Picturing America {Free Art History Lessons}

Here is a beautiful resource from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Picturing America is a 130-page Teacher’s Resource book with 20 lessons that explore America through art. Picturing America:

…offers a way to understand the history of America — its diverse people and places, its travails and triumphs — through some of our greatest artistic masterpieces.

Each lesson includes two works of art (splitting the lesson into two parts — A and B). These works of art depict an event, individual, or cultural scene in America. After reading the background information, the student can tackle the Describe and Analyze questions, and the Interpret exercises aimed at his level of study. The answers are included inline.

The tutor can use the Connections section at the bottom of each part of the lesson to tie in other elements of history, historical figures, works of art, relevant literature, geographical locations, and more.

The lessons are presented in a rough chronological order. The works of art have been specifically chosen to accommodate students from the youngest to the oldest.

An excellent resource with a year’s worth of art history lessons — free!

  • Break each lesson up into two parts with one day allotted to each.
  • Find original prints of each work of art online that can be studied closer.
  • Create an art notebook to record observations, comparisons, analysis, interpretations, and other comments.
  • Choose a favorite from the two works of art for each lesson to copy — in form or style.
  • Depending on how much time you can devote to the project, pursue one or more of the connections listed at the bottom. Narrate the findings in some form.
  • Plot the subjects on a timeline.
  • Add in a rabbit trail or two (see units below).

Additional Resources

7 Ideas for Picture Study
Ways to get more out of the lessons.

Activity: Create a Timeline Notebook
One way to create the suggested timeline, along with other timeline creation resources.

Picturing America {Free Art History Lessons}

The Josefina Story Quilt by Eleanore Goerr
Enjoyable read for younger students and perfect tie-in to the lesson on quilts.

Picturing America {Free Art History Lessons}

Come Look With Me Art Series
You’ll find many of the artists in Gladys S. Blizzard’s series. Read our full review.

Discovering Great Artists

Discovering Great Artists by Kohl and Solga
Winner of a Practical Homeschooling Reader Award, contains over 150 hands-on activities based on the styles of great artists. A helpful guide in the front lists the artists chronologically along with their style of art, the level of the associated activity, and prep time. A family favorite.

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans
Free History Studies: George Washington

Free History Studies: George Washington
More about Washington crossing the Delaware, and another look at the Lansdowne portrait.

Free History Studies: Benjamin Franklin {Part 1}
More about Benjamin Franklin with many helpful resources.

Audubon: A Unit Study
More information and extensive resources.

The Louisiana Purchase: A Unit Study

The Louisiana Purchase: A Unit Study
Information and resources including Lewis and Clark.

Presidential Elections: A Unit Study
To go with The County Election.

Westward Expansion
Many connections here.

Abraham Lincoln: A Unit Study
Many resources including primary source documents, books, and interactives.

How World War I Began: A Unit Study
Resources and information.

Mary Cassatt: A Unit Study
Background information, activities, and more on The Boating Party.

Notebooking Pages & Printables
Artist Notebooking Pages {Free}

Artist Notebooking Pages Set {Free Download}
Pages for creating your art notebook as described above.

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