Elizabeth Catlett, American
11 1/2 x 5 3/4 x 6 5/8 inches (29.2 x 14.6 x 16.8 cm)
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Purchased with funds contributed by Willabell Clayton, Dr. Constance E. Clayton, and Mr. and Mrs. James B. Straw in honor of the 125th Anniversary of the Museum and in celebration of African American art, 2000
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The power of women is a common theme in art, and this lesson examines that theme using images from the National Endowment for the Humanities Picturing America image set as well as from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Each of the works in this lesson also promotes the social agenda of the artist. Students will see connections to social issues, and will see how the artist/photographer uses details to reveal inner strengths.
Grade LevelFor grades 9—12
Common Core Academic Standards
- Reading Key Ideas and Details
- Analyze how complex characters develop, and promote the development of theme #3
- Listening and Speaking Comprehension
- Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats #2
Art Images RequiredA note about images: Clicking on the title of a Philadelphia Museum of art Image will link you to that image on the Philadelphia Museum of Art website. Clicking on a Picturing America image will link you to resources on the Picturing America website. Images are also available in ARTstor, as indicated by the ARTstor search phrase. Typing that phrase in the search box on the ARTstor website will link you to the image. Related Philadelphia Museum of Art Objects
- Mother and Child, 1954 by Elizabeth Catlett
ARTstor Search: 2000-36-1
- Woman of Tehuantepec, 1929 by Tina Modotti
ARTstor Search: Woman of Tehuantepec, Modotti
- Migrant Mother, 1936 by Dorothea Lange ARTstor Search: Lange, Migrant, Eastman
- The Migration Series #57, 1940—41 by Jacob Lawrence ARTstor Search: Lawrence, Migration, 57
- Take some time, either as a class or in small groups, to look closely at each work, reading the background information provided online. (Be sure to review the “Teacher Resources” on the Museum website.) Discuss what you have discovered, including any questions you may still have about the paintings.
- Where do your eyes go first when looking at Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother? What details come first to mind? How would you describe her face? Her clothing? What do you know about the back story of this photograph? Why do you think the faces of her children are turned away?
- Consider this woman and her situation. On a piece of paper, list a few adjectives that describe her physical state and her character. Write a paragraph (in the first person) describing her thoughts as you imagine them.
- Re-examine Elizabeth Catlett’s Mother and Child. Where do your eyes go first? How would you describe her clothing? Her posture? Her attitude? Make a list of adjectives that describe this woman’s appearance and her character. Write a paragraph in the first person describing her thoughts.
- How do these two works of art compare? In a small group, use a Venn diagram to list both similarities and differences. At first, there seems to be so much that is different about these two women. However, notice what you have in the center of the diagram. Write a summary of these similarities for your group and share with other groups in the class.
- Going back to the photograph and the sculpture, how do the artists reveal strength of character? Look for such details as expression, posture, composition, and geometric shapes.
- What do these works say about women in America, and how does this message fit each artist’s purpose (as noted in the text that accompanies each)?
- Review the details you have listed in the outer spheres of your Venn diagram (the differences). Add additional details, from closer examination and previous class discussions. Write a brief persuasive essay on the following topic: These are two depictions of the power of a woman’s character. Which artist do you feel has offered the most interesting view of this theme? Discuss the differences between the two works from which you formed your opinion.
- How do artists use details to show such elusive concepts as character? Create a presentation focusing on details from these two works as examples.
- Research the time period in which each work of art was created. What was going on in America—politically, socially, economically, and culturally? How do the works of art reflect the time in which they were produced? Both Migrant Mother (1936) and Mother and Child (1954) were made by women. What challenges might these women artists have been facing in their careers when they created their artworks?
- Examine the other two works listed above: Woman of Tehuantepec by Tina Modotti and The Migration Series #57, by Jacob Lawrence. In small groups, read the background material provided on the websites and discuss how the artist created images showing the power of women.
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