Grade level:


Approximate Lesson Duration:

40-60 minutes

Unit/Lesson New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS):

Visual Arts Standards
Contextual clues to artistic intent are embedded in artworks. Analysis of archetypal or consummate works of art requires knowledge and understanding of culturally specific art within historical contexts.

Abstract ideas may be expressed in works of dance, music, theatre, and visual art using a genre’s stylistic traits.

Themes in art are often communicated through symbolism, allegory, or irony. There are a wide variety of art mediums, each having appropriate tools and processes for the production of artwork. Fluency in these mediums, and the use of the appropriate tools associated with working in these mediums, are components of art making.

Each of the many genres of art is associated with discipline-specific arts terminology and a stylistic approach to art making.

Brief Summary of Cultural Competencies Related to the Unit/Lesson:

Women artists, especially LGBTQ women of color, are underrepresented in art history and museum collections. It is not historically accurate to place a modern label like “non-binary” on the artists Edmonia Lewis, Anne Whitney, and Harriet Hosmer, in addition to other women who lived in the 19th century and broke from the “norms” of gender expression. However, it is important to note that these women lived what were considered divergent lifestyles and in spite of adversity grew their artistic practices to become the first professional women sculptors on record in the United States. This lesson seeks to balance the scales of representation in art history and considers the use of mainstream neoclassical sculpture to represent ideas of emancipation, women’s suffrage, and more generally equality.

Lesson Overview:

Essential Question(s)
  • What are the main elements of classical and neoclassical portraiture?
  • Are there gender roles in the art world?
    • How did gender inequality impact female artists of the 19th century?
    • How did female American sculptors of the 19th century assert their independence and achieve success in a male dominated field?
  • What does equality look like?
Enduring Understanding(s)
  • Inequality on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation affects professional development, in addition to who is included in historical narratives, despite talent and expertise.
  • Inequality affects cultural production, innovation, and recorded history.
  • Artists and designers can re-use styles from the past to create original works of art.
  • Artists can express abstract ideas through choice of style, composition, and materials.
Potential Misconceptions
  • Lorem
  • Ipsum

Learning plan, experiences, intstruction and learning activities:

What is Expected?
  • List the intentional learning objectives on the board.

Students will be able to:

  • Define a classical style of art and architecture as:
    • A traditional or long-established form or style (for example, classical music, dance, etc.)
    • Specifically: A form of art or design influenced by the Greek and Roman principles of proportion, symmetry, and harmony.
  • Define neoclassical as:
    • A revival of a classical style of art.
  • Define proportion in art as:
    • The relationship in size or shape between one thing and another or between the parts of the whole.
  • Define symmetry in art as:
    • The quality of being made up of exactly similar parts facing each other or around an axis. A 50/50 balance.
  • Define harmony as:
    • A pleasing and consistent whole.
    • Note that harmony is achieved with balance of proportions and symmetry.
  • Define monochromatic as:
    • Containing or using only one color.
  • Define polychromatic as:
    • Multicolored; containing or using multiple colors.
  • Define portrait in art as:
    • An artist’s representation of a person, especially one depicting only the face or head and shoulders.
  • Define equality?

Today we will…

  • Review and the principles of proportion, symmetry, and harmony in neoclassical design.
  • View, analyze, and compare monochromatic sculptural portraits.
  • Consider the artists’ intent and choice of subject matter.
  • Explore gender inequality through the lived experiences of American women sculptors, and learn about the legacy of these sculptors.
What is expected?
How will we hook (Introduce this to) the students?
  • Activate thinking
  • Consider the language you will use to introduce the lesson (See example in the table)

Link to Engagement

Recently, we compared the architectural elements of buildings constructed in Ancient Greece and Rome to more modern architecture found in the United States, including government buildings, monuments, and museums. We analyzed the main elements of the classical Greco-Roman style and the purpose of the buildings that were created in ancient times (celebrate ancestors, gods and goddesses, philosophers, and leaders) and learned that neoclassical means a revival of a classical style and that it was used for similar purposes, to celebrate and memorialize the lives of people who have made their mark on history.

We made paper (or cardboard) structures and discovered that besides being visually appealing, a symmetrical building with a row of columns (collonade) is structurally sound and can hold more weight. Similar to architects, sculptors of ancient bronze and marble sculpture used balance (tree stumps, contrapposto) to evenly distribute the weight of metal or stone and guarantee that their sculpture would remain standing.
(Could include a physical activity of standing contrapposto for students to feel balance) 

We discovered that marble sculptures and architecture made by the Greeks and Romans, like their paintings and mosaics, were not intended to be white or monochromatic. Scientists and conservators have discovered that they were actually polychromatic, or painted with multiple colors.

We concluded that incorporating styles from the past is very common in architecture, visual culture, music, and the performing arts. Before we switch modes to talk about neoclassical portraiture, let’s brainstorm contemporary examples of recycled (or remixed) styles: 

  • Can you think of an example of an image, song, or clothing style that has been reused to create something new? (bell bottoms, sampling tracks in songs, reusing classical music, i.e. Black Violin’s use of classical instruments and music)
  • What is the difference between recycling a style and copying it?
  • Why might an artist copy another artist’s work?

You are really beginning to understand the difference between copying an artwork/ style versus using elements of an artwork/ style to communicate your own ideas. Today, we’re going to dig deeper with a new focus.This focus is female sculptors of the 19th century who used the neoclassical style of sculpture to communicate their ideas about equality.

What equipment, resources, or materials are needed?
How will we rethink or revise our thinking throughout the lesson?
  • What learning is confirmed?
  • What misconceptions are uncovered?
  • What is your new thinking?

Teacher could conduct a poll at the beginning of class asking students to name their favorite artists and designers. Record the names in a way that is visible to the entire class. Return to this list at the end of class and ask if there are women and other minority groups represented, including people of color and individuals who identify as LGBTQ.

  • Why may it be difficult for us to recall minority groups’ contributions to art history and history at large? 
  • Where can we go to learn more about how LGBTQ women and people of color have contributed to art history?
How will students self-evaluate and reflect on their learning?


How will we tailor learning to varied needs, interests, and learning styles?


How will we organize the sequence of learning during the lesson?


Check for understanding:

(Formative evidence such as conferencing, group Q/A, teacher observation, exit-slip, etc.)


Quiz/Test (optional):
(attach copy of assessment)


Performance Task/Project:
(attach rubric)



Supplemental Resources: 

Primary Sources:

Download Lesson Plan PDF:

Please register or log in to download.