Teacher's Guide Introduction


From the list provided at the begining of this lesson (see A Writer's Words), students should select and examine closely the portraits of two writers in the Eye Contact exhibition.

1. Ask them to list the physical features of each writer that the artist emphasized.

2. Then have them return to their discussion of each writer's style. Ask them if they can make any connections between the writer's style and the features emphasized in the writer's portrait. For example, the golden yellow tones in the portrait of James Baldwin give him a glow. Is this illumination also a part of his writing style? Or consider the contour lines of Edna St. Vincent Millay's portrait, which capture and convey her tiny frame and hands. In this portrait the artist William Zorach "hints at her unconventional, dramatic appearance."* Is lack of convention and drama a part of Millay's literary style?

*The National Portrait Gallery's website exhibition of Eye Contact and the accompanying catalogue (order catalogue) provide these and other artistic insights that will prove useful with this activity.

3. Ask students how they think a portraitist prepares to make a famous writer's portrait. Does the artist read the writer's work? Why? Does the artist read what the critics think of the writer's work? Why?