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African American Artists

This vibrant art collection will provide a stimulus for your oral and visual communications along with writing activities by using these paintings produced by Nationally Acclaimed African American Artists.

Materials

15 reproductions of African American Artists, Black Artists in America Booklet - contains information on each painting

Activities

Use the biographical material to discuss the artists' life: birthplace, family or environment in which he or she lived, worked, studied, or where they were educated.

  • (AR Curriculum Frameworks K-4: A.3.1, A.3.9, A.3.7, G.2.1.1, G.2.2.1)
  • (AR Curriculum Frameworks 5-8: A.1.12, A.1.14, G.2.5.1, G.2.5.2, G.2.7.1, G.2.8.1) 

Discuss the different techniques used in the reproductions: Expressionism (Thompson), Surrealism (Lee-Smith), Collage (Bearden), Cubism (Alston), Primitivism (Pippin), and Romanticism (Tanner and Duncanson). How does the technique compliment the subject matter?

  • (AR Curriculum Frameworks K-4: OV.1.4.6, OV.1.3.8, A.1.1, A.3.6)
  • (AR Curriculum Frameworks 5-8: A.1.11, A.3.10, A.3.12) 

When you study each reproduction, ask yourself the following: What is happening in this painting? Is the artist making a social comment? Is he describing a very personal vision or experience? How does the artist feel toward his subject?
 
How does the painting make you feel? Does it have special meaning? Would you like to be inside this scene? If you were, how would you look at things around you? What would you fear, desire, or hope for? Does this painting please you on an aesthetic level? Why or why not?

  • (AR Curriculum Frameworks K-4: OV.1.4.6, OV.1.3.8, A.3.3)
  • (AR Curriculum Frameworks 5-8: OV.1.6.6, A.1.13, A.1.14)

Discussion Points

Look at Boy with a Tire by Hughie Lee-Smith. How do you react to this boy and this painting? How do you feel about a city street when all the people have disappeared? Do you think this painting would be as disturbing if there were no one here at all, that is, if the boy were removed from the scene?

Look at Family, No.1, by Charles Alston. Notice that Alston has done a drawing of the room and figures, and then added color, so that the lines of the mother's legs are still visible through her dress. He has not felt it necessary to make the color areas correspond exactly with the drawn lines. Contrast the feeling that is derived from this picture with the one imparted by Lee-Smith's Boy with a Tire.

What are some of the elements that make these paintings different in feeling? (One is interior, one an exterior. One has four figures crammed into a narrow space; the other has one figure in a seemingly unending amount of space.) How do these differences affect the feelings the viewer gets from these paintings?

Look at Parade by Jacob Lawrence. What elements stand out most in this painting? How has the artist used the elements of color and repetition to make us feel that we are almost inside this parade? Does this scene seem to parallel musical rhythms? Compare this with Parade on Hammond Street by Alan Crite. Both are pictures of parades, yet the emphasis is quite different. Does Mr. Crite seem more concerned with the parade or with Hammond Street and the people that live there?

Look at Summertime by Romare Bearden. This picture is a collage -where the artist pasted objects he has found and pictures cut from magazines and integrated them with sections that he has painted or drawn. What do you feel when looking at this picture? Hot? Lively? Tired? How do you think each of the figures feels? Are the textures and objects represented here true indications of a city street in the summer?

Look at The Banjo Lesson by Henry Tanner. What kind of feelings do you have when you look at this picture? Have you ever had someone older try to teach you something? How did you feel? How do you think the older person would feel? How do you think the older person felt in this picture? What do you think the artist is trying to tell us?

Write an essay, poem, story, narrative, or dramatic dialogue describing yourself as a character inside the scene portrayed in one of these paintings. Would the experience be similar to the one you know or would it be vastly different?

  • (AR Curriculum Frameworks K-4: W.5.15, W.5.4.1, W.5.3.6)
  • (AR Curriculum Frameworks 5-8: W.5.6.1, W.5.7.3, W.5.7.4)