Changing Electoral Process

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Government (Elections), Careers (Advertisement, Writer)

Language Arts (Writing)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – George Caleb Bingham, Jacob Lawrence, John Sloan (Ashcan School)

Genre Paintings, Art Careers (Designing clothes, advertisement)

 Next November, we will be voting for a new president. Many individuals are out there right now vying to be the candidate for their party. I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about artists, George Caleb Bingham, Jacob Lawrence and John Sloan. They documented some of the evolution of the election process in their paintings.

Let’s start with Bingham. I talked about this Missouri artist in this post:

Bingham was also interested in politics and created three paintings to illustrate the electoral process of his time. The following two paintings, show some of the things current candidates are doing right now. The process is the same. The dress is quite different.

Bingham's Canvasing for a vote jpg

 George Caleb Bingham’s “Canvasing For Votes”


 George Caleb Bingham’s “Stump Speaking”

Ask students what other ways today’s candidates get the word out. (television ads, the internet) The above two paintings contain one event each. Bingham’s third painting, seen below, has many events in one.


 George Caleb Bingham’s  “The Country Election”

Ask your students to study “The Country Election” and explain what they think is happening. Next, go to this interactive site and learn the true story.

For further information and some classroom activities look at these sites:

For primary students, look here:

Like Bingham, Jacob Lawrence was a genre (history, storyteller) painter. He chronicled African American history by painting different series of storytelling paintings. His election painting entitled, “The 1920s…The Migrants Arrive and Cast their Ballots”, was one of many paintings in his Migration Series. Use this interactive site to learn more about Jacob Lawrence and the Migration Series:

Find a lesson on “The 1920s…The Migrants Arrive and Cast their Ballots” here

John Sloan depicted the celebrations after the polls close in the painting, “Election Night”. Sloan painted everyday life of everyday people in New York City. Since he and his contemporaries didn’t paint the city in a beautiful light, they were dubbed the Ashcan School. Read more about Sloan and “Election Night” here:

If you’re interested in when women got the vote in different states, look here:

The events in the painting,”The Country Election” were set in 1852. “The 1920s…The Migrants Arrive and Cast their Ballots” depicted 72 years later. Sloane painted “Election Night” in 1907. Using the knowledge gleaned from this post, the students can use a three part venn diagram to compare and contrast voting of Bingham’s time, the time Lawrence depicted and Sloan’s time. As the old saying goes, “We’ve come a long way Baby!”

Drop by again soon!


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