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Activities by Grade Level
Middle School

What Isn't Here
You Are What You Wear
Map It
Creating a Portrait
    Interdisciplinary Extensions
    Connections to the Collection

What Isn’t Here?
Visual Arts: Standard 2, Identify and apply the elements of visual art and principles of design.

Choose several portraits from the lesson for students to look at and determine what important elements are missing that would help you to know more about the sitter?

You Are What You Wear
New Hampshire History Topic: Self-Expression
Visual Arts: Standard 6, Students will make connections among the visual arts, other disciplines and daily life.

Researchers and experts on period costumes and clothing spend many hours attributing clothing to a specific era or time period. Often these researchers help to identify the date in which a certain painting or other work of art was completed. Portrait artist John Singleton Copley even kept a supply of outfits in his studio for his sitters to wear, as clothes were an important element in his works. In the Chase portrait the little boy’s dress can be the basis of a discussion about changing styles of clothing. Have your students discuss the ‘importance’ of their clothing and what their clothing reveals about them. Do their clothes have designer labels? What are designer labels and what do they mean? Where are their clothes made? Have them look in their closets at home to reveal different facts about the clothing they own. What outfit(s) would they choose to wear if they were having a formal portrait painted? Why? Would your Mom or Dad choose the same outfit you chose for you to wear in your portrait?

Also see: John Singleton Copley, Mrs. John Greene, Cleveland Museum of Art, 1769

Map It
New Hampshire History Topic: Boundaries
With maps of New York and New England, have your students trace the journeys of itinerant Painter Ammi Phillips as he made his way throughout New England painting portraits. Remember, Phillips was born in 1788 in Connecticut and traveled extensively throughout western Connecticut and Massachusetts and along the Hudson River in New York State. We know that he painted his portraits of the Sleights of Dutchess County, New York sometime in the early 1820s. He died in 1865. Students can use the Internet or library to learn more facts about the life of Ammi Phillips.

See: Ammi Phillips, Hannah Bassett, 1830, Ammi Phillips, Sherman Bassett, 1830

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Creating a Portrait

Aim/Instructional Objectives
Students will learn the process of creating a portrait.

See student examples >

Materials/Supplies Needed

  • Computer with Internet access.
  • Digital camera/printer.
  • Sketch pad & pencil.
  • Handout – Drawing the Face.
  • Assorted materials such as watercolors, craypas, pastels, pen & ink, colored pencils, markers, magazines, newspapers, assorted collage materials.
  • 3 sheets of 24 x 36" printmaking or heavy weight paper.

Length (5) One hour class sessions


  1. Students will search the internet to harvest images of portraits created by such artist as: Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol (including repeat images), Chuck Close, Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt von Rijn, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.
  2. Students will download these images to create a personal gallery of portraits.
  3. Using a digital camera, students will take photographs of themselves, which will be used as a guide for their portraits.
  4. Using the sketchpad and pencil, students will practice drawing the human face in profile, three quarter and frontal views.
  5. Students will create thumbnail sketches for their final portraits based on the digital photo of themselves.
  6. Using any of the media suggested on the three sheets of 24 x 36" paper, students will create three self-portraits in any style and media. Students may refer to their personal gallery of portraits of artists’ work, paying particular attention to Warhol’s repetitive images. Each portrait should reflect an understanding of various styles, artistic elements and principles, and an application of appropriate media.
  7. When completed, students will critique their work and their fellow student’s work in oral and written form.

Corresponding Standards
National Standards

  • Content Standard 1: Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes.
  • Content Standard 2: Using knowledge of structures and functions.
  • Content Standard 5: Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others.

New Hampshire Standards

  • Standard 1: Apply appropriate media, techniques, and processes.
  • Standard 2: Identify and apply the elements of visual art and principles of design.
  • Standard 5: Analyze, interpret and evaluate their own and other’s artwork.


  1. Did the completed work display creativity and originality?
  2. Did the completed work display craftsmanship and technical skill?
  3. Did the student make appropriate and creative use of materials?
  4. Did the student display perseverance in completing the work?
  5. Did the student participate in the critique of other students’ work?
  6. Did the student display good work and clean-up habits?

New Vocabulary Words
Gallery a space where art work is displayed.
Harvest images the collection and downloading of images from the Internet.
Thumbnail sketches a series of quick drawings or studies for a work of art.
Self Portrait a portrait of oneself.
Media the material an artist uses, such as paint, pencil or clay.
Repeat images utilizing the same image multiple times.
Critique a critical review or commentary, especially one dealing with works of art or literature.

Interdisciplinary Extensions
Language Arts: Write a letter to the portrait asking and/or answering questions such as:

  • Why do you have that expression on your face?
  • Who are you and where do you come from?
  • Does anyone in your family look like you?
  • What are your dreams and aspirations?

Connections to the Currier Museum of Art’s collection

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John Singleton Copley, John Greene, circa 1769
John Singleton Copley, John Greene, c.1769
View zoomable image >


William Merritt Chase, Portrait of Master Otis Barton and His Grandfather, 1903
William Merritt Chase, Portrait of Master Otis Barton and His Grandfather, 1903
View zoomable image >




























Picasso, Woman Seated in a Chair, 1941
Picasso, Woman Seated in a Chair, 1941

John Woodrow Wilson, MLK Jr., 2002
John Woodrow Wilson, Martin Luther King, Jr., 2002

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