Posts Tagged 'Colonial American Art'

Teaching with Colonial American Art

Desk and Bookcase, Nathaniel Gould, 1760-1780, Dallas Museum of Art, The Faith P. and Charles L. Bybee Collection, gift of the Tri Delta Charity Antiques Show

Every Monday throughout the school year our docents are trained on the DMA’s collection and special exhibitions. Morning sessions consist of art historical training related to special exhibitions, new acquisitions, and the collection. Afternoon sessions focus on how to teach K-12 student groups with works of art.

On January 3, Jenny Marvel and I led docent training in the Colonial American galleries. We focused on methods of teaching K- 12 students with portraits and furniture from the collection.  These objects were chosen to make connections between the past and present. When studying Colonial American art, it is important to remember that works of art tell stories and have history behind them. Colonial American art shows how some people lived during the beginning of our nation. It also displays eighteenth century artistic capabilities.

First, Jenny read excerpts from George Washington’s Breakfast, by Jean Fritz, and made connections  in front of Rembrandt Peale’s portrait of our first President. We learned the following information about Washington:

  • George Washington was 6’4″ tall. He was a tall man!
  • George Washington was the leader of the Continental Army, which defeated the British army in 1787. Shortly after, George became the first President of the United States. He held this position from 1789-1797. 
  • George Washington wore dentures. By time he took the oath of office as President at age 57, he was wearing full dentures. Washington’s dentures represented the latest advancements in dental technology. Contrary to popular myth, his false teeth were not made of wood but of human and cow teeth as well as elephant and walrus ivory. They required frequent adjusting to function naturally, and he repeatedly sent them to John Greenwood, his dentist in New York City, for repairs.
  • George Washington lived at Mt. Vernon with his wife, Martha. Mount Vernon was home to Washington for more than 45 years.

For the other half of training, I focused on the Desk and Bookcase. Some questions I asked docents to think about while looking at the piece include:

  • Look closely at the furniture’s feet. Do you see other objects with similar feet throughout the rest of the gallery?
  • Flat columns appear on the exterior of the object. What other architectural elements do you see? Why do you think these are incorporated into the piece?
  • The object cost $31.00 in the eighteenth century, making this an expensive object! What design elements make you think this is an expensive piece?
  • The desk and bookcase stored important papers, receipts, and other items for its merchant owner. If you owned this object what would you put in it?

Amy Wolf
Coordinator of Gallery Teaching


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