Painting History

The above was a fun exercise in historical thinking. I enjoyed being forced to think about why we know what we know and also how what we know also informs how we perceive artifacts.
Initially I had thought about doing this around an account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn or the painting “Death of Wolfe.” Both would have worked well in this setting, but I was feeling a little more irreverent so poking GW scratched that itch.
I can’t wait to post further comments on the excellent work from the rest of the class. We had some great and creative versions of this activity.

5 Replies to “Painting History”

  1. I enjoyed the discussion your lesson prompted Monday night. It’s interesting how an image that we’ve all seen so many times can be “deconstructed” and re-interpreted.

  2. It was interesting learning about the inspirations for this painting and seeing the inaccuracies that were depicted. It’s interesting to think about how people on the East Coast might be obviously more aware of these inaccuracies than on the West coast.

  3. One of the things I most enjoyed about your lesson was how surprised I was at how inaccurate the painting was. I think you very skillfully led us to believe that the painting, though idealized, was mostly true to the event through your questions.

    Learning how inaccurate the painting was led me to question the medium of painting as a way to communicate information about historical events, to consider both the value and limitations of paintings as sources for our knowledge of history. To discuss the reliability of the different mediums historians work with for source material, I think, could be an interesting discussion avenue for students to explore.

  4. Sam, I very much enjoyed your lesson. It is so valuable for students to experience the ordinary, a classic even, then be confronted with its little-known truth. I, like Clarice, was surprised to learn how inaccurate the painting really is. This led me to question how accurate any historical painting is. Though I have noticed many paintings before featuring idealized versions of events, I feel like I will notice more inaccuracies about these and other paintings than I did.

    Any piece of art is, of course, going to be based on the subjective view of the author. But when it is historical art it has a major impact on long-term beliefs. I appreciated the higher order thinking skills your lesson promotes, so students can view art, and especially historical paintings, with a more critical lens and not fall prey to historical bias. I hope you are able to incorporate this lesson into your classroom!

  5. Liked the activity and I wished we are able to compare and contrast different paintings of historical art. I also wished you added the great information after we finished answering the first couple of questions. And then ask us how our opinions where changed because of our new knowledge of the paintings. Great job Sam!

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