Picturing Texas


Note: This lesson plan has been designed for middle and junior high school students, but it can be easily adapted for both younger and older students. While several specific TEKS connections have been provided for seventh grade, they apply for all other grade levels.

Students will
  • discover how to decode an artwork for information using critical thinking and observation;
  • learn about early Texas artists to determine why their drawings and watercolors of the same geographic locations and people vary so much in style;
  • closely analyze early Texas artworks to discover how they functioned in their culture;
  • comprehend how these images help them better understand Texas history;
  • create an original artwork and personal narrative of an important object, place, person, or event in their own lives.
Materials needed are
  • selected images from the Encountering Texas, 1846–1856 Web site printed on photographic paper;
  • copies of the Artwork Analysis worksheet;
  • biographical information on Edward Everett, James Benton, and Sarah Hardinge provided on the Web site;
  • Texas map;
  • art materials (suggestions include paper, markers, paint, colored pencils, construction paper, scissors, glue, etc.).
Ask students to define history and begin a list of ways we learn about the past. Explain that we can learn about history through studying objects that have been left behind. Examples include architecture, artifacts, journals, letters, and artworks. Studying these objects, observing them closely, and drawing logical conclusions with support from written sources can help us understand how people lived and the cultural conditions of the time in which the object was created.
Explain that students will be divided into groups to investigate early Texas artworks from the Amon Carter Museum. After analyzing the images for information about Texas culture and learning about the artists, students will create an original artwork and narrative of an important object, place, person, or event from their own lives.
  Arrange students in groups and give each group a different printed image from the
    Encountering Texas, 1846–1856 Web site. (Do not reveal the images’ titles during this part of the lesson.)
  Discuss the differences between original artworks and reproductions. For example, scale,
    colors, and textures can be distorted in reproductions, and while reproductions are numerous, originals are one-of-a-kind. Make sure that students understand they are viewing reproductions and that the original artworks are housed at the Amon Carter Museum. Working together in groups, have students complete the Artwork Analysis worksheet.
  After completing the worksheet, have each group give a brief presentation to the class about
    their image. As each group presents, make sure their image can be seen by all students. At the end of the last presentation, all images should be displayed.
  Explain that these images are all reproductions of watercolors and drawings by three early
    Texas artists: Edward Everett, James Benton, and Sarah Hardinge. Tell students that they will work together to complete the Artwork Analysis worksheet. As you begin to discuss each artist separately, make sure their images are displayed together. It is appropriate at this time to share the images’ titles with the students.
    Read the provided biography of each artist as you begin to discuss the following questions from their worksheets. During this time of research and discussion, students should correct any false conclusions on their worksheets. Rather than erasing, students should write a sentence that gives the correct answer with a brief explanation of why they changed their minds.
    What do these pictures show? Everett’s images depict San Antonio missions, Benton’s works show the people and architecture of San Antonio, and Hardinge’s watercolors illustrate landscapes and residences in South Central Texas. Explain that Benton and Everett were military men trained as draftsmen to record the area in which they were stationed. In contrast, Hardinge was recording her travels to remember her stay in Texas and share it with her friends and family. Ask students to explain how the artists’ subjects reflect their experiences in Texas.
    What locations in Texas do you think the artworks show? All artworks show Texas scenes. While Everett’s and Benton’s images are from San Antonio, Hardinge’s represent locations in South Central Texas. Have students mark these locations on a Texas map. Using the biographies, have students explain why each artist was in these particular locations.
    When do you think these works were made? All the works were made between 1846 and 1856. The exact dates can be found on the Web site. Ask students what was happening in Texas around this time. (The battle for Texas independence occurred from 1835 and 1836, and in 1836, Sam Houston became the first president of the Republic of Texas. In 1846, Texas became the twenty-eighth state of the United States, and tensions between the United States and Mexico began. The war with Mexico occurred from 1846 until 1848.) Reinforce that Everett and Benton were in San Antonio because of military obligations, while Hardinge was in Texas to take possession of land inherited from her brother.
    What size do you think the original artworks are? All of the artworks are fairly small. Everett’s and Benton’s images are about the size of a piece of notebook paper, and Hardinge’s are about half that size. Ask students why the works were so small. (The artists had to carry them around with them. Hardinge’s watercolors were included with her diary.) Explain that this also influenced their choice of media. Watercolors, ink pens, and pencils were much more compact and easier to transport than oil paint.
    What do these artworks tell twenty-first-century viewers about early Texas? (This question is not on the worksheet, but students should be able to answer it based on their analysis of the artwork and classroom discussion.)
  Explain that the exercise they just did relates to the work of both historians and historians
    who observe, compare, contrast, and make educated conclusions when using primary sources.
  Have students select a favorite object, person, place, or event that is important in their lives.
    Tell them they will draw a picture of their selection and write a narrative about why it is important to them. Have them create their drawings and narratives so that a historian 150 years from now will be able to understand its importance. Display students’ artworks and narratives in the classroom.
TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) CONNECTIONS


  illustrate ideas from direct observation, imagination, personal experience, and school and
    community events


  produce drawings, paintings, prints, sculptures, ceramics, fiberart, photographic imagery, and
    electronic media-generated art, using a variety of art materials and tools in traditional and experimental ways
7.3B   analyze selected artworks to determine cultural contexts
Social Studies
7.9A   locate places and regions of importance in Texas during the 19th and 20th centuries
7.10A   identify ways in which Texans have adapted to and modified the environment and analyze the
    consequences of the modifications
7.21A   differentiate between, locate, and use primary and secondary sources such as computer software,
    databases, media and news services, biographies, interviews, and artifacts to acquire information about Texas
7.21D   identify points of view from the historical context surrounding an event and the
    frame of reference that influences the participants
Language Arts
7.15A   write to express, discover, record, develop, reflect on ideas, and to problem solve
7.17C   employ standard English usage in writing for audiences, including subject-verb
    agreement, pronoun referents, and parts of speech
7.24A   select, organize, or produce visuals to complement and extend meanings

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Rights & Reproductions Visit the Carter Museum Web site. Copyright 2005 Amon Carter Museum Rights and Reproduction