Gallery Preview: American: 19th Century

Gallery Preview: American: 19th Century

Before your visit to VMFA, introduce your students to the galleries. Let them explore the space and imagine what they can find there!

Grade Level:
Adult, College, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
American Art
Activity Type:
Distance Learning, Gallery Preview

Gallery Preview: American: 19th Century

Take a Look Inside

VMFA’s historical American art collection represents three centuries of cultural exchange and development and features painting, sculpture, works on paper, and decorative arts.

Click on the image for a virtual view of VMFA’s American Galleries that feature art from the 19th Century.  Here you can get an idea of the kinds of objects on display in the museum.  When you come to the museum you will be visiting this gallery exploring just a few objects like these.

As you take a look around consider:

  • What kinds of objects do you see?
  • How are they displayed?
  • If you could visit in person, what might you be interested in looking at first?
  • Do any of these objects remind you of topics you are studying? How?

Take a Closer Look: Is This Stuff Real?

Yes!  The objects displayed in these galleries are real examples of art made by American artists working at home and abroad during the 19th Century.  By caring for and studying these objects in museums like VMFA, we are able to connect with these artists, consider how they understood the world around them, and explore how they visually shared stories and ideas.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a scholar or an art specialist to take a closer look and begin exploring.  All you need is a little bit of time and some curiosity!


Use these simple steps to take a closer look at this painting from 1862.

1.Take a brief look at this object and write down your first impression: “This painting is…” (you can write anything. A single word, a full thought…even a question).

2. Now look back up at the image. Keep looking for ten seconds. Write a new sentence. “Now I think this painting is … “ (elaborate on your first idea).

3. Repeat step two. This time finish the following sentence: “I wonder …”

4. And…one more time. This time finish the following sentence: “The artist seems interested in…”

Now you’ve looked at this painting for at least 30 seconds.

Look at your list of sentences. You’ve just connected with a piece that artist Charles Sprague Pearce painted over 135 years ago. Click on the image to find out more about this object. What are you still curious about? What new ideas do you have?