Recreating Famous Paintings

About 15 year ago, I went to this awesome art show we have in my area called the Pageant of the Masters.  Basically, people come together, get all painted up, and transform themselves into actual famous paintings.  They stand still, altogether, and you literally can not tell that it is a bunch of people standing on the stage instead of the actual artwork itself.  It truly is amazing.
Thank you Ladybug's Teacher Files for this awesome button!
I have always wanted to do something like that in my own classroom and this year, I just went for it. I collaborated with Susie, The Panicked Teacher on this one we both did the same lesson, without our own little twists.  Here is how it turned out in my room. (then head over to her blog to see how hers turned out)

We have been focused a lot on historical artifacts and their accuracy as far as actual history goes (see our lesson on Paul Revere here.)  So for this lesson, I chose three paintings about the American Revolution that were very famous but had some iffy historical roots.  Crossing the Delaware, Spirit of '76, and Declaration of Independence were the three that stuck out to me.  Each of them is engrained in our culture as very patriotic and very much connected to the Revolutionary War.  But each of them has a bit of romanticism behind them.

I had the students choose which of the three they wanted to recreate.  Then, I took a picture of each student in the pose of one of the main characters of the painting.  Most chose Washington crossing the Delaware because, well, it is just kind of a fun pose to get into!

I printed out the pictures four to a page.  I didn't get them developed, as having them printed from my printer in matte form (4 x 6 still) was the best way to incorporate the students into the paintings.  They simply would not be able to draw on a developed picture.

Once the students cut their picture out, I had them place it on a 9 x 12 piece of construction paper.  From there, they drew the rest of the painting around them.  Their own picture decided the scale of the rest of the people in the picture.  Not all of the painting would fit on the construction paper, so the kids did the best they could to get most of it there.

Using crayons, the kids then colored themselves dressed exactly the same as the main character they were portraying.  The rest of the picture was drawn in.

I seriously LOVE how this turned out.  The kids did such a good job at recreating the paintings.  On many of them, you can't even tell there is a photograph in there (which was the ultimate goal...just like the Pageant of the Masters!)
I also had the students write a paragraph about the actual history that was taking place in the picture and why the artist made the choices he did when painting the actual piece.

Now head on over to Susie's blog to see how she adapted this same lesson.


  1. Hello! Thank you so much for the inspiration. It is very refreshing to see a Social Studies teacher who thinks "outside the box". This is fantastic!

  2. This is such a fantastic idea!!! I can't wait to try it out with my students.

    5th Grade Wit and Whimsy


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