Inspiring Beauty: Write Your Own Label

Each work of art in Inspiring Beauty has a text label; some of these include a summarized biography on the designer. The larger text panels have more extended information that relates to all the works in that section: they tell the story as to why those objects are shown together. The text panel at the… Read on

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Of Heaven and Earth: Strike Up the Band

Adapted from Joynear Duncan, education student at Alverno College and Museum summer 2014 Intern. The main forms of entertainment during the Renaissance, when the paintings at the beginning of the Of Heaven and Earth exhibition were made, were music and dance. There were two main types of dances: court dances and country dances. Court dances… Read on

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Strike a Pose

Have students pose like the sitter in the portrait. Ask students to consider what it feels like to pose like the sitter, wear his or her clothes, and be in the setting of the portrait. Have students write a postcard to a friend describing their portrait experience.

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Plot It

Theatrical Portraits The majority of Sully’s portrait clients were merchants, ministers, bankers, doctors, military figures, and naturally, socialites—with a few notable exceptions, such as presidents and royalty. Theatricality implies drama, performance, and a heightened sense of activity. In some of Sully’s grandest full-length portraits, his figures are composed as if they were onstage, playing to… Read on

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Jumping into a Portrait

The Fancy or Subject Portraits Thomas Sully kept meticulously detailed records that provide an in-depth understanding of the life of a working artist in nineteenth-century America. Rather than representing sitters in contemporary dress, these portraits present their subjects in imaginative costumes that evoke character types or specific characters from literature or the stage. Although nearly… Read on

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Backdrop Design

Collect reproductions of your favorite band or team, and then cut out the individuals and arrange them so that they form a rough triangle. Adhere each to paper and cut around the edges of the figures. Now, using your imagination, create three completely different backdrops for your group.

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Backdrop Building

Create your own architectural setting for George Frederick Cooke in the Role of Richard III (1811–12).  Have students research similar structures built during that time period. Lead a discussion about setting and the significance of architecture. Afterwards have students create their own structures using only masking tape, newspaper, and paper tubes.

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Literature Connection

Look through picture books or read chapters from the books featured in portraits in the exhibition (e.g., Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, MacBeth, Merchant of Venice, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Old Curiosity Shop, Robinson Crusoe). Don’t forget to discuss the book and its correlation to the portraits viewed in the exhibition. Ask students… Read on

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Thomas Sully Glossary

Aesthetic: A philosophy, study, or conception of what is artistically beautiful and as such enlivens the senses. Allegory: A representation of ideas through objects or characters. Composition: The structure or organization of a work, i.e., the arrangements of shapes, areas of light and dark, spacing of subjects, etc. Oeuvre: A work of art or literature,… Read on

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