry. Tradesmen like carpenters, joiners and coopers were needed to complete a ship. Woodcarvers were also employed to embellish said boats. See examples of figureheads and stern pieces and how woodcarving evolved in America here:

Woodcarving from the Index of American Design

L'HermioneL'Hermione figurehead

The hermione’s figurehead is of a lion. See a video of how she was made here:

Check out these sites for possible ship projects for your students:

Help students draw a basic tall ship here (perhaps leaving out the pirate details):

Here is a cool background for the ship:

I like Paul Klee’s ” Night Ships” in this unit:

Another “Night Ship”lesson:

Well, I hope you have found one or more kernels of information in all this to enrich your lessons. And, if the Hermione visits a town near you, I hope you get to visit her!

America Today Murals

Since summer vacation is coming up and people will be traveling, I’m going to devote the next couple of posts to transportation.

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Forms of Transportation, Transporting Goods, Community Jobs, City/ Country, Industrial Revolution, 1920’s U.S. History, Industrial Revolution, Social Commentary

Math – Geometric Shapes

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Thomas Hart Benton

Elements of Art – Shapes (Geometric and Organic)

Painting, Murals,  Human Figure (movement)

Benton's Instuments of Power

“Instruments of Power”

In previous posts, I’ve been talking about places to find lessons to integrate art into your classroom. Another place is an art museum’s special exhibitions and acquisitions. The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently acquired a set of murals by Thomas Hart Benton entitled America Today. These ten murals were originally created for the board room of the New School for Social Research. Nineteen twenties’ American life is beautifully illustrated in these paintings. I had always known Benton as a Regionalist painter who painted farm scenes of the Midwest. Little did I know that he had lived in New York City for over twenty years before trekking back to the Midwest.

These murals have great examples of transportation and community jobs which could be used by primary teachers. The rest of the murals show New York City people in the midst of the Roaring twenties and prohibition making them more useful in a high school U.S History class. “Instruments of Power”, the largest mural in the series, has a train, a plane and a zeppelin included in it. Benton had been enamored with trains since his childhood and has included trains eight times in seven of these murals. It might be fun for the students to try and find them. Five of the murals have not only forms of transportation, but also community workers. The Mural, “Deep South”, shows all the steps in the cotton industry and how the product is moved. “Midwest” shares farming and logging practices. “Changing West” shows the waning wild west being taken over by oil rigs and airplanes. “Coal” shows the coal mining industry from mine to factory. “Steel” shares the steps in the steel industry. “City Building” shows just what it says. The “City Activities” murals depict modern (if not always wholesome) life in 1920’s New York City. Many famous people and events are illustrated in the in the “City Activities” murals. You can find all these murals here:

These murals can be used for both a transportation unit and then be reinforced again in a community workers unit. Here are some questions to ask while viewing these murals. What kinds of transportation do you see? Are some of these vehicles being used to transport goods? How many kinds of workers can you find in these murals?

After identifying different forms of transportation in the murals, students could identify geometric shapes which combine to make up transportation vehicles. (Circles for wheels, squares, rectangles, triangles and half circles for body parts)  Ed Emberley’s  Drawing Book: Make a World is a great place to see forms of transportation broken down into geometric shapes. Cutting and glueing colorful construction paper geometric shapes together, younger students could create vehicles similar to these: Older students would probably make more sophisticated vehicles.

Since Thomas Hart Benton was a mural artist, it might be cool to combine the vehicles your students make into a mural similar to the ones found in these two lessons: and If you wanted to add sky and water vehicles to this backdrop, simply add blue paper to the top and bottom of the wavy green and black center.

Now, if you wish to add some working people to your mural, I think this is a genius way (using a square, a rectangle and 4 pieces of pipe cleaner as a template for a moving figure) for younger students to create a moving figure. Find the idea here: First look at the working people in Benton’s murals. What ways are their bodies moving? Where do the arms and legs bend. The students simply arrange the body parts, trace around with a pencil (creating an organic shape), brush away the body parts, draw in details and color. Cut out your figures and add to mural.

Enjoy your journey through these murals!