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Classical to Contemporary: Interpreting Purpose (lesson plan)

Abstract

Students will learn the characteristics of the Three Graces, compare and contrast a classical image of the Graces with a contemporary interpretation, and use empathy and theater skills to consider an artist’s purpose for adapting a classical image in a contemporary work of art.

Created by A+ Schools of NC

Grade Levels
3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade
Concepts
Identity, Meaning
NC Standards Correlations
Visual Arts
3.H.2.1
3.V.1.3
English Language Arts
RL.3.1, RL.3.2
RL.4.1
RL.5.1, RL.5.2
Theatre Arts
3.C.2
4C.2
5.C.2
Social Studies
5.C.1.4
3.H.2.2

Artwork Related to this Lesson

  • Three Graces: Les Trois Femmes Noires

    Three Graces: Les Trois Femmes Noires, by Mickalene Thomas

    In this work, Mickalene Thomas has recreated the traditional image of the Three Graces, as familiar from...

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Student Learning Objectives

  1. Students will identify the characteristics of the Three Graces.
  2. Students will collaborate with others to represent and interpret a work of visual art through drama.
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Activities

1. Who are the Three Graces?

  • Group students in trios and ask them to read aloud the first paragraph of the description of the Three Graces. Tell them to circle the seven most important words that describe and explain the Three Graces. Tell them to write these words on post it notes. 
  • Display this close up of the Three Graces from Sandro Bottocelli’s Primavera, and, in a whole-class notice, ask students to point out where they see these seven words “happening” in the painting.  
  • Now display Three Graces: Les Trois Femmes Noire by Mickalene Thomas. Ask students to describe what they see. Show this video about the work of art. What characteristics from the Three Graces description do you see in Thomas’s work of art?  
  • Ask the groups to add their seven words to the image where the words are “happening” in Thomas’s painting. Then ask:  
    • What characteristics of the Three Graces did Thomas incorporate into her work of art?  
    • What do you notice about where she used these characteristics?  
    • Why do you think the artist is making a connection between these women and the classical Three Graces?
    • How is her work similar to or different from Sandro Bottocelli’s Primavera? 
    • Why did she do it differently?
    • Why do you think the title of Thomas’s work of art is in French?

Record and sort students’ responses into a Venn diagram.  

2. Exploring Further: Why did Thomas re-imagine the Three Graces in her work of art?   

  • Return to this question with your students: Why do you think the artist decided to make a connection between these women and the classical Three Graces?
  • Explain that in order to better understand Thomas’s Three Graces: Les Trois Femmes Noire  each group will create a Living Wax Art Museum of the picture. Tell the groups that they will plan their performance by answering the following questions, emulating the body posture of each character, and creating a three sentence monologue for each character represented.  
  • Have students answer the following questions in their trios:  
    1. Look closely at the women in the work of art. What are they doing? How are they moving? What are they holding?
    2. Where are they? Why are they there? When are they living? What do you see that makes you say that? 
    3. Who are they?
    4. Why do you think they are standing or posed in this way?
    5. What might each woman be saying?  
    6. How do you think each woman feels about herself? How do you know?  
  • Students plan, create, and rehearse. Half the class performs while the other half “visits” the museum.  

3. Individual Work: Analyzing 

Have students write a response to the questions: Why did Thomas connect to the Three Graces in her work of art? What was her purpose? Remind them that they can use evidence from the work of art, the video, the Living Wax Art Museum performances, and the paragraph description of the Three Graces.  

 

Written by A+ Fellow Heather Barto Wiley

Assessments

  • Pre-assessment: Students will show the connection between the words in the description of the Three Graces and the Botticelli painting by placing the most important word post-it note in a logical place on Thomas’s picture.  
  • Students will create a Living Wax Art Museum performance that reflects the body positions as seen in the work of art and uses monologue to convey the narratives of the characters.
  • Enriched Assessment/Closing: Students will form an argument for why Thomas connects to the Three Graces in her art, and they will support the argument using evidence from the picture, the video, the Living Wax Art Museum performances, and the paragraph description of the Three Graces.  

Lesson Resources

Materials

  • One printed copy per group of the definition of the classical Three Graces
  • One pencil per student for circling descriptions and completing writing activities
  • One pack of post-it notes
  • Two pieces of lined paper per student
  • One large Venn Diagram drawn on a white board or a large piece of paper for the teacher to add student examples from the whole-group discussion about the portrayals of the Graces

Advance Prep

  • Pre-assign students trios or small groups
  • Research and understand the role of the Three Graces and how they have been portrayed throughout history
  • Print copies of the definition of the Three Graces
  • Create a large Venn Diagram prepared to be written on
  • Prepare the questions for each assessment portion for display
  • Create a brief model monologue for a Three Graces portrayal

Set up on day of lesson  

  • Prepare to display the works of art
  • Set up students in trios with a pencil and lined paper
  • Make space for the Living Wax Art Museum

Extension topics

  • Greek gods and goddesses
  • Greek mythology stories
  • Discussions of friendship and identity
  • Discussion: Why is Thomas’s work of art created in a fractured style?  
  • Identify geometric shapes in Thomas’s art and create a bar graph showing the quantity of each
  • Research and understand the role of the Three Graces and how they have been portrayed throughout history
  • Print copies of the definition of the Three Graces
  • Create a large Venn Diagram prepared to be written on
  • Prepare the questions for each assessment portion for display
  • Create a brief model monologue for a Three Graces portrayal
  • Classical mythology in art

 

 

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