Art Making and Meaning:
Understanding through Questions
|People, Places and Things - Subject Matter
Question for Understanding
What people, places, or things are shown?
A rt Making Question
If you were thinking about making an artwork, what people, places, or things, if any, do you think you might show?
Students distinguish subject matter from meaning or content.
Students recognize subject matter details.
Activity Ideas for All Students
Show the DVD segment, “People, Places, and Things,” asking students to test their powers of observation on the artworks shown. Give students practice and feedback by using some or all of the interactive “People, Places, and Things” CD activities, which you can project for an entire class or which individual students can view in a computer lab. Students can use the CD to 1) review what they learned on the DVD, 2) apply what they learned to their everyday visual world, and 3) recognize how inquiry into subject matter applies to old and new art.
Display two reproductions of artworks with very similar subject matter, perhaps by the same artists (for example, two jungle paintings by Jean Jacques Rousseau, two garden paintings by Claude Monet, two mother and child paintings by Mary Cassatt, or two rural landscapes by Grant Wood). Ask students to list in as much detail as they can all the subject matter that is the same in both artworks and all the subject matter that is different. Encourage going beyond identification to such specifics as gestures, number of objects or people, expressions, hairstyles, clothing, poses, angles of view, species, postures, types, etc.).
Lead a discussion of the importance of subject matter in works such as those of Salvador Dali, Jan Van Eyck, or Jacob Lawrence or in other artworks such as Chinese imperial embroidery, Persian miniatures, or children’s book illustrations.
Activity Ideas for Art Students
Complementary Activities from Stories of Art
Supplementary Online Lessons
“Who Cares for Art” – Lesson One: Ideas and Images