Antonio Ruiz, Mexican
Oil on canvas
13 1/8 x 17 inches (33.3 x 43.2 cm) Framed: 21 1/4 x 25 1/8 x 4 1/8 inches (54 x 63.8 x 10.5 cm)
Purchased with the Nebinger Fund, 1949
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Descriptive writing vividly portrays a person, place, or thing in such a way that the reader can visualize the topic and enter into the writer's experience. The best writing engages our five senses, and nothing provides as rich an opportunity for sensory engagement as art. This lesson is designed to help students recognize sensory details in works of art and incorporate these details into their writing. This lesson plan has been adapted from one of the many looking and writing activities in the Philadelphia Museum of Art's newest teaching resource, Looking to Write, Writing to Look.
Pennsylvania Academic StandardsArt: 9.4.B (Aesthetic Interpretation)
Language Arts: 1.5 (Quality of Writing)
New Jersey Academic StandardsArt: 1.4 (Aesthetic Response)
Language Arts: 3.2.5 (Writing as a Process)
Grade Level:Designed for grades 7–9, but applicable for both late elementary and high school.
Art Images Required:Click on the titles below to view images on the Museum's website. Images available on ARTstor are indicated by an ID number or search phrase; use this to search for the corresponding item in the ARTstor database (http://library.artstor.org/library/welcome.html).
- Bicycle Race by Antonio Ruiz; ARTstor search: 1949-24-1
- The Life Line by Winslow Homer; ARTstor search: PMA_.E1924-4-15
- Yabu Lane below Atago by Utagawa Hiroshige 1; ARTstor search: 1946-51-34 (If researching Hiroshige 1 further, note that not all sources use the "1" after his name.)
- Divide the class in half. One group should examine the painting Bicycle Race and the other should examine The Life Line. Do not let either group see the other's object. Have students imagine that they have entered their painting and that the painting has come to life. Instruct one student from each group to record a list of answers to the following questions (NOTE: compile these lists so that students can easily recall sensory details for the writing assignment that follows):
- What do you see?
- What sounds can you hear?
- What textures or temperatures do you feel?
- What do you taste?
- What do you smell?
- Following the group brainstorming, instruct students to write a letter to a close friend describing what they saw, heard, felt, etc. Be sure they select details from each of the sensory lists for their letters.
- Have the two groups exchange letters. After students have read the letters, reveal both paintings to the class and discuss the added value of the sensory details. How successfully were students able to describe their scene? How was the image similar to or different from what they imagined after reading the letter? Did the letter carry an emotional connection as well as a visual description?
Extension and Remediation:Display the print Yabu Lane below Atago to the entire class and repeat the brainstorming step above. Using details from their sensory lists compiled from viewing the image, students may either write a haiku or create a poem without a prescribed form incorporating all five senses. Share these poems with another class that has not seen the print and see how successful your students were in their descriptions. (If students struggle with writing a haiku or poem, have them write another letter using the sensory details.)
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