Portraits from a New Republic: Prompts for Extended Thinking

Portraits from a New Republic: Prompts for Extended Thinking

Use these prompts after your Evans Distance Learning session or museum visit to activate creative, critical, and reflective thinking.

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
American Art
Activity Type:
Distance Learning

Portraits from a New Republic: Prompts for Extended Thinking

Creative Thinking

Using our imaginations when looking at art can activate prior knowledge and spark curiosity. Revisit the Americans you saw during your Evans DLP session.

Pick one person from the group in the painting Alexander Spotswood Payne and His Brother, John Robert Dandridge Payne, with Their Nurse. Pick another person from Charles Wilson Peal’s painting William Smith and His Grandson. Would these two people have ever crossed paths? Why or why not? Imagine these two were to meet in person. What do you suppose the interaction would be like? What would these two people have in common? What would they have to explain to one another? Creatively share your ideas in the voice of each character by, for example, performing a sketch, crafting a comic strip, or writing and illustrating a story.

Critical Thinking

Looking closely at art can help us explore viewpoints from the past. During your Evans DLP visit, students practiced looking carefully to interpret what artists can tell us about the time in which they lived. But what about artists who look back in time?

Long after the establishment of the United States, many Americans—including artist Thomas Hart Benton—remained fascinated with the nation’s colonial beginnings. Use the Looking to Learn: Perceive, Know, Care About strategy to examine Benton’s painting Brideship seen below.  Compare your ideas about Benton’s colonial men and women with your ideas about the people you saw during your VMFA Evans DLP session.

Reflective Thinking

Thinking about our experience with art can help connect us to people and ideas across time and place.

Use these prompts to reflect on your Evans DLP session.

  • Having spent time with American Art at VMFA, what more do you know about America during the late 18th Century? How do you imagine the lives of the artists and the people they painted were similar to or different from your own?
  • What did the art NOT answer for you? What are you curious about now that you have seen art from the United States during the late 18th century? Name three things that you wish you knew more about and why. Visit your school library to research the answers to your questions.
  • Imagine you were to time travel and visit America during the year 1790. Based on what you have seen at the VMFA, what would you expect it to be like? What would it sound, smell, look and feel like? What about YOU would surprise an American from 1790?