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Self-Portraits: Forms of Identity

Grade Level: 
7–12
Student Level: 
Middle School

How we see ourselves influences our perspectives, our decisions, and the daily experience of living. Artists create tangible evidence of their process of reflection through self-portraits. By observing how luminaries from Rembrandt to Picasso represent themselves, we explore a variety of artists' personal statements, historical moments, and technical approaches. Discussion includes self-perception as related to images students may create of themselves as a follow-up or precursor to the program.

Program Format: 
  • Introduce ways in which artists may choose to depict themselves in terms of the amount of information revealed or concealed.
  • Discuss naturalistic self-portraits by Rembrandt, Matisse, and Kollwitz.
  • Discuss instances of borrowed identity in which artists present themselves as someone else.
  • Discuss obscured identity where the individual is hidden but present in unexpected ways.
  • Self-portrait interactivity.
Objectives: 
  • Students will reflect on the different roles in which they find themselves.
  • Students will learn of the relationships between shape and color and how they can be used to express oneself.
  • Students will see how other artists interpreted themselves; sometimes in many different ways and attitudes.
  • Students will assess the role depicted in the self-portraits of Rembrandt, Matisse, and others.
  • Students will choose three aspects of their own identity to use in creating three self-portrait sketches.