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Learning to Look: Works of Art Across Time and Cultures uses four themes—Stories, People, Things We Use, and Nature—as lenses for looking at works of art in the Philadelphia Museum of Art's collections. Included are objects and images from a variety of time periods and cultures: for example, a Persian tile mosaic (sixteenth century), a French marble portrait bust of Benjamin Franklin (1779), and a geometric abstract painting by Philadelphia artist Edna Andrade (1977).

Looking at art involves a variety of perceptual, cognitive, and inter-personal skills vital to intellectual and social development. The images and resources here help students identify shapes, lines, colors, and patterns; use new vocabulary; decode symbols; understand narrative elements and structures; formulate hypotheses; find and organize supporting evidence; appreciate the roles of memory, status, and patriotism in society; tolerate and respect unfamiliar perspectives and opposing opinions; and apply mathematical concepts to real-life situations.

The Stories theme highlights works that are each based on a different narrative form. People introduces depictions of a range of real people, both famous and ordinary. Things We Use presents utilitarian objects decorated with inventive patterns and designs. In Nature, artists explore various ways that humans relate to the natural world. These themes and the works presented here are evidence of the interdisciplinary nature of art. They invite verbal responses, stimulate thoughts and questions about society and culture, motivate curiosity about technology, cultivate concern for the planet, and inspire creativity.

Learning activities and resources related to the works of art are provided here: work sheets (which can be easily printed out and photocopied) with language arts, math, science, and social studies connections; recommended websites; and a glossary of art terms.

Teachers are invited to create their own curriculum connections using these works of art to teach literature and language arts, history, geography, math, and science, perhaps by having students:

  • Read related children's books and novels
  • Construct time lines that place artists and their work in relation to world, regional, and local events
  • Work with maps and globes
  • Apply mathematical concepts used in art (e.g., measurement, scale, and proportion)
  • Explore how creating art involves scientific realms such as metallurgy, environmental studies, and biology
  • Create new groupings of these works of art using the same themes and inventing new ones

We hope that you and your students enjoy exploring all the possibilities!


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