Procedure - "Art imitates life" class discussion

Have a preliminary discussion of the quote, “Art imitates life.”

Guide students in evaluating the accuracy of this statement. Use questions such as:
- What are some modern forms of art? (cinema, hip-hip music, music videos)
- Do any of these represent life for people in the United States? Explain.
- Where do artists get ideas (inspiration) for their work?

(See student page for this activity)

Next, look at two pieces of art by clicking the links below. Do they give any clues about what was important to people in this county at that time? (Close the new windows when you've finished.)

Iwo Jima Photo - Phantom Towers

Have students write a concluding statement based on the class discussion. Write a few of these on the board. Responses might include:

  • Art imitates life.
  • A person’s art shows us what was going on at the time.
  • Whatever is important to people will show up in their art.
  • A society’s art reflects its values.

Procedure - "Art imitates life" class discussion
Alternative, student-centered activity for classrooms with laptops/computers available
(see student-centered page for this activity):

IMPORTANT: In advance, create separate pages within your class wiki for each group, so they will not accidentally overwrite other groups' work as they add and edit. You can make links to all pages from the opening (home) page of the wiki. Unsure about wikis? Learn more from the Wiki Walk-Through to set one up for use throughout this unit.

Start with the preliminary discussion of "art imitates life" above. Then, instead of sending students/the class to the specific, linked pieces of artwork and sharing a whole-class discussion, assign them with a partner to find at least three examples of art work where "art imitates life." Remind them that life is not always major events but can also be inner feelings or subtle tensions. Since their experience and knowledge of history may be spotty, suggest that they start with links to a museum of modern art or events from 1900 until the present or artwork from times they know about, such as the around the Civil War, World War II, the 1960s, etc. Ask them to share their findings on the wiki page assigned to their group, complete with linked artwork (NOT copies) and text explanations of how they "imitate life.".

Here are some possible resources (and reviews of them) from TeachersFirst for students to use. The same links are available on the student activity pages.

ArtScope (reviewed here) | go there

Metropolitan Museum of Art (reviewed here) | go there

Yale University Art Gallery (reviewed here) | go there

Timeline of Art History (from the Met) (reviewed here) | go there

Universal Leonardo (reviewed here) | go there

Hyper History Online (to find out what "life" was like at a given time) (reviewed here) | go there

Son of Citation Machine tool for making bibliography citations (reviewed here) | go there

on to Part 2